I have been intrigued by Porchetta, since watching this video.
That was just a “tourist” or promotional video. There are also recipes videos. This one made me drool.
Well, after watching the mouth-watering videos, I tried doing porchetta.
And faced the first of several problems. Traditionally, porchetta is made with a HUGE slab of pork belly.
Firstly, I can’t (or won’t) afford that much pork belly. Secondly, my butcher doesn’t have cuts of belly that large (though I could try to place a special order a day ahead. Not sure if he would accommodate the request though). And thirdly, my oven isn’t big enough. And fourthly, if I were successful, who’s gonna eat it all?
So I went with mini.
And I changed it to my new favourite cut for roast pork – “no see sky”.
“No See Sky” is a literal translation of the Chinese name for this cut of pork – “bu jian tian”. As near as I can get an explanation from my butcher, it is called that because it is a part of the pig that never sees the sky. His description was along the lines of “the armpit of the pig”. (You have to excuse me, my Mandarin is, as we say in Singapore, “cannot make it”. Which, actually, is not much of an excuse, because the butcher explained in English. )
As near as I can make out this cut is close to pork belly (either further up front or further down towards the hind end). The skin also crisp well if I use the roast pork technique of scoring, and salt-baking the skin. I like this cut because it does not have any soft bones (with pork belly, the ribs are removed, but the soft bones that attaches to the ribs are still present. You could remove all these, but then you would “swiss-cheese” your pork belly). And this “no see sky” cut (in PL’s opinion), has less fat. I actually think it has more, because the cut is not as thick as pork belly. So there is less lean, and less fat, but the proportion of fat is higher. And because of that, it is more flavourful.
Anyway, PL likes this a better than belly, and I like it too (no soft bones, more flavourful).
For my first attempt at Porchetta, I think I tried using pork belly. I also tried using the technique of completely removing the skin and then tying it back up (one of the videos used that method). It was a failure.
This second attempt was less of a failure, and photographs well:
For this, I used the bu jian tian cut.
One disadvantage of this cut is that the large full cut would be missing some skin. So I sliced off the skinless portion to wrap it in the centre of the roll. This cut is not as thick, so it made the roll just nice for the skin to enclose without overlapping.
The seasoning in the middle, I did not spend too much time on because I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. So salt, sugar, Italian herbs, pepper, cayenne pepper. Nothing too troublesome to prepare. All ready to shake from the bottles.
For future attempts, I might want to “Asianise” or “Singaporeanise” the seasoning – maybe try sesame oil, sambal, onions, Chinese wine, hoisin sauce or even Char Siew sauce.
(Bu Jian Tian is supposed to be really awesome for char siew.)
I fired it up in the oven at 120C for about 3 hours, after which I raise the temp to about 180C to crisp the skin.
Just the top. which seemed to have gotten crispy, but the bottom was not.
Turned it over, and tried again.
Not quite successful.
By that time, it was starting to smoke, which is probably a bad sign. Smoking always is.
So I let it cool and cut it up, and yes, there were some crispy skin, but also some tough skin. Reminded me of the Lechon I had.
Will update when I try a third time.
If I try a third time.
The problem is I am not sure what flavour I am going for. Or if I do succeed in making Porchetta, what is the unique selling proposition of Porchetta over Sio Bak? If it is a more complicated way of getting crackling pork roast, then sio bak is tried, tested, and almost mastered.
I may have to “Char Siew” it so it has the flavour of Char Siew, and the crispy crunchy skin of Sio Bak – a fusion of the two – “Char Siew Yuk”?
Or I may Sambal-ise it – make it spicy – Maybe just sambal and sugar (or hoisin sauce), with Hua Tiao Jiu (Chinese wine).