Thursday, May 01, 2008

(Chinese) Roast Pork Belly / Lechon

Another day, another belly...

I bought pork belly last week in the hopes of doing it as adobo. We discussed the pros and cons of an adobo pork belly.

Pro: it's superdelicious, loved by all, easy to make.
Con: can't really do another blog entry on pork adobo. (And we've also blogged about chicken adobo too!)

We wanted to do something superdelicious, loved by all, easy to make, and bloggable.

So our thoughts turn to another Filipino application of pork belly, that is, lechon kawali.

Lechon kawali is pork belly cut into bite-sized cubes, which are then usually deep-fried. Lechon kawali is similar to the "roast pig" served in Cantonese noodle houses. I don't know if the preparation is the same (deep-frying). The skin of "roast pig" (not to be confused with BBQ pork) is usually more blistery than lechon kawali.

The important thing to both these dishes is the crispy, crispy skin which contrasts with the ultrasoft fat and the tender meat. It is a marvel to eat because one gets three different textures all once with a bite.

I searched for how to prepare "roast pig" at home and it seemed to be fairly straightforward. I knew we didn't want to be deep-frying, and unlike lechon ni Betchon, we did not have a turbo convection oven to use for the bellies. They would have to go into the oven.

sim cooks recipe: home-made roast pork

Her dish looked like traditional roast pig, so I set about following her technique.

The seasoning is five-spice powder and salt. I didn't want to experiment with the seasoning the first time we're doing the dish. In fact, my ratio for five-spice to salt was only 1 to 15. I knew from experience that five spice can be a little overwhelming and I wanted to err on the side of caution.

I rubbed the salt and five spice mixture all over the pork bellies and let them dry-brine in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Now that we have these metal skewers (bought for shish kebab), they're turning out to be extremely useful.

We used the metal skewers to suspend the bellies above the roasting pan. We figure that them hanging would be better, in that the dry oven heat can get under them and dry-cook them. We didn't want the bellies to be sitting in a pool of its own fat.

I started using two skewers per pork belly piece, but got lazy. I tried to save a skewer!

After the initial 30 minutes in the oven, the skin has turned a light butterscotch-y brown, with some blisters forning at the edges.

Look how they've shrunk!

To get more blisters, the skin would have to be poked a million times. We used a fork at first, then graduated to toothpicks to pierce the skin.

Notice how the skin had a matte finish pre-poking and how it glistened with its own fat post-poking.

poke, poke-poke-poke, poke, poke-poke, poke, poke, poke-poke-poke



Into the oven for another 30 minutes. The skin was getting there, but some parts were still not crispy.

We poked some more and put it back into the oven for more time. At about 15 minutes more, we were afraid that the pork would start to burn. So, although a proportion (about 15%) of the skin surface was still not as crisp as we would like, we pulled out the pork bellies.

It has shrunk even more!

We made a chili-garlic-vinegar condiment to use as a dipping sauce for the pork belly. Served with a side of sauteed bok choy and over some steaming white rice, this was quite heavenly.

This is pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it meal, easy to do on a weeknight, but oh-so-satisfying.

Perhaps pork belly this way is also infinitely variable and I am looking forward to experimenting with different seasonings for the pork.

So here it is! Superdelicious, loved by all, easy to make, and most importantly, bloggable.

[captions provided by TS]

eatingclub Hong Kong/Cantonese
Chicken Chow Mein
Cantonese Braised Beef Brisket, Two Ways
Lobster Congee from a Lobster Feast
Chinese Roast Pork Belly
Gailan (Chinese Broccoli) with Oyster Sauce, Two Ways
Chinese Pork Bone Soup with Carrots and Water Chestnuts
Hong Kong-style Curry Cuttlefish
Dimsum Seafood Trio: Black Pearl Prawn Toast, Scallop in Nest, Jewelled Rice Cup
Hong Kong-style Singapore Noodles (星洲炒米)
Hong Kong-style Stir-fried Water Spinach with Shrimp Paste (蝦醬通菜)
Hong Kong-style Stir-fried Rice Noodle with Beef (乾炒牛河)
Sweet and Sour Pork
Hong Kong-style Curry Beef Brisket (咖喱牛腩), 1st Attempt

eatingclub vancouver Filipino food
Mama's Ampalaya (Bitter Melon)
Faux Kamote-Que
Philippine-Style Chicken "BBQ"
Fried Hasa Hasa (Mackerel)
"Savory" Chicken Wings
Sinamak (Chile-infused Vinegar)
Pan-roasted Halibut w/ Fava Beans, Potato-Onion Cakes & Bagoong Butter Sauce
Bulalo & Bangus: an even simpler Filipino meal
Baked Tahong (Mussels)
Adobo Kangkong (Adobo Water Spinach)
Oyster Torta (Oyster Omelette)
Chicken Tinola (Chicken Soup w/ Green Papaya & Pepper Leaves)
(Chinese) Roast Pork Belly / Lechon
Tilapia wrapped in Banana Leaves
Pork Belly, Two Ways
Chicken Adobo
Salabat (Ginger Tea)
Lechon Manok (Philippine Roast Chicken) & Lechon Sauce
"Chinese Adobo" Clams and Oysters
Bistek (Citrus Beef with Caramelized Onions)
Beef Kaldereta (Beef Stew with Bell Peppers)
Atsara (Green Papaya Pickle)


  1. absolutely wonderful!!! i love the technique and that dipping sauce...

    belly belly belly

  2. I've been haunted by the skin. I keep thinking of Rekados (there's a picture of the lechon kawali in our review) and I'm thinking that this is the right crispiness of pork belly skin.

    I saw the Heston Blumenthal show on his perfect Peking Duck and his ideal was the duck skin in a restaurant in Peking. The skin shatters when one drops it from a height.

    Maybe he was onto something: maybe that should be the standard for pork belly skin.

  3. Hey!!! I posted a comment here days ago and I just realized that it didn't show up! It was a brilliant comment too, haha.

    Thanks, Claudia... you make me happy. {beaming}

    Vinegar is the Filipino dish's friend. (Oh wait, this is sort of Chinese too.)

    I would make this again just for the poke, poke-poke, poke, poke, poke-poke-poke, poke-poke, poke, poke-poke.




  4. you guys ever thought about using a knife and score the skin instead of poking? try crosshatching the skin, it will turn out much better results. also to make life easy... try giving the skin with about 6 cups of water and a healthy splash of white vinegar in the boiling water, just make sure you pour the water on the skin. the skin will turn white, easy to score, after that, wipe down the skin and score, after scoring, put the salt on top and put your spices on fat and meat only and leave in fridge over night to dry out, if you have to put a paper towel to absorb excess moisture... hope that helps

  5. anon:
    Thanks for the tip! Yeah, we've never tried the scoring method, although we've seen that done by others a lot. Will try this. Thanks. =)

  6. just found this, gonna try it, thanks...

  7. How long and at what temperature did you bake the pork bellies?

  8. Ben Gage:
    Hope it works out for you.

    The oven is 400F, I would say, As for the timing, the post indicates how long each stage of cooking is; we had to take the bellies out at certain times and put them, back in.

  9. Another twist to pork belly is whole Lechon. I had one last Christmas, mouth watering, from NJ. The price is very reasonable. Check them out.


LinkWithin Related Stories Widget for Blogs