When I was growing up as a little girl in Petaling Jaya, one of my grandfather’s favourite meat dish was from a stall in the corner of the meat section at the market just 10 minutes on foot from our home. It was the Chinese styled roast pork with its fragrant yet succulent flesh topped off with a crispy crackle. The master before this dish, or so my grandfather believes, started off his roast pork and char siew business as a young man with just a bicycle from which he would sell these juicy cuts of meats.
Today, he is still in business and while his son manages the “raw” part, he (and his wife) is pretty much still going strong. I remember getting thick cuts of meats whenever I visit the market with or without my parents – yes, you could say that he watched me grow up, and even joked about providing a whole roast pig for my wedding (or my father’s second wedding – he enjoys teasing my parents). True to form, he did provide the roast pork for my “hen” party and it was the first dish to go.
While I like my roast pork juicy with a chewy skin, Nil and my father share similar taste – dry and lean parts with a crispy and “foamy” crackle. I hadn’t really thought of making this despite having some mild cravings for something that reminded me so much of home and family, mainly because it is difficult to get a hold of large chunks of cuts unless we were willing to travel much further away from our usual grocery spots. But a chance visit with a car (yes, we finally have a car…but just until Eva is born) allowed us to stock up on items that we would have never bought…one of them being a whole one over kilo chunk of pork.
Overall, I’m rather happy with the results – we got the best of both worlds in terms of the crackle and juiciness of the meat. But one thing’s for sure, I need to work on my chopping skills. Despite my cooking skill and experience in the kitchen, I’m still paranoid about chopping off my fingers with a butcher’s cleaver. 8)
Chinese roast pork (siew yoke)
Adapted from Chef Kou Kim Hai’s recipe
1 kg pork (preferably belly or around the ribs) with skin
Approx 10 gms of five spice powder
- Wash the meat and score the skin lengthwise. Be careful not to cut through to the fat. Pat dry.
- Rub the meat section (sides and bottom) with five spice powder vigariously before placing in the fridge, skin side up and uncovered for marinate overnight.
- When the meat is ready, preheat the oven to 170 C and heat a pan with some oil and fry the skin side for at least 2 to five minutes. The skin side will curl inwards so use your fingers and press gently to ensure that the entire skin side is fried. This helps with the crackling.
- Place the meat on a roasting pan and roast for 50 minutes. Check on the meat every 15 to 20 minutes and remove the juice from the pan.
- If the crackle is not ready, turn on the grill and move the pan closer to the heating element. Grill for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the crackle is crispy and puffy.
- Turn off the oven and allow the meat to rest inside the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes before removing it from the pan. Chop (not slice otherwise the crackle will split from the meat) into appropriate sized slices and serve warm with rice or as is.