Here’s an air fryer roast pork belly recipe that is foolproof, fuss free, easy to make without complicated process, uses simple ingredients and does not require poking of holes (phew! The pork skin is really thick and difficult to poke holes, don’t you agree?). Roast pork belly, 烧肉, or Siu Yuk in Cantonese, or Sio Bak in Hokkien, is a popular local Chinese roast meat dish that’s commonly eaten with rice or noodles. It is typically roasted to make its skin crispy and uses pork belly that consists of 30-50% fat. IMHO, fatty roast pork belly tastes the best, although it can really hurt your waistline!
How to Make the Crispiest Pork Belly Ever
To achieve those beautiful cracklings in roast pork belly, you can use either an oven or air fryer, but I prefer the latter as I am always able to get that crispy skin all the time, regardless of how dry the skin is before air frying it. There are many recipes out there, most recipes will require you to poke the skin which is quite tedious and time consuming, some will ask you to dehydrate the skin and leave it in the fridge overnight, some rub the skin with vinegar and even use a hairdryer to blow dry the skin.
Poking the skin does not make it crispy by default. I’ve tried poking it in one attempt and left the skin to dry in the fridge overnight and it turned out ok but this method didn’t give me the light and crisp cracklings for the skin. I didn’t try the slow roast in oven and broil method, I just thought it’s a little too much work. And I like quick and fast recipes.
Using salt and baking soda to rub the skin helps definitely. I’ve also done a recipe just using salt and some spices and the cracklings came out perfect. This I will share in a separate recipe.
Drying the skin is important and I’ve left the marinated pork belly uncovered in the fridge for 36-48 hours in two separate attempts. The raw skin turned out slightly harder and very dry after being left for such long hours in the fridge. And that gives a beautiful crackling all the time, using the air fryer.
Ingredients for Crispy Roast Pork Belly
- Nan ru – This is a type of red fermented tofu that Chinese also used to eat with porridge or as a seasoning in some stews or stir fries. The taste is rather salty so just using 2-3 cubes is good enough.
- White pepper – I’m a big fan of the Sarawak white pepper as it has a unique white peppery aroma that’s ideal for Asian cooking.
- Cooking wine – I used Hua Tiao Chinese wine in this recipe but it’s also alright to use Shaoxing wine, or dry sherry or any other cooking wine of your preference.
- Pork belly – You should ideally use a slab of pork belly with some nice layers of fat. Personally I prefer a lot more fats as it gives that melt-in-your-mouth texture if done correctly.
- Salt – You do not need too much salt, just about 1-2 tbsp to rub on the skin before air frying it. It helps to draw out moisture for the skin and enhance the flavour.
- Baking soda – I used about 2 tbsp to rub on the skin with the salt before air frying it for this recipe.
What’s the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?
In case you are wondering (like me), what makes the difference between the baking soda and the baking powder. Both are leavening agents which helps baked goods rise. The baking soda aka sodium bicarbonate, is a baking ingredient that needs a liquid and an acid to be activated to help with leavening, or rising. The baking powder is a complete leavening agent that contains both the sodium bicarbonate and an acidic ingredient.
What to Serve with Sio Bak?
When we make sio bak, we usually eat it with either rice and other dishes such as vegetables, soup, and other meat dishes. Sometimes we also eat it with noodles and kailan, or eat it with rice and char siew (best!).
How to Store Leftover and Reheat Roast Pork Belly?
Although leftovers are rare in my family, if there is any, I’ll keep them in an airtight box and they can be refrigerated for up to one week. If you want to keep it longer, you can store it in the freezer for up to a month. I’d use the air fryer to reheat them before serving.
Air Fryer Roast Pork Belly Recipe (Sio Bak or Siu Yuk)
- 1 kg pork belly
- 2-3 cubes nan ru (red fermented bean curd)
- 3 tbsp Hua Tiao Chinese wine
- 1 tsp white pepper
For rubbing pork belly skin
- 1-2 tbsp salt
- 1-2 tbsp baking soda
- Wash clean the pork belly. Pat dry with paper towel. Slit the meat (without cutting through the skin) to let the marinade penetrate deeper.
- Prepare marinade with nan ru, Hua Tiao Chinese wine, white pepper.
- Place pork belly skin side down in a tray. Rub marinade around the meat area, try to avoid rubbing marinade onto skin.
- Now place pork belly skin side up and use a paper towel to wipe the marinade on the skin. Keep the skin as dry as possible.
- Rub salt and baking soda on the skin. The skin should feel slightly moist as these ingredients will help draw up the moisture from the skin. Then remove the salt and baking soda from the skin and tray. Make sure the skin is as dry as possible.
- Keep the marinated pork belly in the fridge for 24 hours, with the tray uncovered. Note: I kept mine for about 36 hours. Minimally you can keep it overnight but 24-48 hours are ideal. The skin will feel slightly harder and dry.
- Pre-heat air fryer for 3 minutes. Place marinated pork belly in the air fryer with skin side up. Air fry at 200 degree celsius for 25 minutes. Flip the pork belly every 8-10 minutes to ensure even cooking.
- Enjoy the roast pork belly with crispy skin and juice tender meat.