Sunday, 22 July 2012

Pork Crackling

(serves 4)
So finally, mum has started to teach me some old school Chinese cooking, starting with the family (or seemingly every Asian's) favourite ~ roasted pork crackling. I generally don't like fried foods, so i used to never understand the fascination with this dish, especially as it's often on top of a chunk of fat and a piece of somewhat dry roast pork. However, eventually when mum perfected this, and i was converted. 
Light. Crispy. Salty with a hint of spice. Finger-licking goodness.
A  few important points to note to maximise crackling:
1. If you're using just the skin, then you need to try and trim off as much fat underneath as you can, otherwise it tastes quite oily and also limits the bubbling of the skin.
2. The lack of crackling often occurs due to the oil not being able to escape properly, so you need to try to score every part of the skin!
3. Drying out is vital, so should be at least 4-5 hours or preferably overnight. 
4. Using rock salt (i.e larger grains of salt) is also an option and may help with increasing the heat on the skin ==> better crackling, and can then be brushed off so it's not too salty!

Prep time: 30 min (a day in advance) 
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes


Ingredients:
1lb (400-450g) Pork skin from the Asian butcher (i admit this is somewhat creepy looking)
1 T White Vinegar
1 tsp Five spice powder
1 1/2 - 2 tsp sea salt
2x20cm pieces of cooking twine
Special Equipment: Cooking twine, metal hook (optional)

Method:
1. Trim any excess meat and fat from the bottom of the skin. You want the skin to be as thin as possible.
2. Softening the skin: Half-fill a large saucepan with boiling water. Put the skin-side down and quickly soak for 1 minute.
3. Score the skin: Pat the skin dry and score the skin in a criss-cross pattern with the edge of the knife. Try to remove as much fat from under the skin as possible. 
4. Pat the skin dry then pour the vinegar on the skin, rub in then pat dry again.
5. Mix the five spice powder and sea salt together, then rub on the skin and leave out to dry overnight.
6. Remove all the oven trays then preheat the oven to 100˚C.
7. Pierce 2 holes in the upper corners of the pork skin and thread the cooking twine through it.
8. Hang up in the oven with the skin side facing the fan at the back of the oven and then put the heat up to 200˚C. 
NB. You can also use metal hooks to create some direction change in the skin to help with the oil drainage.
9. Cook for approx. 20 minutes, checking intermittently until the whole surface has bubbled.
10. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes on a paper towel.
11. Break up into bite-size pieces.
12. Shave off any excess fat under the skin for the perfect crackling without the oily aftertaste!

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