Crispy Pork Belly with Sweet Chili Vinegar Dip

There’s no doubt that bacon is one of the most popular foods on the internet these days, and yeah, it’s delicious! But, in my humble opinion, there’s nothing like a good piece of roasted pork belly with a crisp crackling skin. It’s one of my favourite pork dishes for several reasons: the golden, crispy skin, the tender meat, and the shiny white fat that practically melts in your mouth. Crunchy, salty, succulent pork belly: what’s not to like about it?

Back home in the Netherlands, my parents would often order pork belly from this little Surinamese food-stall down the street for us to eat at home with some fried rice and vegetables. It was this same pork belly that made me cave in and give up on my short stint as a vegetarian when I was twelve years old. Now that I am in Greece it is a bit hard for me to find a good Asian-, or Surinamese restaurant that serves the kind of pork belly I am used to, and I often find myself daydreaming about the food from this little takeaway stall (luckily, my parents still order food from there when I visit them). While it’s great to order this dish from your local takeaway on lazy days, it’s actually really easy to make at home! Believe me, do it and be amazed!


The only thing you need to consider is that you will have to start preparing the pork the day before cooking (or at the very very least 4 hours before). I think the most crucial step in the preparation of the pork is to season (or brine, if you prefer) and refrigerate your meat overnight, leaving it uncovered to let the skin dry out properly. Of course, make sure the seasoning, or marinade doesn’t touch the skin at all. You may have to spend some time on deboning and tidying up your meat, but I am guessing most people will get a nice, clean, straight piece of pork belly from their butcher.

Advertisement -- Continue Reading Below


If you got a piece like mine,  you will have to spend a little time – honestly, no more than 5 minutes – cutting off the wonky bits and spareribs by guiding a sharp knife as close to the bones as possible (keep them for another day, of course!)… maybe you’ll even need to pull out some hairs with tweezers. I also make long cuts in the meat part of the belly so that the dry rub can really infuse every part of the meat; avoid cutting into the skin, of course.



Now that I mentioned the dry rub, I make my own spice mix, using a pestle and mortar to crush up the fragrant peppercorns, star anise, and cloves. It’s really worth the little effort, but if you don’t own a pestle and mortar, or don’t feel like doing this step you can replace my spice mix with about 1½ teaspoon of Chinese five-spice powder. 


Anyway, besides drying out the skin, what makes crispy pork belly crispy? Some people swear by rubbing on baking soda, while others swear by using vinegar, or a combination of the two. At times, baking soda can leave a weird aftertaste, so I prefer to only brush a small amount of vinegar onto the skin.


Yes, it is very important that the skin stays dry before it goes into the oven, however, the real secret to the golden, crispy skin is to meticulously prick a lot of tiny holes (the more the better) into the skin with a metal skewer, or any other sharp object (my mom uses an onion holder…). The hundreds of tiny holes make the skin puff up, creating air-pockets reminiscent of golden honeycomb that satisfyingly crackles as you eat it.


I also tightly wrap the meat in tinfoil, leaving the skin uncovered. I then create a salt crust by using coarse salt that draws out moisture while the pork belly is being cooked and that can be easily removed in one piece after the first step of the cooking process. If the idea of the salt crust frightens you (it shouldn’t) this step could be omitted. Instead of making a salt crust, my mom just rubs some salt on the skin and brushes it off a couple of times and her pork belly turns out crispy as well.



The final important factor in creating the crispiest, puffiest crackling is heat. After removing the salt-crust an hour into the cooking process, you will need to turn on the broiler, or crank the heat up to 250°C ; the oven needs to be HOT. You will then have to watch closely as the skin bubbles and puffs up as it can go from crispy and golden to burned in a hot minute (admittedly, I do enjoy some slightly charred little pieces). The skin should be ready in 10 to 15 minutes. Usually, parts that havent puffed up by then never will, but that’s okay: they will still be delicious!


This pork belly can be served as a main course on top of some rice together with some steamed vegetables. It does really well as an appetizer with some dipping sauces, or rolled into a lettuce leaf as well. My dad would often have a small bowl of granulated sugar in which he would dip the pieces of pork, which I found odd as a child, but can appreciate a lot more now. Personally, I like to serve some sliced cucumber tossed with some vinegar on the side as a fresh, tangy counterpart to the fatty meat, and I like to dip the pieces in a quick homemade sweet chili vinegar sauce. Of course, you can pick your own sauce of preference, but I have included the recipe for my quick sweet chili dip below.





Crispy Pork Belly with Sweet Chili Vinegar Dip

4.0 rating based on 3 ratings
  • DF
Crispy, succulent pork belly, with a sweet and tangy dip sauce
  • Difficulty:Intermediate
  • Prep Time:15 mins
  • Cook Time:80 mins
  • Serves:4
  • Freezable:No

Nutrition per portion

  • 1kg pork belly with skin, deboned
  • 200g coarse salt
  • Vinegar, to brush on skin
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Some drops of sesame oil
  • -
  • Dry-rub:
  • 1 star anise, whole
  • 8 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ginger powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • -
  • Sweet chili and vinegar sauce:
  • 300ml water
  • 100ml white wine vinegar
  • 70g granulated sugar
  • 1 - 2 red chili peppers, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • Two slices of fresh ginger about ½ centimetre thick
  • 1 teaspoon corn-starch
Preparing the pork:
  1. To make the spice-mix / dry rub for the pork belly, grind peppercorns, cloves, and star anise with a pestle and mortar until you get a relatively fine dust. It’s okay if there are some bigger pieces left inside. Mix the powder with the salt, ginger powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. Rinse pork belly and pat dry. Place it on a cutting board skin-side down and slice the bottom of the pork belly about 3 centimetres apart right up until the skin, but leaving the parts attached: Don’t cut through the skin!
  3. Rub the spice mixture into the meat (and between the cuts) together with some drops of sesame oil and the soy sauce. Avoid getting anything on the skin.
  4. Take a metal skewer, fork, or meat tenderizer and systematically poke tiny holes all over the skin. The more holes there are, the better. Avoid poking too deep. Place pork belly skin-side up and uncovered in a dish and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.
  Cooking the pork:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Take the meat out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
  3. Brush the skin with some vinegar, but avoid getting the skin too wet.
  4. Tightly wrap the pork belly in tinfoil leaving the skin uncovered. Then cover the skin of the pork belly with the rock salt.
  5. Place the pork belly inside the oven for about 45 minutes.
  6. After 1 hour, carefully remove the salt crust (it should come off easily). Brush off any excess salt.
  7. Place the pork belly back into the oven and turn on the broiler. Grill for about 10 – 15 more minutes, but keep an eye on it and take care not to burn the skin. The pork belly is ready when the skin has bubbled up and has become audibly crispy.
  8. Remove cooked belly from oven and place skin-side down on a cutting board. Use a cleaver, or sharp knife to cut the pork belly into chunks (cut along the previously cut slits) and serve immediately.
  Sweet chili dipping sauce:
  1. In a small sauce pan, combine water, vinegar and sugar. Turn on the stove on low to medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add the slices of ginger, the finely diced shallot, the chopped chili and the sliced garlic. Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring sauce to a boil.
  3. Boil for about 15 – 20 minutes until some of the water evaporates and the sauce starts to thicken slightly. Add the teaspoon of corn-starch and keep stirring until everything has dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat and let the sauce cool slightly before serving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *