For anyone that digs on swine, Chinese roast pork may just be a nearly perfect exploration of the finer points of the animal: A crunchy outer layer of blistered, puffy, crispy skin, stacked atop a layer of warm, barely-solid fat that liquefies the instant it hits your mouth, and another layer of tender, lightly-spiced meat. It’s versatile, too: Stack it in steamed buns, in sandwiches, chop it up for tacos, swipe it through some Chinese mustard or hoisin sauce, or (most likely of all) greedily devour it all, straight, burning your mouth as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Like most great things, though, the simplicity of Chinese roast pork can be deceptive. In order to transform a cheap, fatty slab of pig into pure porcine poetry, many recipes call for some downright complicated steps, including par-boiling, scoring the skin, and brushing it with vinegar, all steps which could potentially leave you with a dried-out, rubbery slab of not-awesome. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a recipe that called for next to no extra ingredients, and a nearly foolproof preparation?
This recipe uses just a few extras: A couple of cloves of garlic inserted into the side of the pork belly, some Chinese five-spice for the meaty side, and a thick salt crust to crisp up the skin in the oven, while protecting it from burning or getting too brown. The salt crust gets knocked off the pork belly about halfway through the cooking time, so the finished product isn’t too salty,* but with skin that crisps to a perfectly golden-gown, crackly outside, while the roast pork stay succulent and juicy.
*If you’re worried about your sodium intake, I’d also like to remind you that you are eating meat that clocks in at almost 2500 calories per pound. But you’re only eating it this one time, because sure you are.
- 1 lb slab of pork belly
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
- ½ cup of Kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and arrange oven racks in lower-third and upper-third positions.
- Cover a deep roasting pan or baking sheet with water, and place on the lower rack to catch the drippings from the pork belly.
- Make deep slices through the side of the pork belly, and push garlic cloves deep inside. Sprinkle the meat side of the pork belly with the Chinese five spice, and cover the top with the salt.
- Carefully transfer to oven (adding more salt if needed), cooking directly on top rack. Cook for one hour (adding more water to pan if needed), then knock salt crust off top of pork belly, and brush away excess. Increase oven temperature to 465 degrees, and continue cooking until top is brown and crusty, about 40 minutes more.
- Remove pork belly from oven, and let rest for about ten minutes before chopping into chunks and serving.