Chinese Roast Pork – Whip It UP!

ROAST pork is all about a crunchy crackling and succulent meat oozing with juiciness. To close Chinese New Year on a high note, this roast pork is big on porcine flavours given the simple marinade of just three ingredients. All eyes will be on the pork as it joins the festive dining table laden with other specialities. As eager hands reach out for the juiciest chunks with largest crackling, remind your family the homecook is fully deserving of the best!

Total Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: S$50.00
Serves: 8 persons

A: Pork and Marinade

1½kg pork belly, skin on
2kg coarse sea salt
A few tablespoons water
100g English mustard
3 teaspoons ground fennel
2 teaspoons five-spice powder


DIRECTIONS: 

1. To marinate pork, using paper towel, pat dry pork. Turn pork skin side down. Using a sharp knife, cut slits approximately 1cm deep into thicker part of the meat.

2. Generously slather mustard over the meat, making sure slits and grooves are also smeared with mustard.

3. Flip pork skin side up and place it on a tray. Wipe away any mustard or liquid on the skin. Put pork in the fridge to marinate for 12 hours or overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 180°C for at least 15 minutes for the 1st roasting.

5. To roast pork in salt crust, place salt into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle water slowly in while mixing it with one hand until salt feels like moist sand but not wet. It should be able to form clumps when you squeeze it with your hand.

6. To encrust pork, line a large roasting pan large enough for the salt crust to form a border of at least 2cm after pork is placed on it.

7. Spread salt on the base on the tray approximately 2cm thick. Make sure the salt base is larger than slab of pork. Generously spread a layer of the spice mix over the salt base.

8. Transfer pork onto salt base, skin side up. Wipe off any moisture on pork skin.

Pack salt over the pork, making sure it is compact and fully encrusted with an even thickness of 2cm. If salt is not moist enough, sprinkle water to hold it together.

9. Place pork onto the middle rack in the oven. Roast for 1 hour ensuring that roasting time does not extend beyond 10 minutes at the maximum otherwise the pork will become too salty.

10. Remove pork from oven; leave it to rest at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line another roasting tray.

11. For the 2nd roasting, preheat oven to 220°C.

12. Remove salt crust from pork. Brush or scrape off any salt off the belly. Place pork onto roasting rack. Using a fork or pork skin pricking tool, pierce skin.

Score pork skin 2cm wide using a sharp knife. This scoring makes it easy to cut the pork after roasting without the crackling shattering.

13. Turn on grill (top heating element) and oven fan. Place tray in upper rack but ensure it is not too close to top heating element. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes.

14. This 2nd roasting is only to develop the crackling on the skin as the meat is already fully cooked in the 1st roasting.

15. Keep a watchful eye on the pork to ensure the skin does not burn. Crackling usually develops after 15 to 20 minutes. Once blisters start emerging on the skin and forms evenly, remove pork promptly from the oven. If the fringes get charred, scrape it off using a serrated-edge butter or steak knife.

16. Let pork rest for at least 20 minutes. Using a chopper, cut along scored lines on the crackling. Enjoy crunching into the skin!


TIP: Pork can adapt to a wide range of aromatic herbs and spices. Alternatively, do it Cantonese style – combine mashed fermented red bean curd with sugar as a marinade.  Pork needs at least 6 hours of marinating before roasting in salt crust.


TECHNIQUE: Given Singapore’s high humidity, the salt crust method consistently yields the crunchiest crackling while meat is kept moist. In the 1st roasting, the salt crust thoroughly prepares the skin for swift blistering. As the salt forms a cocoon, it seals in the juices while the meat is gently coaxed to succulence during roasting.

Photos: Lee Mun Yee

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