Slow and Double Cooked Roast Pork Belly (Sio Bak)

If you’re Chinese, you will grow up eating Roast Meat Cantonese style at many hawker centres and restaurants. Roast pork belly aka Sio Bak aka Siu Yoke is one of the most well loved, and frequently ordered dish for Chinese cuisine. One either eats it  on its own or most prefer it accompanied with rice or noodles.

Roast pork after 3 hours water bath.

Roast pork after crackling

I have been trying to perfect my roast pork recipe for 15 years, and I have finally nailed it. This has become one of my specialties and a dish my guests frequently request for. My process takes time and at least 2 days for preparation, and its more an Italian influenced process rather than the Chinese process we are familiar with. You can change the seasoning to make it more Chinese, by having the 5-spice powder as the predominant ingredient. But what I have here is my own mix, from years of experimentation.

Recently, I pitted my roast pork against a popular hawker stall in my neighbourhood. Both our roast porks were well liked by various tasters. Some like it the traditional way and some like mine with its different seasoning.

However, with my recipe you can be assured of:

1. Crackling – you can be assured of think crispy, crunchy crackling that is not hard nor chewy.

2. Seasoning – well seasoned, not too salty that doesn’t require any sauce to make it tastier.  However, do adjust seasoning accordingly to your own tastebuds.

3. Moistness of the meat – you will get tender moist meat that is not dry, thanks to the slow cooked water bath process.

4. The layers of skin and meat are visible, and still stays intact when you chop it up in bite sizes.

The recipe attached will show 2 ways of getting the crackling. One is using an fan forced oven, or a fan-forced griller. I now frequently use the griller as it gets the crackling going faster but it needs your full attention.

Enough said, here’s the recipe for those who have asked for it. Let me know how your roast pork goes!!

Slow and Double Cooked Roast Pork Belly (Sio Bak)

Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 mins
Yields: 4-6 pax


  • 1.5kg lean pork belly
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp 5-spice powder
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cracked pepper
  • Vegetable for brushing
  • Baking paper
  • Aluminium foil


  1. Getting the pork ready:
  2. Make lengthwise scores on pork belly skin (the width should be the width you would like to cut for individual servings). Make sure that the scoring breaks the fat just touching the flesh underneath, and make sure the skin is cut to the end both sides. 2. With hot boiling water, blanch the skin – you will notice the skin shrinking and turning a little translucent. Pat dry. 3. Turn pork over, make a couple of deep slashes across the flesh diagonally. This would help marinade penetrates deeper into the flesh, and assist in rolling as well. 4. Marinade the underside with pepper and 5-spice powder, garlic, small amount of sea salt and toasted fennel. Tuck the marinade into the deep slashes created. Pat dry all sides of the pork. (Some people like their seasoning stronger and saltier, so do adjust accordingly to your taste.) 5. Turn back with skin side facing up on a roasting dish. Leave to dry up in the fridge overnight.
  3. Slow roasting (water bath):
  4. 1. Pre-heat oven to 140 degrees Celsius. 2. Using coarse sea salt (or Maldon salt), rub it between the scoring on the skin, whole length through. Don’t overdo the salt or you will get a very salty pork! 3. Get a water bath ready. Place pork on a rack in a roasting pan. Fill up with boiled water just before it touches the pork. (I bought my racks from Daiso – cheap and good., and propped it up with over-turned mini ramekins). Cover the top of the pork and tray with baking paper, followed by foil above it. Baking paper ensures the moistness is retained, while the preventing the foil from sticking to the pork skin. 4. Slow roast for 3 hours, checking every hour to see if you need to refill the water. Pork juices will get collected in the water, and this could be use as a base for a beautiful gravy later, after straining the oil off. 5. After roasting, let it cool. Once cool, you can return it into the fridge uncovered to dry the skin further for a couple of hours (if you are serving this pork later, you can also keep it overnight, bring the pork out to room temperate and roast it 30 mins before serving your guests). If you don’t have the time, pat the skin dry again with paper towel. 6. As for the remaining juices in the pan, you can keep it overnight (this would help in lifting the layer of oil after) or leave it in the pan to be re-used for the final crackling stage.
  5. Final crackling stage:
  6. Pre-heat oven to 230 C. You may use the same roasting pan with the pan-juices. Add more water (as the hot oven will dry it out almost immediately). 2. Place pork on a rack, in the water bath. 3. Brush the skin evenly with oil. Sprinkle sea salt all over the skin. 4. Roast for exactly 30 mins in a fan assisted oven. Turn it after 20 mins, so skin get evenly crackled. If you oven is not even, you may need to turn it more often to get the crackling even. 5. Almost guarantee the skin WILL CRACKLE 100% if you follow the above instructions to a T. 6. Let it rest 10 mins uncovered before cutting and serving. Drain off the oil in the roasting pan and use the remaining juices to make a lovely gravy.
  7. Using griller (broiler) as an alternative:
  8. ALTERNATIVELY, you can have the oven in grill (assisted fan) mode on 200-220C temperature to crackle the skin. This way is much faster, but don't place your pork too close to the grill metal but about 10cm under. And allow 5-15 minutes to crackle but you may need to turn the pork around to get it crackle evenly. This way to crackle is much faster but it also gets hot very quick. So check your pork every 2-3 minutes to be sure otherwise it would get burnt. I literally sat in front of my oven throughout the entire process and check (and turn) until I am happy with the crackling. Great way to get a sauna at the same time LOLx

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