When my svelte and sexy wife S and I first started dating, one of her friends described me (behind my back) as a “very porky person”. I’m not sure if she was talking about my ever-growing mid-section or the fact that my favourite meat was and still is pork. I’m hoping that it is the latter.

Maybe it’s a Chinese thing — to love pork so much — but for whatever reason, it’s the one meat I don’t think I’d be able to live without. Take me off beef? No problem. No lamb? Wouldn’t miss it. Even chicken I could leave behind, but pork? No way. And, of course, I have a few favourite preparations. Top of the list are xiao long bao and siu yuk. I don’t think I’ll be making xiao long bao any time soon. That said, I do keep hoping (aloud and as often as possible) that S will one day master the technique of preparing these delicious soupy dumplings. But siu yuk, or crispy roast pork belly, didn’t seem too complex. I mean, if I could make pretty decent char siu, surely I could roast me some pig belly too.

The only trick with siu yuk is getting the skin crispy enough–you want it really brittle and not the least bit chewy–while keeping the flesh tender and moist. I knew I could roast the heck out of a hunk of pig flesh until the skin was super crisp, but I was pretty sure that if I didn’t do it right, all that stuff under the skin would be dried out and pretty inedible. Surprisingly, it was actually pretty hard to find a good siu yuk recipe. Despite owning around a thousand or so cookbooks, I only found a small handful of recipes, and oddly enough the two that made the most sense came from two Western chefs, Neil Perry and Rick Stein. But neither recipe really seemed like it would yield the perfect pork belly. So I took to the Web.

Which turned out to be both illuminating and frustrating. The latter because of the sheer number of (fellow) food bloggers out there who boast about being able to make a rather stunning siu yuk, but then either keep the whole preparation or really important parts of the recipe secret. C’mon! If you’re boasting about your abilities on the Internet, don’t you want to share? As my grandmother would have said, “Aiyah!”
The illuminating part was the staggering number of contradictory or alternative recipes. Some advocate poaching then deep-frying. Others quick roasting at high temperature. Others suggest slow-roasting followed by a quck grill. Some others (and these I really didn’t trust) just roast the whole thing at a constant temperature. Some suggest scoring the skin. Others tell you never to do that. Some say score the flesh. Some recipes call for marinating the flesh; others don’t. Some suggest rock salt to increase the crackling; others suggest rice wine vinegar. With so many recipes suggesting different things, it all got a little confusing. I felt like I needed to call in the team from Cook’s Illustrated to run through all the variations and then tell me which one to try.

But since I don’t exactly have Christiopher Kimball on speed dial (not that he’d want to take a call from a blogger like me anyway), I had to sit down and try and frankenstein together what I hoped would be a recipe that worked. Which, thank the bacon gods, it did. It wasn’t perfect. The skin could have been just a tad thinner and more brittle in my opinion. But S and the friends I served it to said it was fine (but hey, any time someone feeds me free pork belly, I’ll tell them it’s good too). I’m going to keep working on it. It’s literally one shade shy of awesome. And I want awesome. I want to make siu yuk that people cry over, call their friends to rave about, and write songs about (well, maybe not that last one). Anything less and I won’t be happy.

Siu Yuk
1.5-2 kilo piece of pork belly, with skin on
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 big cubes of fermented bean curd, white or red
(or 1 tablespoon teaspoons of tauchu, i.e. preserved soybean paste)
1 tablespoon five spice powder
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Wash your piece of pork belly really well, tweezing away any hairs on the skin. Pat it dry. Poke a great multitude of holes in the skin using a sharp cake tester or other kind of needle you might have in the kitchen. Lay the pork in a deep roasting pan, preferably on a rack in the pan. Get a big bowl of ice ready and set it aside on your counter. Boil some water–maybe a litre or so. Pour the boiling water over the skin of the pork. You want to blanch it. Then quickly remove the pork from the hot water and immerse it or cover it with the ice. After it cools down, pat it dry. Place the pork on a rack and pop in your fridge until it has properly dried out.

Make the marinade by mixing all the ingredients together. If using the fermented bean curd in cubes, mash it into the marinade. Take your piggy out of the fridge and invert it, skin side down. Using a paring knife, make either lots of small incisions into the flesh, or score it, whichever you prefer. Spread the marinade into the flesh and rub it in thoroughly. Pretend your giving that special someone a massage. Don’t let the marinade get on the skin though. Flip the piggy back skin side up on the rack and pop it back into the fridge. Let it marinate overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Place the pork on a rack set over a roasting pan that is filled up between a third to half with water. Pop the pork in the oven for 20 minutes. After that lower the heat to 180 degrees Celsius and roast for another 40 minutes. If the pan needs more water, please add some during the roasting process. After 40 minutes, take the pork out, turn the heat up to 250 degrees C, or however high your oven goes. Brush the rice wine vinegar over the top of your pork. Then pop it back in the oven for 15-20 minutes or so, until the top skin layer has bubbled up and looks all puffy, crispy and actually even a little charred. You want the whole top to be nice and crisp. If you want, you can even experiment using the grill function on your oven.

When ready, take it out and let it cool on a rack. If charred, use a serrated knife to “brush” off the charred bits. It’s actually very easy to do and you’ll be left with a lovely reddish-brown skin. When cool enough to eat, chop it up with a cleaver and serve to your very impressed friends.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his three kids!



15 June 2010


Ciao. The Italians love pig as much as the Chinese. Here in Umbria we have porchetta…whole roasted pig stuffed with fennel and garlic. And there are roadside porchetta trucks so you can always have a pig fix.
For pork belly, or pancetta, it’s thinly sliced, about 5ml, then it’s either wood grilled or pan fried with sage.
I’ll make you some if you bring along some of that Siu Yuk!

I’ll write you a siu yok song when you master it and invite me over!!! 😉

Seriously, props for taking up such a daunting recipe. This is truly a tricky 1 to execute, let alone master..

Oooh, I’ll definitely be trying this soon. Meanwhile, an idea I gleaned from watching an NYT video on crisping duck skin: use a (clean) dog hair brush to poke many minuscule holes in your piggy skin for better crunch 🙂

Haha I know what you mean by having all these different methods by other flood bloggers! It’s very daunting and Siew Yoke is not easy dish to perfect.

Interesting that you roast it over a pan of water. I always thought the extra steam would make cackling skin a little on the soggy side? Does it make the meat very tender when you roast it over water?

A tip I got from the butcher was to actually poke little holes into the skin in order to ‘dry’ the skin out. He said the drier the skin the better cackling you’d get. Which is why it’s also advisable to salt the skin first and then put it into the fridge so it’ll draw out all the moisture!

I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do Siew Yuk. I always find that my Siew Yuk tastes good the moment it gets out of the oven (crispy skin and all!) but then after that the skin gets kinda hard and soggy unlike the ones you get from the Chicken Rice stalls which stay nice & crispy despite being cold. 🙁

You made it! I love how that recipe use the fermented bean curd for added oomph. I thought it was one of differentiating factors between hers and others’ recipe.

Your solution for crispy skin sounds really solid. My recent trials result in concave piece of pork which collects vinegar. Wasn’t sure what to do with it so will try your recipe next time.

Lastly, thank YOU for pointing out that some people brag on the perfect recipes on line then shy away from baring it all. What’s the point? Might as well not share, right? Drives me crazy.

So I always appreciate your blog!

OMG that looks amazing beyond amazing. It’s 6pm here and I’m in the office starving and this is NOT what I need to look at! YUM!

My aunt has a pretty failsafe recipe for siu yuk. We posted the recipe on Rasa Malaysia’s site and gotten rave reviews. It does require you to fry the belly, but by frying, the skin is light and crispy. I would give it a try next time.

I have tried all sorts of things to get super crispy, non-chewy pork skin. It seems simple but is really quite complex. I will definitely try this. Thank you!

siu yuk version here in the philippines is either lechon (broiling the whole pig) or lechon kawali (fried with pig’s belly only) . if i remember it right, you have featured it in your past posts when a good friend of yours visited manila. chubby hubby, i always enjoy reading your blog!

Will definitely try brushing with rice vinegar the next time we do siew yuk.

One thing we’ve found very useful when making siew yuk is a “roast pork poker”, essentially a miniature bed of nails (12-15 very sharp 1-inch nails) with a wooden handle. Very handy for poking holes in both the skin (to help dry out the skin for crackling) and the meat (to allow marinades to penetrate). We got one from the shop down the road from Sia Huat.

We usually use pork belly which is around 50% fat. The fat will cook down during roasting and you end up with about 1/4 to 1/3 fat, enough to keep the meat moist and juicy without being fatty and oily. Too little fat and the meat can easily end up dry and chewy.

Yum! Pork. I agree with your statement about chicken, beer, lamb…anything but my pork. Gotta have it! Must be all the fat in it that makes it taste good. Heck, even lean pork is fine with me!

Wow, what a great project to undertake. Having had food you’ve prepared I have no doubt in your abilities to pull off what has to be one of the tastiest things to cook. If you need a fresh mouth to taste it I’ll be happy to choke some down 😀 .

Wow! This was such a delicious post to read, on a dreary winter day here… makes me very homesick too. Sometime when I muster the courage, I will have to try this recipe at home!

Aun – I agree with you, there are tons of recipes out there but none of them are quite consistent with the techniques. I have asked a few Cantonese chefs and each have their methods, too! Anyway, my cookbook is going to have this recipe, and I am doing it my way, after incorporating what I have learned from all the different sources. I am pretty pleased with the result but have to re-test the recipe again. Hubz said it’s good, though. That’s what matters. LOL.

the secret is really in (yes dont freak out now..) REMOVING the skin. Read thomas keller–ad hoc at home. Just tweak the brining process to suit the local taste buds and voila..the PERFECT siu yoke. Nothing less from my fav chef!

Brilliant post CH! My offering to the plethora of recipes out there is a probably forgotten old school Cantonese method of cooking the pork belly underneath a bowl packed tightly with rice that cooks at the same time… the result? Crispy pork belly with the rendered pork fat sinfully flavouring the rice… takes a bit of practice but it’s definitely worth a try! See link to blog entry for recipe:

Tried it last night for a fussy doctor boyfriend, and it was a true success! It is now on our ‘guest food’ list…may even make it for him for his on-call shifts 🙂

when i move to singapore in august, would you be up for a roast pork challenge? i could introduce you to the traditional austrian roast pork, laden with garlic and a crispy crackling… and i would LOVE to taste this – up for it?

I have never tried Pork Belly before and so this honour shall go to your recipe. All that remains to be done is for me to find a butcher worth their salt that can supply me with the much needed belly. I love hosting dinner parties and I love crackling so this should go down a treat! Thanks for this, keep up the good work!

I too am a lover of the porcine, and I battle with the perfect belly pork often – never quite managing the balance between crackling and flesh, You have inspired me to keep trying with your words and pictures and I’ll let you know how I get on.

Hi Chubby Hubby,

I tried your siu yuk recipe and it works beautifully. Thank you!

Singaporean in Boulder, Colorado

We have something similar here in Bangkok and it’s one of my favorite meats. Don’t think you have to be Chinese to like it as I’m just about the whitest white chick you’ve ever met, and I love it 🙂

I’ve been searching for recipes siu yuk on the web and I couldn’t find one that I trust. I recently tried making one by simmering the belly in water with anise seed and bay leaves and then slow roasting the whole belly after rubbing it with five spice powder, salt and pepper. I also added some rock sea salt on the skin. While the meat came out very soft, it wasn’t as flavorful as the siu yuks I’m used to. The skin was very good and crisp, I sliced some incisions on it and the rock salt did the job.

I will definitely try this out. As a Filipino, I too cannot live without my pork.

mmmm…nothing like bubbling pork skin. Pics are lovely. Here in Viet Nam there’s tons of places that do Chinese style pork, yet few do it real tasty. Dry and chewy in the middle. Something about that extraterrestrial red dye.

I absolutely love pork, the best thing about pork is that you can season it with various different flavours and it still tastes good. I love Asian style pork with the 5 spice flavours, soy sauce etc. However I’m also a sucker for pork Jerked the Caribbean way…that little oil, grease skin bit get me every time :0)

I lived in Taiwan for 10 years. Even at the places I ate there, they don’t do the crackling consistently. But when they get it right, it’s AMAZING!
Recently,I tried to do this using our own seasonings and while the meat melted in our mouths, the skin was pretty bad. Hope to try it again in the future.

You must put the pork near the top on the oven which is near the heater grill.
Do not be afraid that it will burn out the skin.
You will hear crackling soung and that is the sound that you want to hear when roasting about 1hr at 220 degree celcius.
roasting should be ready in abt 1.5hrs for 2kg pork.
Careful wehn open oven dorr when checking as the heat will burn you face.

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