Who knew you could make a slab of crispy pork belly in an air fryer at home and have it turn out better than your favorite Chinese BBQ restaurant? Try out my Air Fryer Thit Heo Quay (Vietnamese Crispy Pork Belly) recipe and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Table of Contents
- What is Thit Heo Quay, Siu Yuk and Chinese Roast Pork?
- Is Vietnamese Crispy Pork Belly Easy to Make in an Air Fryer?
- Which Cut of Pork Do I Need for Air Fryer Crispy Pork Belly?
- How to Make Thit Heo Quay in an Air Fryer
- How Long to Cook Vietnamese Crispy Pork Belly in an Air Fryer?
- Thit Heo Quay - Vietnamese Crispy Pork Belly in Air Fryer
One of my ultimate favorite kitchen appliances, hands down, is an air fryer. If you're reading this, you probably already own one and share the same sentiment as me. Simply put - it rocks! This Thit Heo Quay Air Fryer recipe takes full advantage of an air fryer’s capabilities. Prep a slab of pork belly, toss it in your air fryer and you'll turn into the rock star of your kitchen.
What is Thit Heo Quay, Siu Yuk and Chinese Roast Pork?
Thịt Heo Quay (Vietnamese Crispy Pork Belly), Siu Yuk (Cantonese Roast Pork) and Chinese Roast Pork are all the same dish in different languages. Traditionally, an entire pig is marinated with a spice rub, then roasted until the skin is light and crispy. At Chinese barbecue restaurants, you'll often find an entire pig (or what's left of it) showcased along side a row of impeccably roasted duck. It's commonly served at celebrations such as weddings and lunar new year. What makes Vietnamese Crispy Air Fryer Pork Belly so delicious is the contrasting textures. You have a layer of juicy, succulent 5 spice-infused pork, a layer of melt in your mouth fat, topped with a bubbly crispy layer of pork skin. What's not to love?
Is Vietnamese Crispy Pork Belly Easy to Make in an Air Fryer?
Absolutely! Making Thit Heo Quay at home is very easy, especially with an air fryer. The air fryer is compact so it cooks the pork quickly. It also has the ability to blast high heat from the top right on to the skin which is ideal to create the crispy goodness we're all looking for. Not only that, it keeps the pork juicy and succulent. Aside from an industrial oven, the air fryer is the perfect appliance to make Vietnamese Crispy Pork Belly.
Which Cut of Pork Do I Need for Air Fryer Crispy Pork Belly?
The two essentials to making Thit Heo Quay at home is using an air fryer and a slab of pork belly. Pork belly is the best cut for this dish. It's incredibly succulent and in my opinion, is the best portion of a whole Chinese Roast Pork.
Pork belly is also ideal for its shape since it lays flat, the thickness is relatively even, and it has a large surface of skin. After all, it's the crispy skin we're after isn't it? Since an air fryer blows heat from the top, it produces even browning and crisping across the entire surface of the skin. You won’t end up with burnt spots or chewy parts. The flat, rectangular shape also allows it to fit nicely in most air fryers.
Since our main goal is to have crispy skin, you may need to adjust your cooking time, depending on your air fryer model. Pork belly is quite forgiving and will remain tender and juicy until you achieve the ultimate crispy skin.
How to Make Thit Heo Quay in an Air Fryer
If you've tried other Thit Heo Quay recipes, many require you to bake the pork belly with a thick layer of salt over the skin. This helps to draw out moisture and dry out the skin to create bubbly, crispy goodness. With this recipe, you can save yourself some time. Skip this step and let the air fryer do it’s magic. It does a great job of crisping the skin on its own.
Start by prepping the pork belly skin so that it's easy to pierce. Uncooked pork skin is tough and rubbery and difficult to prick. However, once it's cooked, it becomes tender and makes the task at hand much much more painless. Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the pork belly skin side down for 3-5 minutes until the skin is fully cooked. Remove the pork belly and allow it to cool. Use a sharp knife and scrape the surface of the skin to remove any hairs and impurities. Give it a good rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
The next step is essential to achieve the coveted bubbly, crispy skin. Fan out 2-3 toothpicks or skewers and poke holes all over the surface of the skin. If you have a meat tenderizer with needle blades, it'll make this process much easier and much faster. Be careful to only pierce the skin and not into the fat layer. The key to crispy skin is to keep it as dry as possible and piercing too deeply will cause the fat to leech up to the surface of the skin during cooking, which will affect the results.
You'll need to riddle the skin with hundred of holes. When you think you have enough, keep going. Put on your favorite song and go to town. I can't stress enough that this is the most important step of the recipe. Moisture is the ultimate enemy here and the holes allow moisture to escape when cooking. The more holes you have, the crispier the skin will become.
Flip the pork belly over skin side down and make slits across the entire length of the pork 1-1.5" inches apart. Make the cuts halfway deep into the pork. Cut slits crosswise from edge to edge so that you end up with a grid pattern.
Mix the rub ingredients together and apply generously over the meat portion of the pork belly only (not the skin). Be sure to get the rub on the sides of the slab and inside the slits as well.
Place the pork belly skin side up on a large piece of foil. I like to double up the foil to catch any leaks. With a paper towel, wipe any rub off the surface of the skin.
1) Fold the foil so that the sides are roughly the height of the pork belly.
2) Fold the sides up so that they're flush with the pork belly.
3) Rotate, then fold one corner down to form half a triangle.
4) Fold the other corner down to complete the triangle.
5) Fold the triangle up until it's flush with the pork and tuck in the tip.
6) Repeat on the other side.
The goal is to make a perfectly fitted vessel for the pork belly to cook in.
Sprinkle salt over the surface of the skin and let it sit for 10 minutes. You'll notice the salt has drawn out moisture from the skin. Use a paper towel and wipe off the salt and moisture. Lightly brush the surface of the skin with white vinegar.
How Long to Cook Vietnamese Crispy Pork Belly in an Air Fryer?
Place the pork belly in air fryer and cook for 20 minutes at 400°F. Within a few minutes, you'll start to hear crackling and see the skin blistering. When the time is up, turn the heat down to 300°F and air fry for another 15-20 minutes. Every air fryer is a little different so you'll want to keep and eye on it during the last 5-10 minutes. The air fried pork belly is ready when the skin reaches a lovely golden brown. You'll understand why all the elbow grease was worth it.
Pair this Chinese Pork Belly Air Fryer recipe with a few strips of Air Fryer Char Siu for the ultimate Chinese barbecue experience.
- 1-1.5 lbs pork belly with skin on
- white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon five spice powder
- ½ teaspoon brown sugar
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and boil the pork belly skin side down for 3-5 minutes until the skin is fully cooked.
- Remove the pork belly and allow it to cool enough to handle. Use a sharp knife and scrape the surface of the skin to remove any hairs and impurities. Rinse the pork belly and pat dry with paper towels.
- Fan out 3 toothpicks and pierce the skin all over, making hundreds of tiny holes along the surface of the skin. Be careful not to pierce into the fat layer
- Flip the pork belly over skin side down and cut slits into the meat about halfway down. Make each slit 1-1.5 inches apart, lengthwise and crosswise, forming a grid pattern.
- Combine all the RUB ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Generously massage the RUB mixture onto the meat only, not the skin. Be sure to cover the sides and get into the slits.
- Place the pork belly skin side up onto a large piece of foil and wipe off any rub. Fold each side of the foil up the edges so that it is flush with the skin.
- Sprinkle salt over the skin and let it sit for 10 minutes. With paper towels, wipe off the salt along with the moisture the salt has drawn out.
- Use a basting brush and apply a layer of white vinegar on the skin. Be sure not to let the vinegar drip down the sides.
- Refrigerate the pork belly uncovered overnight.
- Place the pork belly with foil in the air fryer and cook at 400°F for 20 minutes until the skin becomes bubbly and golden brown. Turn the heat down to 300°F and air fry for another 15-20 minutes.
- Let the air fried pork belly rest for 20 minutes. Slice and serve.