Steamed fish, Cantonese style

This is the essence of comfort food: good flavors coming together in a quick and simple dish. Perhaps the only challenging part here is making use you have suitable equipment for steaming a whole fish. It’s easy enough to do in a wok with a lid and some kind of steamer tray (bamboo or otherwise), but if you don’t have those, you’ll need a lidded pan long enough to hold the fish and deep enough to suspend it over boiling water.

Final2

Steamed whole fish, Cantonese style

The dish, even though quite simple, is finished off with a flourish as hot oil is poured over aromatic herbs resting on top of the fish.

Start with a fresh whole fish, cleaned and scaled. Your fish monger can prepare it for you, or if you want to do it yourself, just run a knife through the belly from behind the head to the base of the tail; then open it and remove everything inside. To scale the fish, simply scrape from the tail towards the head with a fish scaler.

When you're picking your fish make sure you get a fresh one; look for clear eyes and a clean smell.

Make sure you get a fish that’s absolutely as fresh as possible.  Look for clear eyes and a fresh smell.

Rinse the cleaned fish thoroughly and then pat dry. Rub it inside and out with a little salt, then let the salted fish drain while getting the rest of the recipe together.

Leave the salt-rubbed fish to drain while you finish the rest of the prep work

Leave the salt-rubbed fish to drain while you finish the rest of the prep work

To prepare the aromatics, first chop some ginger to place on the fish before steaming; then chop some scallions and cilantro for garnishing after cooking.

The aromatics, before chopping

The aromatics before chopping. It’s okay to chop the onions and the cilantro together, so that they mingle well.

Distribute the chopped ginger across the top of the fish. Then heat the water in your wok. Once it’s boiling, place the steamer tray in the wok and cover.

The fish, on the steamer tray, in the wok, over the boiling water

The fish, on the steamer tray, in the wok, over the boiling water

The wok, covered

The wok, covered, with the fish steaming inside

When the fish is done, remove it to a serving plate. Garnish with the cilantro and scallion mix. Then drizzle first with soy sauce, then with very hot oil for a dramatic and aromatic finish.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1 whole fish such as freshwater rainbow trout, about 1-1.5 lbs altogether, scaled and cleaned, rinsed and dried, rubbed with a pinch of salt, and then set aside to drain for about a half hour
  2. 1/4″ ginger, chopped finely
  3. 3 scallions and one small handful cilantro, chopped finely together
  4. 2 tsp soy sauce stirred briefly with 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  5. 1 Tbsp peanut oil combined with 1-2 tsp sesame oil

DIRECTIONS:

  • Place the fish (#1) on a steamer tray or basket and then top it with the chopped ginger (#2).
  • Heat about an inch of water in your wok until boiling. Then carefully add the steamer tray with the fish. Steam until done, about 15 minutes for a 1 lb fish or maybe 5 minutes longer for a 1.5 lb fish.
  • Remove the cooked fish carefully to a serving dish. Distribute the cilantro and scallions (#3) on top. Drizzle the soy sauces (#4) over the fish, being careful not to wash off the garnish.
  • Heat the oils (#5) in a small sauce pan until just barely smoking. Then, while taking care to protect yourself from any splatter, pour the oils over the top of the fish. The fish will sizzle and the herbs will begin to release their delightful aromas.
  • Serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

VARIATIONS: This recipe can be adapted in many ways. One thing to try is to replace the dark soy sauce with mirin or rice wine. You could also sweeten it sauce by adding 1 tsp of sugar to the soy sauces. Feel free to play with the pre-sizzle garnish as well, by changing the ratio of cilantro to scallions or adding basil or other aromatic herbs.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

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Asparagus with ponzu sauce

Spring is just about here, and that means it’s time for fresh asparagus. I recommend blanching the cut spears for just about a minute, certainly no longer than that, and then cooling them in cold running water so that they turn bright green but retain a healthy crunch.

Fresh asparagus with ponzu sauce

Fresh asparagus with ponzu sauce

Ponzu sauce is worth getting to know if you’re unfamiliar with it. It’s basically soy sauce with citrus juice and rice wine. Tossing the asparagus in the ponzu helps bring out its natural flavor.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1 bunch fresh asparagus, cut diagonally into 3″ lengths, woody ends discarded; blanched very briefly (between 45 seconds and 1 minute), then drained in a colander and rinsed with cold water to stop further cooking
  2. 1 Tbsp ponzu sauce
  3. 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Toss the blanched asparagus (#1) with the ponzu sauce (#2) and then remove to a serving dish.
  • Garnish with the sesame seeds (#3). Serve as a snack or as part of a larger meal.

Variations: Using lightly crushed sesame seeds and substituting regular soy sauce for ponzu sauce makes a more savory dish, and that recipe is here.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

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Simple everyday pork

The Chinese word for meat (肉, ròu) implies pork, demonstrating just how how central to Chinese cuisine it is. Pork is enjoyed in all kinds of ways: seasoned and air-cured into tasty bacon, stir-fried as a main dish, barbecued, or ground up and used as a flavoring for other dishes. And in typical Chinese fashion, the whole animal is eaten, from snout to tail. This recipe concentrates just on the tenderloin.

Simple everyday pork

Simple everyday pork

There’s not much more needed in the way of introduction, so we’ll go straight to the recipe. Start with a tenderloin.

This tenderloin was about 1 lb, which is perfect for two or four people, depending on how many other dishes are served at the same time.

This tenderloin was about 1 lb, which is perfect for two or four people, depending on how many other dishes are served.

Slice the tenderloin into thin pieces. Having a very sharp knife helps. Marinate the meat in rice wine.

Sliced pork, marinating in rice wine; stir every few minutes to make sure the meat stays coated

Sliced pork, marinating in Shaoxing rice wine. Stir every few minutes to make sure the meat stays coated.

Assemble a collection of aromatic spices. First chop some garlic and shallots. Then add Tianjin Preserved Vegetable for its umami richness. (For more information about this ingredient, see the essential Chinese pantry.)

Garlic and shallots

Garlic and shallots

Tianjin Preserved Vegetable

Tianjin Preserved Vegetable

Mix the garlic, shallots, and Tianjin Preserved Vegetable with some Sichuan peppercorns and some Lao Gan Ma spicy black bean chili oil.

This smells really delicious! It's garlic, shallots, black bean chile oil, and Tianjin Preserved Vegetable.

This smells really delicious!

The final step is to stir-fry the pork until barely done, then add the aromatics and continue to stir-fry until everything is cooked and delicious. Splash with dark soy sauce and you’re done.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1 pork tenderloin, which will be between 1 and 1.5 lbs, sliced against the grain into pieces about 1/8″ thick and marinated for 30 minutes in 3 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine and 2 tsp potato flour
  2. 4 cloves garlic, 1/2 shallot, and 1 Tbsp Tianjin Preserved Vegetable (天津冬菜, Tiānjīn dōngcài), all mined finely and stirred together with 1 Tbsp Lao Gan Ma spicy black bean chili oil (老干妈黑豆辣椒油, lǎogànmā hēi dòu làjiāo yóu) and 2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  3. 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Heat your wok until barely smoking. Then add 1 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around. Add the pork (#1) and stir-fry until the pink has just disappeared.
  • Next add the aromatics (#2) and stir-fry for another minute or so, until everything is heated through and cooked.
  • Turn off the heat and then splash the dark soy sauce (#3) over the pork and stir. Serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

Variations: Pork is inexpensive in developed nations, such that even a choice cut like the tenderloin is quite affordable. But in the developing world, meat is still pricey. To take this dish back to its peasant roots, prepare some sturdy greens (like chard) and serve them in a 4:1 ratio with the pork. You can put the cooked greens on a plate with the pork piled in the center, or just stir everything together before serving. This is not just economical; it’s also truly delicious.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

Posted in Meat, Pork, Recipes, Stir-fry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Long beans (长豆角) with chiles and bacon

This is the second TastyAsia recipe using long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo). The first is here. As I mentioned in the introduction to that recipe, long beans are a bit softer than regular green beans and they have a more intense “bean” flavor to them. That means they stand up well to the rich  flavor of well-cured bacon.

Long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo), with chiles and bacon

Long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo), with chiles and bacon

Because of their rich taste, long beans are very versatile. They can mingle with strong flavors like bacon, or just carry the weight of a dish on their own. And like almost all dark green vegetables, they supply a great quantity of valuable nutrients for their weight.

Fair warning: This next paragraph is intended only for true vegetable geeks. It’s challenging to define “long beans” precisely. What I’ve used in this recipe is the most common form of long bean in China and one which is also readily available in Chinese supermarkets in the United States, namely 长豆角 (zhǎng dòujiǎo) in Chinese, or Lat. Vigna sinensis var. sesquipedalis. These beans, also called “yard long beans,” can be almost a full yard long (30″) and they have longer and thinner seeds than other variants. But other vegetables sold with the same name, including 豆角 (dòujiǎo) or Vigna sinensis, which is only half as long as var. sesquipedalis; and Vigna unguiculata (饭豆, fàn dòu), also known in English as the cowpea. Making matters worse, some people think that var. sesquipedalis properly belongs under unguiculata instead of under sinensis. Bottom line: not everything sold as a “long bean” is the same vegetable. This recipe was made with 长豆角.

Here are long beans in their native environment (my cutting board):

These were about 70 cm before cutting

These were about 25″ before cutting

Slice them into 2″ lengths before cooking.

Long beans, after being sliced into shorter beans

Long beans, after being sliced into shorter beans

Have ready a small handful of dried red chiles. Note that the red chiles aren’t meant to be eaten unless you truly love that sort of thing. Even though you don’t eat the chiles themselves, they impart a wonderful spiciness to the dish just by being in the wok.

About ten or 15 dried red chile peppers

About ten or 15 dried red chile peppers

Now comes the bacon. You can use western or Chinese bacon. The latter is more like ham and has been thoroughly air-cured; it should be softened before using by immersing in water for half a day or by steaming.

Bacon!

Bacon!

First, cook the bacon in your wok until it begins to get brown. Stop the cooking before the bacon dries out and becomes crispy; you also don’t want the fat to render out and become oil. Let the bacon drain on some paper towels.

Bacon, cooked lightly in the wok until gently browned

Bacon, cooked lightly in the wok until gently browned

Bacon, cooked and resting

Bacon, cooked and resting

Then add the beans to the wok and stir-fry until the skins begin to wrinkle. Add the chiles in the last few minutes.

Beans and chiles

Beans and chiles

Now all that’s left is to add the bacon back to the wok and stir-fry until everything is heated through. And you’re done!

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1/4 lb Chinese or western bacon (if using Chinese bacon, soften before use, see above), cut into thin strips
  2. 1/2 lb long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo), cut into 2″ lengths
  3. Small handful (10-15) dried red chili peppers
  4. 2 tsp soy sauce

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the bacon (#1) and stir-fry until lightly golden. Do not overcook. Remove to paper towels to drain.
  • Using the bacon fat remaining in the wok, stir-fry the beans (#2) until soft and the skins begins to wrinkle, about 5 minutes. About midway through, add the dried peppers (#3). Stir-fry constantly to prevent burning.
  • When the beans are done, turn the heat off and splash in the soy sauce, stir to incorporate, and serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

Variations: As usual, much can be done with this basic recipe. You could add other vegetables to the stir-fry such as leeks, sliced mushroom caps, or even thin strips of bitter melon. You could also substitute spicy bean paste or chile oil for the peppers. Omitting the bacon would drastically alter the recipe, however the taste of long beans is enough that even the bacon isn’t a necessity. Substitute tea-cured tofu or shiitake mushrooms for the bacon.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

Posted in Bacon, Long beans, Recipes, Stir-fry, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sichuanese red-braised snapper

If you’re a Western cook, you’ve probably been amazed at typical Chinese fish preparations in which the whole animal lies on a plate under a sauce. How do you cook it? How do you eat it? Well, the goal of this post is to demystify the process so you can do this kind of thing with confidence in your own home.

Red-braised snapper with spicy Sichuanese sauce

Red-braised snapper with spicy Sichuanese sauce

The hardest part, if you’re new to Chinese cooking, is getting up close and personal with your fish; everything else is familiar and flows pretty smoothly.

Start with the basics, including some minced ginger and some finely chopped fresh red chile peppers:

Minced ginger

Minced ginger

Fresh red chiles

Fresh red chiles

You’ll want to mix those fresh spices with some spicy bean paste and Sichuan peppercorns. All of the spices go into the wok after the fish gets a preliminary fry. And speaking of the fish, use one like this:

FIsh!

FIsh! A fish of about 1.5 lbs will feed two to four people, depending on how many other dishes you serve.

You’re looking at a 1.5 lb red snapper above, but any fish of similar size will do. Snapper is great because it’s fairly round instead of being long and skinny like a trout. That isn’t of much significance except that it means the fish will fit more easily on a standard plate. But really, any white fish of similar size would be fine.

You’ll want to get a fish with clear eyes and a fresh smell. I’d ask your salesperson to clean it and remove the scales for you, although this is simple enough to do at home. (To clean a fish, run a knife through the belly from behind the head to the base of the tail, then open it and remove everything inside. To scale a fish, scrape from the tail towards the head with a fish scaler.) Next, cut some slices through the meat so that the sauce can penetrate well:

The fish, scored a few times vertically, down to the bone

The fish, scored a few times vertically, down to the bone

We’re going to braise the fish in this recipe, but in dishes that call for steaming, Chinese cooks will often stuff those slits with slices of ginger, onions, or other herbs.

Put some oil in your wok and fry the fish briefly on each side. The heat should only be medium so that the skin doesn’t stick to the wok and slide off the fish. You should turn the wok about, swirling the oil around, so that the whole surface of the fish gets lightly fried.

The fish sitting in the wok, frying briefly

The fish sitting in the wok, frying briefly

Another view of the same

Another view of the same

When the fish is just beginning to turn golden brown in spots, turn off the heat and remove the fish to a plate or board. Then pour off the oil until only a little remains to coat the wok. Add the spices and bean paste and stir fry.

This is the part where it really starts to become fragrant

This is the part where it really starts to become fragrant

Then add the liquid, turn up the heat, and bring it to a boil.

The sauce, heating up and getting ready for the fish

The sauce, heating up and getting ready for the fish

Slide the fish gently into the wok and cook for about five minutes or until done. The fish will be getting a bit fragile at this point, so don’t turn it. Instead, ladle the boiling sauce over the top.

The fish, back now in the sauce, cooking for another five minutes

The fish, back now in the sauce, cooking for another five minutes or so

Remove the fish once again, this time to your serving dish. Boil the sauce for another five minutes until reduced and thickened. Stir in some scallions and sesame oil at the last minute and you’re done.

To eat, simply press your chopsticks into the fish and drag the flesh away, moving away from the spine and parallel to the bones as they run to the outer edges. This will keep you from getting a mouthfuls of bones.

Once everyone has finished eating the meat on the top side, you should be able to lift the entire spine and bones up off the bottom of the fish, which will remain on your serving dish in the rich and tasty sauce. Don’t neglect the tasty meat in and around the head of the fish.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1 whole fish such as red snapper, sea bream, or rainbow trout (about 1.5 lbs altogether), scaled and cleaned, rinsed and dried, with some vertical slices cut through the flesh
  2. 3/4″ ginger and 3 fresh red chiles, seeded, both finely minced; 1.5 Tbsp spicy bean paste (辣豆瓣酱, là dòubàn jiàng); 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  3. 1.5 cups water or stock, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  4. 1-2 tsp sesame oil; 1 Tbsp chopped scallions

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat about 1/4 cup peanut oil in your wok until hot but not smoking. Add the fish (#1) and fry lightly for about 1 minute on each side. Remove the fish to a plate or a cutting board. Drain off all but 1-2 Tbsp of the oil.
  • Heat the remaining oil until hot but not smoking. Add the spices (#2) and stir fry for a minute or two until fragrant but not browning. Then pour in the liquids (#3) and bring to a boil, stirring so that nothing sticks.
  • When the sauce is boiling, add the fish back to the wok and braise for about 5 minutes. Don’t turn the fish; instead, ladle the boiling sauce over the top. Make sure everything is cooked through. Then carefully remove the fish to your serving dish. The sauce will remain in your wok.
  • Boil the sauce on high heat until it reduced by about half and thickens, about 5-7 minutes. When it’s done, turn off the heat and stir in the scallions and sesame oil (#4). Spoon the finished sauce over the fish, and serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

VARIATIONS: The easiest variation is to simply try this recipe with different types of fish. Also, adding a small splash (1 tsp) of white rice vinegar at the end makes for a slightly more complex flavor. The character of the sauce can be completely changed by omitting the Sichuan peppercorns and spicy bean paste, and adding a handful of scallions (white parts only) at the beginning of the boil.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

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Cabbage and egg

Here we have another Chinese staple, which also happens to be a completely simple and very tasty dish. Fresh cabbage adds a nice crunchy sweetness, while the egg and the sesame oil give a wonderful umami savoriness.

Cabbage and egg

Cabbage and egg

This is another one of those recipes that’s so simple it’s hardly possible to add much with process photos along the way. But I’ll do it anyway, since that’s the way things are done here at TasyAsia.

After chopping the cabbage, get the other ingredients ready.

The

Clockwise, from upper right: minced ginger, two eggs, dried chile paste, and soy sauce with sesame oil

Begin by stir-frying the cabbage. Turn it frequently in the wok so that it doesn’t brown.

Cabbage cooking in the wok

Cabbage cooking in the wok

Then pour the rest of the ingredients over the cabbage, stir-fry until the eggs are barely set, and you’re done. It takes longer to chop the cabbage than to cook everything up.

Speaking of which, here’s some information about cabbage. Grown worldwide, cabbage is a staple in countless cooking traditions. The previous cabbage recipe on this blog, which you will find here, called for Chinese or napa cabbage, which is 大白菜 (dà báicài). This recipe uses the familiar American green cabbage, known in China as 甘蓝 (gān lán, “sweet blue”) or alternatively as 洋白菜 (yáng báicài, “foreign cabbage”). Despite being known as a ‘foreign’ vegetable, it is cultivated and enjoyed widely throughout China.

Napa cabbage is a bit more delicate, while green cabbage has a deeper and more rewarding crunch. Feel free to substitute napa cabbage in this recipe, but if you do, you should shorten the cooking time significantly.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1/4 to 1/2 of a green cabbage, sliced into strips about 1/4″ thick, to make about 4 cups before cooking; 3 cloves garlic and 1/4″ ginger, minced finely
  2. 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  3. 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp chili oil

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Then add 2 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around. Add the cabbage, garlic, and ginger (#1) and stir-fry for about five minutes until the cabbage is wilted. Keep stirring it so that it doesn’t brown. It should still be quite crunchy.
  • Push the cabbage to the sides of your wok. Pour the eggs (#2) in the space in the center. Let the eggs cook for just about a minute until they begin to set. Then increase the heat to medium-high and stir everything together, cooking for an additional minute.
  • Pour in the soy sauce, sesame oil,  and chili oil (#3) and stir briefly until the liquids are incorporated. Serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

VARIATIONS: Some easy substitutions come to mind: first, you can use dried red chili flakes or Thai fried chili paste instead of the chili oil (adjusting the heat to your preference, of course). To increase the umami flavor, stir-fry 1/4 cup ground pork or 2 Tbsp minced fresh shrimp before adding the cabbage in the first step. For more ambitious substitutions, consider using whatever green leafy vegetables you have on hand: collard greens, chard, or even lettuce. You could also add cilantro, green onions, or other fresh herbs in the last step.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

Posted in Cabbage, Eggs, Recipes, Stir-fry, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red-braised pork belly (红烧肉)

Red-braised pork belly (红烧肉, hóngshāo ròu) is such a common dish, and so simple, that I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to add the recipe to TastyAsia. Red-braising means braising meat in soy sauce and water or stock. Pretty simple. I’ve posted other red-braised recipes before, but this might be the most famous red-braised dish of them all.

Red-braised pork belly

Red-braised pork belly

The first recipe for red-braised pork belly that I ever cooked was from Fuscia Dunlop. (And everyone who likes Chinese cooking should buy her books. Seriously.) She tells a great story about this being Chairman Mao’s favorite dish, but I’ll let you read that on your own. All you need to know for now is that this is rustic comfort food, so there will be as many variations as there are people lovingly making this for their families.

Start with some skin-on pork belly. If you can’t get this at your supermarket, you’ll be able to find it at a Chinese grocery or a butcher’s shop.

Pork belly!

Two pounds of delicious pork belly!

You’ll recall that pork belly is the same cut that ends up as bacon. Therefore, it’s somewhat fatty. Therefore, like bacon, it’s delicious.

Pork belly, sliced into bite-sized cubes

Pork belly, sliced into bite-sized cubes

Put the skin side of the pork belly down on your cutting board and then slice it into cubes. Then parboil for a few minutes until the redness just starts to disappear. Remove the meat from the water, drain well, and either leave to air dry or else pat dry on a clean towel (you want to remove all the free moisture, because the next step calls for hot oil). It will end up looking like this:

Parboiled pork belly

Parboiled pork belly, gently dried

Next, lightly brown the pork cubes in oil and sugar. For this step, put the oil in a large pan (a dutch oven works well, as does a wok with a cover), and heat it on medium heat. Then add the sugar.

Sugar in hot oil

Sugar in hot oil

Continue heating the sugar in the oil until it begins to melt and caramelize. Don’t let it get too brown, or burn.

The sugar looks like this after it has melted. It's fine to continue to brown the sugar until the color is a little darker than this, but be careful not to burn it.

The sugar will look like this after it has melted. It’s fine to continue to brown the sugar until the color is just a little darker than you see here, but be careful not to burn it.

After the sugar has melted, add the pork belly back to the pan and stir gently until lightly browned on all sides.

Bite-sized cubes of pork belly, browning on the stove

Browning the parboiled cubes of bite-sized pork belly

Next, add the ginger and the dried spices into the pot.

One inch of ginger, unpeeled, cut into "coins"

One inch piece of ginger, unpeeled, cut into “coins”

Dried spices, including cinnamon, dried red chiles, and star anise

Dried spices: cinnamon, chiles, and star anise

Then add the braising liquid to the pot so that the pork belly is covered.

The cubes of pork belly are braising in a savory liquid for a good long while

The cubes of pork belly will cook in a savory liquid for a good long while. Once you get to this step, you can relax for a while.

And that’s basically it. The braising will take about an hour and a half, but it requires no more work on your part after this point. That gives you plenty of time to cook some other dishes and your rice without feeling rushed.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 3 Tbsp oil and about 2 Tbsp sugar
  2. 2 lb skin-on pork belly, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1″ on the side, maybe a bit less), parboiled for 3-4 minutes, then drained and dried
  3. 1″ ginger, unpeeled, cut into coins; one 3″ stick cinnamon or cassia bark; 3 whole star anise; 8 whole dried red chiles
  4. About 4 cups stock or water, 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 Tbsp light soy sauce

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Then add the oil and the sugar (#1). Stir until the sugar melts and turns brown, without letting the sugar burn.
  • Then add the pork belly (#2) and stir-fry gently until lightly browned on all sides.
  • Next, add the aromatics (#3) and stir-fry for about a minute until everything is fragrant and beautiful.
  • Pour in the braising liquid (#4) so that the pork belly is covered. If you use stock, you can omit the light soy sauce, but if you use water, make sure to include it. Bring to a light boil, cover, and then reduce the heat and simmer gently for about an hour and a half. Add water along the way if the pork belly gets to be too exposed, except that for the last 20 minutes, you can cook it uncovered at a slightly faster boil to reduce the sauce. Garnish with hard boiled egg and serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

VARIATIONS: Some people enjoy adding things to the pot as the dish is finishing. Perhaps the most beloved items are tofu skins to soak up the delicious sauce, or fresh herbs such as Chinese leeks, scallions, or cilantro, to add another layer of tasty complexity. You can also vary the amount of sugar and chiles to suit your taste. Another wonderful addition would be about 2 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns to the dry spices (#3) above.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

Posted in Braising, Meat, Pork, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments