With the chilly wind and soft sunlight spreading over the first week of March, l thought to myself, "What a good time to cure some lap yuk!" While lap yuk, or Chinese bacon, is made from pork belly, there are many types of cured meat from different regions in China, such as pork shoulder, chicken, duck and fish. And there are many ways of preparing them: sweet, salty, smoky or spicy. l'm more familiar with the Cantonese style, as it was more common where I grew up in China. The taste is mild, sweet and savory, with a soft touch of soy sauce and ginger. The fragrance of rice wine along with the slightly chewy texture make the finished product very comforting. This type of cured pork belly can be chopped and added to many delicious dishes: vegetable stir-fry, fried rice, taro cake, dumplings and many more. It's also wonderful simply steamed and served over rice.
My husband has told me many times how much he liked my mom's lap yuk. So, l asked her for her method. Her instructions reminded me of the way my grandma taught me: "A little of this and a handful of that." Well, l'm determined to measure and write everything down so l can share it, especially with my boys. l have tested this recipe and the curing method a few times. The last time l made lap yuk, most of them were snatched by my Labradane Atticus. Lesson learned. From now on, l have to hang them high on our pear tree to dry. I went to Ferndale Meat Co. and got some beautiful skin-on pork belly with the perfect ratio of fat and meat. Since my two boys are coming home for spring break soon, l made enough for them to take back. It's a great ingredient to have on hand for a quick and easy meal when you're busy.
Lap Yuk, or Chinese Cured Bacon
In a pinch, you can use vodka or whiskey as a substitute for the rice wine. The best time to cure pork belly and avoid any flies is during colder months, with cool wind and sunshine. You'll need a bamboo stick or other rod to hang the strips of drying meat outside. Once dried, lap yuk freezes well and makes for a wonderful gift. Ingredients:
5 pounds skin-on pork belly, cut into ½-inch strips
3 tablespoons table salt
Cotton butcher string
A pot of boiled water
¾ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup Cantonese rice wine or shaojiu, at least 38 percent ABV
1 tablespoon minced ginger
Clean the pork belly thoroughly, rinsing with cold water. Cut a piece of butcher string between 8 and 10 inches. With a pointed chopstick or an ice pick, poke a hole through the end of the strip of pork belly. Wind the string around the point and run it through the hole. Tie a knot to make a sturdy loop so it can be hung by the end. Once they're all strung, place the strips on paper towels and pat them dry to remove as much moisture as you can.
Place the strips in a large bowl and rub them evenly with salt. Cover and leave in a cool place or in the refrigerator for 3 hours. Bring a pot of water to boil, then let it cool for 12 minutes — be sure not to skip the cooling or it will be too hot. Pour water onto the meat in the bowl and gently wash away all the salt. If the sun is out, hang the strips outside to dry for 3 hours.
After the strips have dried for 3 hours, make the marinade by mixing both soy sauces, brown sugar, wine and ginger in a clean bowl. Wearing plastic gloves, rub the meat with marinade thoroughly. Cover and leave in the refrigerator for 12 hours or overnight. Flip the meat a couple of times while it marinates to ensure the flavor and color are distributed evenly.
Remove the strips from the refrigerator and hang them outside on a horizontal bamboo stick to dry all day. At sunset, take them back inside to hang in a cool, dry place. (I use our storage room, leaving the window open for cool air to flow in. Repeat this for 3 to 4 more days, until the outer layer of the meat is completely dried.
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