It’s strange being in a new country sometimes. You assumed you would be able to buy some things, or what you get would be the same as what you’re used to, then realise you can’t buy them, or they’re not the same.
Case in point: pork belly. I have looked in many supermarkets for a cut of pork belly for roasting, and making crackling, like those that are easily found in Australian supermarkets and markets, to no avail. My husband and I found pork belly in an Asian supermarket, but it was the cut used for Chinese roast pork: a thin strip of meat under a layer of skin and fat. Ah, the infamous 3 layers.
The desire to make roast pork (or more importantly, crackling), coupled with a craving for good Chinese food, resulted in a sense of adventure never before seen in this home cook. In Melbourne, I was too spoilt by the availability of good, affordable Chinese and Malaysian food, and never had the need to learn how to make a lot of the food I ate during my childhood in Malaysia. But after 4 months in Detroit, I was getting…dare I say it???? Desperate.
So we invited a couple of friends (lonely hearts whose respective spouses were away) over for dinner on Sunday night. I took a deep breath on Sunday morning, and dived into this recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s seminal cookbook, the cook’s companion.
After posting a photo of the end result on Facebook and receiving compliments and requests for the recipe, I’ve decided to share it, so here it is, word for word. After all, great food is meant to be shared, right?! Stephanie Alexander’s advice: “Choose a piece of belly pork with a good quantity of fat for this dish.” Yum.
Chinese Crisp-Roasted Pork
1 x 1kg piece fresh belly pork, boned and not skinned
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
Ask your butcher to score pork skin at 1cm intervals, or do it yourself using a very sharp knife and cutting right through skin. Blanch meat in a large saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes, then lift out, rinse under cold water and dry well with kitchen paper.
Combine garlic and soy sauce and rub all over meat side of pork.
Combine salt and five spice powder and rub all over skin.
Refrigerate uncovered, skin-side up, for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 230 degrees Celsius (approx 450 degrees Fahrenheit), and line a baking dish with foil. Position a rack in baking dish and settle pork on rack, skin-side up. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees Celsius (approx 400 degrees Fahrenheit) and bake for 40 minutes or until skin crackles and crisps*.
Cool a little before cutting into thick fingers**. Serve hot with steamed rice and Asian greens, or warm or at room temperature as an entrée*** with a dish of hoisin sauce for dipping, or use in a stir-fry.
* At the end of 40 minutes the skin was far from crackling, so one of our dinner guests and a great cook herself (whose name is also Stephanie!) provided some advice. I turned the temperature back up to 250 degrees Celsius, with a tray of water in the bottom of the oven to prevent the meat from drying out. After 10 minutes of this, we then turned on the grill (broil) function for 2 minutes to finish off the crackling.
** A quick search of the internet revealed many different recipes for this dish. But the one thing everyone seems to agree on is, do not slice the meat. Instead, use a cleaver and chop through. Like this!
(Yeah, I’d stay away from that crazy person if I were you!)
*** Otherwise known to our American friends as starters 🙂
It ended up being a fairly simple dinner as I served the pork with steamed rice, buk choy with oyster sauce, and a sweet potato mash with grated ginger through it. I spiced up the dinner by serving the pork with sambal oelek on the side.
And though the recipe was meant to serve 6, we polished off the 2 lb piece of meat between the 4 of us. Hmmm… maybe we’re getting used to American portion sizes. Eeek!