Chinese Cured Pork Belly: A Delicious Tradition

Chinese cured pork belly, known as là ròu in Mandarin and lap yuk in Cantonese, holds a special place in Chinese cuisine. Traditionally made during late autumn and winter, it is a time-honored delicacy that delights the palate. Making this pork belly at home is a rewarding experience that allows you to savor its exceptional taste.

Curing pork belly outdoors Chinese-style

A Time-Honored Recipe

Our journey into the world of Chinese cured pork belly began unexpectedly. One evening, I decided to cook a piece of this succulent meat with rice, and to my surprise, it was devoured by my loved ones. Realizing the importance of preserving this cherished family recipe, we decided to share it with you.

For generations, Bill’s 102-year-old grandmother, a Chinatown resident, has been the sole keeper of this recipe. Every winter, she crafts a large batch to be shared with her children and grandchildren, forming a culinary tradition that spans four generations. When asked for the recipe, she simplifies it, saying, “Just marinate the pork in light soy sauce, ginger, a splash of wine, and a touch of whiskey, then hang it by the window.” While straightforward, we’ve provided more detailed instructions for your convenience.

Key Considerations

Before we delve into the recipe, there are a few essential points to remember:

  • Adjust the quantity of dark soy sauce based on personal preference to achieve the desired color.
  • If baijiu, a Chinese hard liquor, is not readily available, whiskey can be used as a substitute. Ensure it is of good quality and mix it with the sauce after it cools.
  • It is crucial to have clean utensils, containers, and hands when preparing the pork belly for curing.
  • The curing process requires cool and dry conditions with good airflow. An ideal temperature range is 50°F to 55°F (10°C to 13°C). You can cure the pork belly in a cold, dry basement, a refrigerator (placing the belly on a rack to allow airflow), or even outside when it is cold and dry. If choosing to cure outside, ensure the temperature remains below 50°F to avoid the sun’s impact.
  • Store-bought lap yuk is often sold in longer pieces. To portion it appropriately, we recommend cutting each piece in half.
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The Delightful Process Unveiled

Now, let’s dive into the captivating art of making Chinese cured pork belly:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine ginger, bay leaves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, Sichuan peppercorns, salt, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and sugar.
  2. Place the pot over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. This process should take a few minutes. Allow the sauce to cool completely.
  3. While waiting for the sauce to cool, rinse the pork belly and pat it dry thoroughly with paper towels. It is crucial to remove as much moisture as possible. Arrange the pieces neatly in a shallow, rimmed dish.
  4. Once the sauce has cooled, add baijiu or whiskey to it and mix well.
  5. Pour the sauce over the pork, ensuring that the meat is fully submerged. You can place a clean plate or bowl on top to weigh it down.
  6. Cover the dish tightly and refrigerate it for 3 full days, flipping the pork belly once daily to ensure even marination.
  7. After 3 days, it is time to hang the pork belly to cure. Use kitchen string and a bamboo skewer to thread the string through the fat in the pork belly, tying a secure loop.
  8. Hang the pork belly in a cool, dry place. Optimal temperature and humidity levels are around 50 to 55°F (10 to 13°C) and 65% relative humidity. If fresh air is available, open a window during the day. Ensure the room is closed to prevent pests. Alternatively, use a fan to maintain airflow if fresh air is not accessible.
  9. Protect the curing meat by placing plastic-covered newspaper on the floor underneath to catch any drips. Allow the pork belly to dry for 4-6 days until the outer layer is completely dry, while the inside remains slightly soft when pressed.
  10. If the weather permits, you can even cure the pork belly outdoors. Ensure it is cold and dry, with a temperature above freezing but below 50°F. Some sunlight is acceptable and can enhance the curing process.
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A Culinary Masterpiece

Once the curing process is complete, you can store the Chinese cured pork belly for future use. Place it in a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months (for the best quality) or up to 1 year.

This succulent lap yuk can be enjoyed in various dishes. One popular choice is Hong Kong Style Clay Pot Rice, a comforting winter meal that is eagerly anticipated by many. To savor the full flavor of this extraordinary pork belly, simply add it to your rice cooker along with rice and water. Let the steam work its magic, and when the rice is ready, slice the lap yuk and mix it with the rice. The result is pure gastronomic bliss.

At Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ, we cherish the opportunity to share the art of Chinese cured pork belly with you. Explore our website for more inspiring recipes and embrace the culinary traditions that bring us together.

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