Chinese Cured Pork Belly: Curing Process & Cooking Techniques

by Ella

Chinese cuisine is renowned for its diverse and rich flavors, and one dish that captures the essence of this culinary tradition is Chinese cured pork belly. This delicacy, often known as “Chinese bacon,” is a savory and flavorful ingredient that adds depth and complexity to a variety of dishes. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the art of preparing and cooking Chinese cured pork belly, exploring traditional methods and innovative approaches to elevate your culinary skills.

Chinese Cured Pork Belly

Chinese cured pork belly is a staple in many regional Chinese cuisines, celebrated for its intense umami flavor and the perfect balance of fat and meat. This ingredient is typically prepared by curing pork belly with a combination of salt, sugar, and various aromatics such as star anise, cinnamon, and ginger. The curing process not only imparts a distinctive taste but also preserves the pork, allowing it to be stored for an extended period.


Choosing the Right Cut

To begin your culinary journey with Chinese cured pork belly, start by selecting the right cut of meat. Opt for a fresh and well-marbled pork belly, preferably with an even distribution of fat and lean meat. The thickness of the pork belly is also crucial; a slab with a balance of meat and fat, around 1 to 1.5 inches thick, is ideal for achieving the perfect texture and flavor.


Curing Process

The key to the exceptional flavor of Chinese cured pork belly lies in the curing process. Here’s a step-by-step guide to preparing your own cured pork belly at home:



  • 2 to 3 pounds of pork belly
  • 1 cup of coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons of Sichuan peppercorns
  • 3 to 4 star anise pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 slices of fresh ginger
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)


Prepare the Pork Belly: Rinse the pork belly under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Place it on a clean cutting board, skin side down.


Make the Spice Mixture: In a bowl, combine the coarse sea salt, granulated sugar, Chinese five-spice powder, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise pods, and the cinnamon stick. Mix well to ensure even distribution of flavors.

Apply the Cure: Rub the spice mixture evenly over the entire surface of the pork belly, ensuring that every part is well-coated. Pay extra attention to the meaty side, where the flavors will be absorbed.

Add Aromatics: Sprinkle the fresh ginger slices and chopped green onions over the meat side of the pork belly. Pour the Shaoxing wine over the top to enhance the aromatic profile.

Wrap and Refrigerate: Place the pork belly in a large zip-top bag or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 to 5 days, turning the pork belly occasionally to ensure an even cure.

The curing process allows the flavors to penetrate the meat while the salt works to preserve it. The result is a well-seasoned and slightly firm pork belly, ready to be transformed into various mouthwatering dishes.

Cooking Techniques

Once your Chinese cured pork belly has undergone the curing process, there are several cooking techniques you can employ to showcase its unique flavor. Let’s explore some traditional and contemporary methods:

Steaming: Preserving Moisture and Flavor

Traditional Chinese cuisine often involves steaming, a method that retains the natural juices and flavors of the ingredients. To steam Chinese cured pork belly:

Slice and Steam: Cut the cured pork belly into thin slices and arrange them on a heatproof plate. Steam the slices for about 20-30 minutes until the fat has rendered, and the meat is tender.

Aromatic Steaming: Place additional aromatics such as garlic, ginger, and green onions on top of the pork belly slices before steaming to infuse extra flavors.

Serve with Dipping Sauce: Create a dipping sauce using soy sauce, sesame oil, and a dash of rice vinegar to complement the richness of the steamed pork belly.

Braising: Meltingly Tender Perfection

Braising is a slow-cooking method that results in meltingly tender meat with a rich, flavorful sauce. To braise Chinese cured pork belly:

Brown the Pork Belly: Start by searing the pork belly in a hot pan until both sides develop a golden-brown crust. This step enhances the overall flavor.

Braise with Aromatics: Transfer the seared pork belly to a pot, add a flavorful braising liquid (broth, soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine), and toss in aromatics like ginger, garlic, and star anise.

Low and Slow: Simmer the pork belly over low heat for 1.5 to 2 hours until it becomes fork-tender. The result is a luscious, savory dish with a complex flavor profile.

Serve with Greens: Accompany the braised pork belly with blanched Chinese greens or steamed bok choy for a balanced meal.

Roasting: Crispy Exterior, Tender Interior

Roasting Chinese cured pork belly is a delightful way to achieve a crispy exterior while maintaining a tender interior. Here’s how:

Preheat and Roast: Preheat your oven to a high temperature (around 425°F or 220°C). Place the cured pork belly on a rack over a baking sheet, allowing the fat to render and the skin to crisp.

Brush with Glaze: Create a glaze using honey, soy sauce, and a dash of five-spice powder. Brush the glaze over the pork belly during the roasting process to add a sweet and savory finish.

Broil for Crispy Skin: For an extra crispy skin, finish by broiling the pork belly for a few minutes until the skin is golden and crackling.

Slice and Serve: Allow the roasted pork belly to rest before slicing it into portions. Serve it as an appetizer, main course, or even in sandwiches with steamed buns.

Innovative Applications

Chinese cured pork belly is a versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into a myriad of dishes, ranging from traditional to innovative. Let’s explore some creative applications:

Stir-Fried Noodles with Cured Pork Belly:


  • Cooked noodles (udon or egg noodles work well)
  • Thinly sliced Chinese cured pork belly
  • Vegetables (bok choy, bell peppers, and carrots)
  • Soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil for seasoning
  • Green onions and sesame seeds for garnish


Stir-fry the vegetables and sliced cured pork belly in a wok until they are cooked but still crisp.

Add the cooked noodles and sauces, tossing everything together until well combined.

Garnish with chopped green onions and sesame seeds before serving.

Crispy Pork Belly Buns:


  • Steamed buns
  • Sliced and seared Chinese cured pork belly
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Thinly sliced cucumbers and green onions


Spread hoisin sauce on the steamed buns.

Place a slice of seared pork belly on each bun.

Add sliced cucumbers and green onions for freshness.

Assemble and serve these delightful buns as appetizers or a unique main course.

Cured Pork Belly Fried Rice:


  • Cooked jasmine rice
  • Diced Chinese cured pork belly
  • Mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn)
  • Eggs, beaten
  • Soy sauce and sesame oil for seasoning
  • Chopped green onions for garnish


In a wok, stir-fry the diced pork belly until it’s slightly crispy.

Add the mixed vegetables and cook until they are tender.

Push the ingredients to the side and pour the beaten eggs into the wok, scrambling them until cooked.

Mix in the cooked rice and season with soy sauce and sesame oil.

Garnish with chopped green onions before serving.

Pork Belly Tacos:


  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded Chinese cured pork belly
  • Cabbage slaw with lime vinaigrette
  • Fresh cilantro and sliced radishes for garnish


Warm the corn tortillas in a dry skillet.

Fill each tortilla with shredded cured pork belly.

Top with cabbage slaw, fresh cilantro, and sliced radishes.

Drizzle with lime vinaigrette for a burst of citrusy flavor.

By incorporating Chinese cured pork belly into various dishes, you can unleash your creativity in the kitchen and impress your guests with a fusion of traditional flavors and contemporary flair.

Troubleshooting and Tips

While the process of preparing Chinese cured pork belly is relatively straightforward, certain nuances can impact the final result. Here are some troubleshooting tips to ensure success:

Too Salty:

If your cured pork belly turns out too salty, you can soak it in cold water for a few hours before cooking. Alternatively, adjust the amount of salt in your curing mixture for future batches.

Not Flavorful Enough:

To enhance the flavor, consider extending the curing time by a day or two. Additionally, experiment with the quantities of aromatics and spices in the curing mixture until you achieve the desired taste.

Skin Not Crispy:

For a crispier skin when roasting, make sure to thoroughly pat the skin dry before cooking. Additionally, high heat during the initial roasting period and a brief broil at the end can help achieve that coveted crispy texture.

Curing Unevenly:

Ensure that the curing mixture is evenly distributed over the pork belly. Massaging the cure into the meat and flipping the pork belly during the curing process can help achieve uniform flavor.
Too Fatty:

If you find the cured pork belly too fatty, trim excess fat before cooking or opt for a leaner cut when initially selecting the pork belly.

Experimenting with Flavors

Chinese cured pork belly serves as a canvas for experimenting with different flavors and aromatics. While the traditional curing process imparts a classic taste, consider these variations to add your unique touch:

Citrus Infusion:

Add orange or tangerine peel to the curing mixture for a citrusy twist. The bright notes will complement the richness of the pork.

Spice Explosion:

Introduce additional spices such as cloves, fennel seeds, or cardamom to create a more complex and aromatic flavor profile.

Herbaceous Delight:

Include fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, or cilantro in the curing process to impart a garden-fresh essence to the cured pork belly.

Soy and Garlic Fusion:

Enhance the umami factor by incorporating soy sauce and minced garlic into the curing mixture. This variation is perfect for those who appreciate bold, savory flavors.

Sweet and Savory Balance:

Experiment with the sugar component by using honey, brown sugar, or even maple syrup for a delightful balance of sweetness and savory richness.


Mastering the art of cooking Chinese cured pork belly is a rewarding journey that opens up a world of culinary possibilities. From the intricacies of the curing process to the diverse cooking techniques and innovative applications, this guide provides you with the knowledge and inspiration to create exquisite dishes in your kitchen.

Whether you choose to savor the succulence of steamed pork belly, revel in the richness of braised delicacies, or enjoy the crispy perfection of roasted slices, Chinese cured pork belly offers a symphony of flavors that will captivate your taste buds and those of your fortunate guests. So, don your apron, gather your ingredients, and embark on a culinary adventure that celebrates the art of Chinese cuisine and the mastery of your own kitchen. Cheers to the joy of cooking and the delectable flavors that await!




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