The Americans cure and smoke pork belly to turn it into delicious crispy Bacon, the Spanish fry chunks of the same meat cut to create the amazing crunchy Torreznos, the Italians spice it up and roll it to bake for hours the juicy Porchetta, you can find bit of smoky Lardons in the very traditional French Quiche Lorraine…I could go on and on, since of course every country has its own way of cooking pork belly. The Chinese, having such a high consumption of pork meat, are definitely no exception to that.
Pork belly is but one incarnation of pig fat in its most amazing and silky form. It is definitely not good for the human beings if eaten too often of in big quantities but the Chinese people always balance a meal well with more rice and veggies anyway. All the markets will have it, so it is by no means rare, and it’s very affordable. Considered as a “peasant’s” cut because of its toughness, feared by many as a terrible source of cholesterol and saturated fat. It is yet a succulent and rich indulgence. When cooked properly it just have you conquered with just a single bite…making you want 20 more!
How can it be bought in Chinese restaurants? Let me name a few non exhaustive examples:
- Braised with love and care for many hours in a deep flavorful soy sauce base sauce. The meat will become very tender and the skin just gelatinous enough to enjoy its bouncy texture
- Smoked and slightly dry, the Chinese “Bacon” makes a perfect companion for a quick and simple vegetable stir fry
- Thinly sliced to make stuffed rolls. Served with a ginger-soy sauce it can be a fairly light option to have pork belly in a small quantity and it makes a great refreshing spring starter.
The traditional Hakka region dish named Kau Yuk, is made of pork belly and taro root and has a very long process of boiling, deep frying, steaming and braising, but in the end the long process reveals an incredible melt-in-the-mouth/creamy feel that makes you feel in paradise.
But of course, the most famous way of having Chinese style pork belly is the Siu Yok: Crispy roasted pork belly. The juiciness of its meat combined with the crunchy skin will have you converted into a pork belly lover with just one bite and, if you are lucky enough to have it from a suckling pig, then you will only feel a step away from heaven!
Photo: Emilie Mounsaveng