Cantonese inspired crispy roasted pork belly [SOURCE]
Local style contemporary food in Hawaii has been influenced from many different cultures from all over the world. Although there is a definite Polynesian base of cooking techniques and ingredients, there is also an overwhelmingly Asian flavor to most of our beloved dishes. Crispy roast pork is no exception. If you want to know more, then this post in the "Cooking Hawaiian-style Comfort Food" series is for you.
Anyone from Molokai, Hawaii can tell you where the best place was to get your fix for crispy roast pork... a little shop called "Oviedo's!"
Right on the corner of the main street in Kaunakakai Town and the road that goes up to the Hospital, the restaurant was located at the perfect little intersection, off to the side so you don't feel like you're in the middle of everything, but at the same time easily accessible from both town and residential areas.
From small-kid time* our parents would take us to Oviedo's. You could order a lunch plate with white rice and a choice of just one main dish, or a combo dish with multiple choices. I would always order the pork & peas, and my mom and siblings would get a mix of either turkey tail adobo or sweet sour spare ribs.
But no matter what our side choices were, we always had one choice in common for our main dish, the crispy roast pork.
*Hawaii Pidgin term meaning 'when I was a child', the grammar is Chinese in origin
Plate-lunch of crispy roast pork [SOURCE]
Anyone who has moved away from Molokai knows that you never really get over the cravings for Mr. Oviedo's roast pork.
Our families would bring large containers of the dish over for us whenever they flew to the neighbor islands to visit, and we would freeze it and heat small portions of it up, little by little, milking every precious bite.
Sadly, this iconic shop eventually closed down, Mr. Oviedo retired, and we were all left scrambling for our own individual recipes of this legendary Molokai dish.
Thankfully, my dad had himself been working on his own recipe for crispy roast pork belly. I would call him up from time to time to pick his brains on his various techniques. Of course, I managed to play around with his recipe, (which was very good by the way), as well as other recipes from local friends, and eventually come up with one that I found satisfying for my own taste buds.
The recipe itself looks simple enough, with basic ingredients and not much more than that, so it goes without saying that mastering this dish is all about mastering the techniques. This is something that took me a long time, with lots of overcooked, under-cooked, raw or burnt slabs of belly, many rendered inedible.
But I guarantee you that in time, with patience, practice and a lot of hard work, that final heavenly bite of a tender, juicy cube of meat with that perfectly crispy texture and salty flavor is a payoff really worth working for.
For average prices on dishes similar to this around the world, check out this conversation thread!
Hawaii-Style "Crispy Roasted Pork Belly" Recipe
Try out this Hawaiian-style comfort food recipe below and let me know how it turns out. Some key notes, there are many different styles of roast pork in Hawaii, mainly Chinese or Filipino-style dishes. This recipe allows you to play with both styles depending on your taste.
Extra Video: Vietnamese Style Crispy Roast Pork
PS: There are many different recipes for making Asian style crispy pork belly. FIipinos call it 'Liempo' or 'Lechon', Chinese 脆皮燒肉, Cantonese for 'Siu Yuk' and Mandarin for 'Cui Pi Sao Rou' and others, but the technique is almost the same. This video is of a simple Vietnamese recipe for 'Thịt heo quay'.
The Different Kinds of Roast Pork in Hawaii
Although the concept of preparing pork belly with the skin on and serving it crispy can be found in dishes all around the world, including Southern American cooking, the roast pork that we eat in Hawaii does not come from any American influence on our cuisine.
Rather, with ingredients like Chinese allspice, vinegar or white pepper, our crispy roast pork takes on some distinctly Asian characteristics. In fact, it was the Cantonese Chinese who first brought this to our islands, and in time local recipes were later influenced by Filipino immigrants as well.
Some basic rules to help you with your flavor preferences, if you are going for a more traditional Chinese or Cantonese inspired cracklin, stick with the allspice and white pepper, if however you prefer a slightly more tangy Filipino influenced profile, go with the vinegar and black pepper rub.
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I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...