Rick Stein has some amazing recipes and this has to be one of my favourites. This is hands down better than 80% of what is considered ‘authentic Chinese’ when eating out, which is questionable in quality, in many ways. The test is actually in the crackling; if you don’t get it right, forget the whole dish. Roasting pork belly like this is amazing on multiple levels. The pork belly is already marbled with beautiful layers of fat, so there is no need for additional oils. The meat, if cooked to the right temperature will be a little firm on the outside and will have a melt-in-your-mouth center. You actually have to use a tray to catch all of the excess fat. But don’t let that turn you off.
Again, FEMALE PORK ONLY. Male pork does not have the best smell about it. Always check with the butcher. I have found myself over the past month or so bombed with an ‘anti pork movement’ online, warning people of the dirtiness of the meat, relative to other meat options. Also it is believed pigs are 'quite close' in intelligence to humans. We could go on fine combing every eating choice we make, but what’s the point? Most vegetarians relapse on bacon.
There is an old Chinese belief that anything with 4 legs on the ground and a back facing the sun is edible. I don’t agree with it completely, but let’s face it; it’s a resolutely resourceful idea.
Serves five to six
1.5kg female pork belly (bone removed)
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 tbsp sea salt (2 for crackling)
2 tsp five spice powder
2 tsp caster sugar
Score skin of the pork belly, without hitting flesh in 1cm intervals. Pour boiling water over the skin and leave to drain. Dry meat with a paper towel.
Dry roast both peppers on a medium heat to release the aromatic flavours. In a mortar and pestle, pound all of the dry ingredients into a powder. Turn pork belly upside down and cover flesh well with powered rub. Set aside for 60 minute to allow the flavours to amalgamate.
Preheat oven at 230 degrees Celsius. Turn pork belly skin side up and rub 2 tbsp sea salt into the scores. This helps absorb excess moisture and makes for better crackling. Place pork on a rack, with a tray underneath to catch all excess fat. Blast bake for 30 minutes then reduce heat to 160 degrees, cooking for 30 minutes per 500g. Turn the pork half way into baking for evenly crisp crackle.
Chop and serve with Chinese vegetables and oyster sauce. .