I get horribly confused by the use of roast pork and bbq pork on the menus of Chinese Restaurants. It makes no sense to me and I don’t know whether they refer to char siu or siu yuk. I check or order by the Cantonese name of the dish, although this is possible if the person serving me speaks the language. Otherwise it’s hand signals and broken English asking for patience while I search for a photo.
So what’s the difference? Siu yuk translates to roast meat, and in this particular case everyone knows that it’s actually roast pork consisting of moist meat topped with a layer of golden crunchy crackling. Char siu is the other pork dish but instead has no crackling, is sweetly spiced, baked in an oven and often has been dyed red. We’ll cover that later.
Back to the siu yuk. This Chinese New Year two of us put our own spin on this classic dish.
- 1 – 1.5 kg of pork belly (ask the butcher to score the skin)
- 1 tsp ground white pepper
- 8 peeled garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp five spice salt rub*
- There are a lot recipes that call for blanching the skin with hot water in the preparation. There are also a lot of recipes that don’t call for this. Where do I stand? It depends on the pork belly. If it’s fresh I skip the blanching and I still get the crackling. If it’s not looking as fresh as I would like it, I blanch it.Though everyone agrees on the scoring of the skin. It has to be done. I also add to this by plunging a specialised meat tenderiser into the skin to poke as many holes as possible to allow for a uniform crackle to form.
- I threw the 8 cloves of garlic and pepper into the Thermomix and turned it into paste. This would also work in a food processor or blender. And yes, all 8 cloves of garlic to just 1 teaspoon of pepper. I rub the paste on the meat side only. You can also score the meat side to help the marinade better penetrate the meat. Once rubbed in place the meat in a baking tray skin side up.
- Rub the five spice salt rub into the skin as evenly as you can and then place the pork into the fridge uncovered overnight. This will allow the meat to marinate while the skin dries out.
- Ordinarily the next day one would take the meat out prior to roasting and soak up any moisture that has pooled on the skin and place it in an oven preheated to 200-220 degrees Celsius to roast. Once cooked through after 40 minutes or so, place it under the grill to create a gorgeous crackle. Totally valid method.
- Instead, on this day after I marinated the pork, it was placed in a smoker for around 6 hours and smoked with apple wood. After the smoking we broke the convention of cutting the skin off and discarding it. Instead. we placed the pork under a grill to snap, crackle and pop.
It’s not the usual golden colour due to the smoking process but it’s packed full of flavour. My brother who is a dentist gave it the seal of approval as this was crunchy but not to the point where a tooth is going to be chipped. The crackling was still crunchy after the pork was well rested and cooled.
*If you don’t have five spice salt rub, salt will work just as well.