Another look at Cantonese Roast Pork (Siu Bak/Siu Yoke)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

(This will be one of the last posts on a CNY-relatd recipe.)

When it comes to pork belly, I think the Cantonese method of turning it into Siu Yoke (Siu Bak) must be one of the best way cooking this cut. Done properly, you have crackling skin (which is full of flavor) and moist meat with a good bite. The skin is not stripped away. It  stays crackingly on the layers of meat and fat.

You end up with a wonderfully presented dish of bite-sized cubes. With a pair of chopsticks in hand, pick up a piece and dip it in mustard or special soy sauce. We can easily agree: this is the best way to eat roast pork.

I have blogged about the Sous Vide method to make a "perfect" Siu Bak. I have not bothered with any other method because of the convenience. There is minimum cooking attention time. This is of course only true for those who own some SV device. (If you do not have one, cook it low in the oven at meat internal temperature of about 76C for 2 hours. You need an oven meat thermometer for this. Note that the internal meat temp is different from the one you set on your oven dial. Remove the pork and let it cool down. Meanwhile fan the skin to dry it. Poke some holes in it. Rub some salt and then crank up the grill to 220C and blast it for 20-30 mins.)

The idea is the same. You cook the meat at its optimal temperature (between 72-76C). If the heat is too high, the juices will be released and the meat will be dry. You find a way to dry the skin. And then you blast it briefly in the grill to get a crisped skin.

I summarize the recipe here again, using the SV method:

  1. Vacumn-pack your slabs and add salt, white pepper and 5-spice powder.
  2. Sous Vide the packs in 72C for 6 hours. Remember not to bend the packs to ensure the slabs stay flat.
  3. Remove the slabs and wipe them dry. Find a way to dry the skin  i.e. top shelf in a fridge or have a fan blow it for 2 hours. Flatten the slabs under a weight. 
  4. Rub the skins with a lot of salt. Poke some holes in the skin. Blast the slabs skin-side up in the oven. Grill at 220-250 for 20-25 mins.  
I have here a few more tips to help you improve on your Siu Bak.
  1. Choose the right kind of pork belly, i.e. those with thinner layers of fat. See the photo below.
  2. Try to ensure the skin side is as flat as possible as a curving slab means it is harder to uniformly crisp the skin. 
  3. When grilling, be patient. If the skin is dry, it should crisp well. There may be "stubborn" spots. I have batches where there will about 5% of these chewy patches. Either you continue to grill till they crisp (which means other blackened parts need to be scraped off) or choose not to serve the chewy parts. 
  4. You can always cut off the bottom parts to ensure that the Siu Bak pieces can stand up neatly. The bottom part tends to be harder anyway and you can use them for other purposes.
  5. A good sauce can enhance the Siu Bak. It counters the oiliness. I use a good soy sauce, boil it with some coriander roots/stems/sping onions stems, rock sugar, Chinese wine and some sesame oil. Or use Dijon or a light mustard. 
I have now made a few lots of Siu Bak, including one lot for a party to feed 60 pax. The SV method definitely came in handy. This is a good way to enjoy pork and if eaten in moderation, it will be fine.

Pork belly is seldom seen as a prime cut but for this recipe, it is. The photos below can guide you further.

Choose the right kind of pork Belly
Vacumn-pack the slabs
Sous Vide for 6 hours at 72C

Drying the skin on the top shelf of the fridge

After Over -grilling. You can tell from this pic that the skin is
crispy and the meat is moist (not shriveled).
Making the Sauce
I slice the bottom of the pork slab so that the SB pieces sits up nicely.
I add the sauce at the bottom but you can offer them separately. 
A nice line-up. 

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  1. HI I love your blog. I did your cantonese roast sousvide method. It came out of the water bath rock hard. I have not browned it yet. Any idea why it is so dried out. Thank you.

  2. What temp did you use and for how long?

  3. Sorry it took a while to answer. By the time i roasted it was fine and I will certainly do it again. Thank you.