Home made char siu chez maman. Oh yes.

In Asia it is everywhere: red and charred, hanging from hooks by the roadside. Marinated in lemongrass, chopped up bones and all and deep fried to a crisp. Simmered gently in caramel sauce.


In Singapore, my friends’ eyes always lit up when we ordered it. The three layered pork was especially popular: meat, fat and rind, a perfect trio of melting porky goodness. It always reminds me of the most heartbreaking passage in François Bizot’s Le Portail (The Gate in English), a must read for anyone interested in Cambodia. The author finds himself a prisoner in a Khmer Rouge camp, kept away from his Cambodian assistants. They are reunited briefly before he is forced to leave them to their fate, and they share one last meal together. It’s roast pork his assistants dream of; they describe the sweet smokey flesh, the crispy skin, the dripping fat.

Eech, that’s all rather bleak, sorry. My point is: roast pork would definitely be my last meal, and I miss the convenience of finding it at every street corner in South East Asia.

Thankfully my local supermarket stocks pre-scored pork belly, which roasted over water gives tender flesh and the crispiest crackling, perfect for adding to a fresh pomelo salad or a noodle soup. Or just stuffing down your gob straight from the chopping board while it’s still hot enough to burn your fingers.

Chinese roast pork, from a Rick Stein recipe

1 pork belly

1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns

1 teaspoon black peppercorns (ideally from kampot)

2 tablespoons maldon sea salt flakes

2 teaspoons five spice powder

2 teaspoons sugar

Roast the peppercorns in a pan until they are fragrant and grind them. Or just use normal pepper, it will still be delicious.Mix with the sea salt, five spice powder and sugar.

Pour a kettle of hot water over the skin and let it drain, then dry thoroughly. Rub the meat side of the pork belly with the spice mixture. Leave it in the fridge 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the pork skin side up on a roasting rack, on top of a tin full of water. Roast it for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180C and cook for another 2 hours, topping up with water as needed.

Increase the temperature once more to 230C and roast for a final 15 minutes. Rest the meat a little before cutting it, if you can bear the wait.



There’s an old cherry tree in the Jardin des Plantes, stubby and gnarly like an old woman with its branches reaching all the way down to the ground. For a few weeks it blooms in the Spring. If I were 16 again I would skip class to go there and kiss boys and have not a care in the world.