Jingjiangrousi , an Authentic Beijing Dish
Jingjiang rousi chooses pork tenderloin as its main ingredient and is quick-fried together in sweet bean sauce. Eaten with sliced scallions or cucumbers and tofu skin, it adopts a salty and sweet taste.
Foodies joke that they can tell whether someone is a native Beijinger from the way he or she drinks soy milk. That's also true for Jingjiang rousi (sautéed shredded pork in Beijing-style sweet bean sauce). Many people eat the scallions and shredded pork together, or they only eat the pork, with or without the tofu skin.
However, native Beijingers ceremoniously spread out the tofu skin first, carefully place sliced scallions and pork on top, conscientiously roll the skin into a small roll, and then open their mouths and savour the taste—a very formal and solemn process. This exquisite manner of eating Jingjiang rousi, compared with their usual sloppiness and roughness, not only amuses people but also makes them feel warm inside.
There's a touching story behind the dish. Legend has it that an old man surnamed Chen from northeast China, who lived with his grandson in a courtyard two kilometres northeast of the Forbidden City, sold tofu for a living. Though highly skilled, Chen was only able to make a few blocks of tofu and tofu skin each day, and any leftovers were given to his family to sell. His tofu was so popular that a buyer from a roast duck restaurant in Wangfujing ordered tofu and tofu skin from him every day.
Once on their way home, Chen's grandson suddenly said, “Grandpa, I want to eat roast duck.” Smiling in
embarrassment, Chen told him they'd buy some during the New Year after saving the money. With the New Year drawing close, however, Chen still couldn't afford roast duck. And so, seeing how his grandson was upset by this, he came up with a resourceful idea. Chen observed the way people were eating their roast duck every time he made a delivery to the restaurant.
Then, he sliced some lean meat, fried it with soy sauce and cut tofu skin into square pieces, thereupon inventing a new way of enjoying “roast duck.” Chen's grandson was extremely pleased to eat his “roast duck” rolled in tofu skin with scallions, and they spent a very happy New Year together. Later, the grandson began working at the Quanjude Restaurant, and after years of apprenticeship, became a competent chef who reinvented his grandfather's “roast duck,” which is today's Jingjiang rousi.
Any dish with the prefix ‘‘ Jingjiang” (Beijing-style sweet bean sauce) is typically flash-fried with sauce, including fried vegetable (or meat) with sweet bean sauce, fried ribs with sweet bean sauce, eggplant with sweet bean sauce, eggs with sweet bean sauce and zucchini with sweet bean sauce. Not all of these dishes are considered Beijing Cuisine, but they do go perfectly with rice.
Tasting like Jiangbao jiding (diced chicken fried with bean sauce), a Shandong dish, Jingjiang rousi in the eyes of Beijingers is in fact no different from Jiangbao rousi (shredded pork fried with soy sauce). Due to the popularity it enjoys among native Beijingers, the Chinese character “jing” was added to the name.
Flash-frying is a method in which the main ingredients are quickly fried together in sweet bean sauce. The dish is bright red in colour and tastes salty and sweet but not greasy. Eaten with sliced scallions or cucumber, tofu skin or pancake, the dish presents a mixture of fragrant meat, bean sauce and relish, that refreshes the taste buds and brings the eater a tremendous amount of satisfaction.
The dish is easy to learn: cut pork tenderloin into shreds, add soy sauce, cooking wine, salt, starch, egg white, sugar and pepper, and mix the ingredients all together evenly; infuse ginger and scallion with hot water, cut tofu skin into square pieces, place the skin around the edges of the plate, and slice some scallions and put them in the middle; fry the pork tenderloin until it turns white, heat the pot on low heat to fry the sweet sauce, and then add sugar and ginger water. Lastly, stir-fry the sliced pork tenderloin until it's cooked evenly.
Zhen Jianjun, a national master chef and inheritor of the imperial cooking style, once learned skills from Wang Xifu, a wellknown authority on Imperial Cuisine. For the past few decades, Zhen has been committed to inheriting and improving Beijing Cuisine.
Speaking of methods used to cook Jingjiang rousi, Zhen said special attention should be spent on the details. In the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties, Shandong Cuisine was favoured by the imperial families, the wealthy, and even average civilians. Jingjiang rousi, a traditional Beijing dish, also requires very careful consideration and attention.
First is the Beijing sauce, a yellow soybean paste sauce commonly used by native Beijingers. Although ideal sauce for making the dish, it's now hard to come by in the market. Next are shredded scallions that should be as thin as eyebrow hairs. You cut the scallions from the middle, take out the cores and select the thicker parts. Then use a knife to cut them into shreds at a maximum angle, which challenges the knife skills of the chef. Unlike ordinary cutting methods, this technique makes the shredded scallions much shorter.
Since they're cut at a slant, the shredded scallions bend somewhat like eyebrows, hence the name “eyebrow scallions.” This cutting method also suits Beijing roast duck well, because it eliminates the possibility that someone will swallow a whole piece of scallion. But when cooking Jingjiang rousi, what's of utmost importance are the shredded pork tenderloins. Usually the meat from the neck of the pig is chosen, as it's both fat and lean, and also tastes fresh and tender.
The sweetness in the dish leaves a non-greasy feel, and the meat's slanted-cut gives it a unique texture that feels tender and soft in your mouth. Jingjiang rousi is normally served either with lotus-leaf-like pancakes or tofu skin. The tofu skin was introduced from northeast China, and it is known as dried tofu among locals. With regard to choosing an appropriate way to eat the dish, that depends on the diners themselves, because neither method is any more authentic than the other.
In recent years, more students have begun studying abroad at a younger age. Many have dealt with having poor language skills or being incompetent at cooking. So, in order to guarantee that their children eat well while living abroad, some parents are sending their children to culinary schools to learn how to cook over 10-day training courses.
During each class, teachers demonstrate how to make a Chinese dish for the students, such as Jingjiang rousi, scrambled eggs with tomatoes or dumplings, which are all easy to learn. This way these young students will have a healthy alternative to relieve their homesickness when they are abroad.
Jingjiang rousi has witnessed the joys and sorrows that the inventor and his grandson experienced. After generations of people passing down and making improvements to the dish, it has not only become common in many households, it also lends a feeling of home to those travelling abroad. Its sweet taste nourishes the eater's heart and heals their lonely soul.