Skip to content

Homemade Chinese-Style Preserved Pork Belly (五花臘肉)

Homemade Preserved Pork Belly 1

When I featured a commercially produced Chinese Preserved Pork Belly in a ‘Foodstuff’ post some time ago, I made a mental note to do a home-made version for you at some point. Unfortunately, whenever pork belly has appeared in our stores it has, until now, always been sliced and the slices are, as I discovered in a test recipe, just too thin to produce a decent result. A few days ago, however, I saw two one pound slabs of unsliced belly in our local store and I grabbed both of them. It is a shame that the rind has been removed but you can’t, as they say, have everything.

Many recipes for making preserved pork belly are quite complex and employ quite a variety of spices to flavor the meat. Some, especially recipes from Hunan, cold smoke the meat as well as salt-curing. Sichuan pepper is often used, as are Fennel, Cinnamon and Star Anise, but I don’t much care for the sweeter aromatics in this type of preparation and the version I will be making for you here is very straightforward and simple indeed…

Homemade Preserved Pork Belly 2

The Ingredients

  • 1lb. Pork Belly;
  • 1 level tbsp. Salt;
  • 3 tbsp. Sugar;
  • ¼ cup boiling Water;
  • 3 tbsp. Shaoxing Wine (substitute Sherry or Brandy, if you like);
  • 2 tbsp. Soy Sauce;
  • 1/8 tsp. Saltpeter or other Curing Salt (see below).

For curing salt, I am using Prague Powder #2 which contains Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrate. You may omit this if you can’t or don’t want to use nitrates but, in that event, I would be inclined to dry the meat in a low oven, rather than air-dry (and then use the meat very quickly).

The Method

Homemade Preserved Pork Belly 3

Cut your belly into slices about 2cm thick. In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt in the boiling water and then add the remaining ingredients.

Homemade Preserved Pork Belly 4

When the curing mix has cooled, put the pork into a Ziploc type bag and then pour in the liquid. Put the bag into the fridge and leave to cure for two days. During this time you will need to turn the bag periodically to ensure all the meat comes into contact with the cure.

Homemade Preserved Pork Belly 5

After marinating, blot the strips well with paper towels. To facilitate hanging, bore a hole at the end of each strip with a skewer and thread through a loop of string.

Homemade Preserved Pork Belly 6

Some people sun-dry the meat but this is entirely impractical where I live and I will just be simply air-drying. For this, you need to hang the meat in a cool, dry place that has lots of air circulation. In one of our back-rooms, my wife keeps a window open all the time and so this is ideal as there is almost always a slight breeze coming.

The length of the drying time will vary depending upon the thickness of the slices but anywhere from 4 to 10 days will generally suffice. Mine were hung for 7 days and, at the end, were leathery hard on the outside but still quite supple in the center.


Homemade Preserved Pork Belly 7

Here you can see a couple of slices cut from the end of a larger piece. The fat is still quite soft, while the meat has the firmness of a dry-cured ham.

Most Chinese sources will tell you that the meat must be cooked before consumption. However, Chinese cuisine has traditionally never much favored raw foods (even fresh salads are uncommon), and the process for making this is not dis-similar to that of Prosciutto which is frequently eaten without cooking. Indeed, if you try a piece of the uncooked product, you will find it has a delicious, almost apple-like taste, and much the same consistency as a good prosciutto. Personally, I could snack on this with all the same gusto as a good beef jerky, although it must be pointed out that the fat content of this product is WAY higher.

For cooking, it is best to use a relatively gentle moist heat. You need to keep the cooking time brief enough to just allow the meat to be heated through and get a little more tender. If you go too long, the sweetness disappears and the texture also suffers, with the meat taking on a fibrous, card-board like quality.

Steaming is a great method. Try steaming thin slices with a green veggie of your choice, or else on top of rice (perhaps along with some mushrooms). The latter dish is really delicious as the steaming juices from the meat soak down into the rice giving it a lovely flavor.



13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fantastic! I’m going to give this a go. Cheers

    January 31, 2014
  2. Nice that we’re both doing cured pork belly. I prefer to cure it in one piece to keep it tender, but that may be unlike the Chinese version.

    January 31, 2014
    • I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chinese recipe where it was done whole rather than in slices. The result is definitely more ‘jerky’ like rather than having the softness of pancetta, but then it is often cooked with moist heat methods….

      January 31, 2014
  3. Oh, my, that looks so delicious!

    January 31, 2014
  4. Oh my god that looks good. I’m speechless!

    February 1, 2014
  5. wow, what a lovely chinese style pancetta!!!!
    Definitely my next project…..

    February 2, 2014
  6. Hm, this sounds like something I want to try. I just wonder what our cats would do with hanging meat (would be ideal if we could find a room for it). This would be good chopped and put in those radish cakes.

    February 2, 2014
  7. Hi John:

    Gung xi fai cai! Happy Year of the Horse! This is a fantastic achievement! I wouldn’t be able to do this. But I did something very fatty for the Chinese New Year, Pig hands (not feet), I will try posting it later. I just posted my Chinese New Year menu (restaurant review). You may be interested! There are some new stuffs…


    February 3, 2014
  8. FABULOUS, John! I am so impressed! Your pork belly looks perfectly pink!

    February 23, 2014
    • I just finished the last of it … have to make more 🙂

      February 23, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Food Recipes | Food Recipes
  2. Chinese Preserved Sausage – 臘腸 | Sybaritica

Comments, thoughts or suggestions most welcome...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Meet & Eats

The food that I've had the pleasure of meeting and eating.

Uncle Grumpy's Playroom

Current events, humor, science, religion, satire

Food Travel Lover

走过的地方 尝过的美食 留下的回忆

The Odd Pantry

Essays on food

Reputable Sources

Organizing ferments since 2013

that Other Cooking Blog

. food . photo . sous vide .


My Virtual Cookbook to Share My Love and Joy of Food and Cooking One Recipe at a Time

lola rugula

my journey of cooking, gardening, preserving and more

Yummy Lummy

I cook, photograph and eat food with the occasional restaurant review!

Eye Of the Beholder

A pair of eternally curious eyes and a camera...Life is beautiful.

gluten free zen

Taking The Stress Out Of Gluten-Free Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Living

Clayton's Kitchen

Big flavors and fun cooking from a cubbyhole kitchen

Bunny Eats Design

Happy things, tasty food and good design


Dentist chef, just a dentistry student who practice the dentist's cooking recipes in a dentist's kitchen

Mad Dog TV Dinners

Guess what's coming to dinner?


Real Food & Real Opinions

Bento Days

Making bentos for kids

Garden to Wok

Fresh and tasty!

Bam's Kitchen

Healthy World Cuisine

Trang Quynh

everyone is special in their own way :)

Farm to Table Asian Secrets

Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season


If people say that life is too short to drink bad wine, it means also that life is too short to eat crappy food!

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

The Unorthodox Epicure

Confessions of an Aspiring Food Snob

The 好吃 Challenge

1 girl, 273 days, 100 recipes


a recipe sharing and bento blog


Just another site

The Food Nazi

Never try to eat more than you can lift

Expat Chef in Barcelona

From my kitchen to yours

Keeping Up With the Holsbys

a journey into my head and my pantry

Nurul's Culinary Adventures

I Love Food, the Universe and Everything!!


home-cooking recipes, restaurant reviews, International cuisine ,

Naked Vegan Cooking

Body-positive Vegan Goodness

Bites of Food History

Sharing my Experimental Archaeology of Food

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

Cooking, food, wine


A Journey About Food, Recipes And Destinations


Fresh, exciting and adventurous food journey

One Man's Meat

Multi-award winning food blog, written in Dublin, Ireland.

%d bloggers like this: