Shang­hai red-braised pork with eggs

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By FUCH­SIA DUN­LOP

Red-braised pork, in which chunks of belly pork are sim­mered with soy sauce, rice wine and su­gar, is beloved across China, and there are many re­gional vari­a­tions. In Jiang­nan (south­ern part of the Yangtze River), and es­pe­cially Shang­hai, they like theirs dark, sleek and se­duc­tively sweet. The pork is only cooked for about an hour in to­tal, so the meat and fat re­tain a lit­tle spring in their step. A sec­ondary in­gre­di­ent is of­ten added, such as bam­boo shoot, deep-fried tofu, cut­tle­fish, salted fish or, as in this recipe, hard-boiled eggs. The dish is a per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment to plain white rice; I do rec­om­mend that you serve it also with some­thing light and re­fresh­ing, such as stir­fried greens.

At the Dragon Well Manor restau­rant in Hangzhou, they call this dish Motherly Love Pork be­cause of an old lo­cal story. Once upon a time, they say, there was a woman whose son had trav­eled to Bei­jing to sit the im­pe­rial civil ser­vice ex­am­i­na­tions. Ea­gerly await­ing his re­turn, she cooked up his fa­vorite dish, a slow-sim­mered stew of pork and eggs. But the road was long and the trav­el­ing un­cer­tain, so her son didn’t ar­rive when ex­pected, and she took the pot off the stove and went to bed. The next day, she warmed up the stew and waited again for him, but he didn’t ar­rive. By the time her son ac­tu­ally reached home on the third day, the stew had been heated up three times, and the meat was in­con­ceiv­ably ten­der and unc­tu­ous, the sauce dark and pro­found.

Red-braised pork

6 eggs, small if pos­si­ble 20g fresh gin­ger, skin on 1 spring onion, white part only 750g pork belly, skin on 1 tbsp cook­ing oil 1 star anise A small piece of cas­sia bark 3 tbsp Shaox­ing wine 700ml stock or hot water 2 tbsp light soy sauce 1½ tbsp plus 1 tsp dark soy sauce 3 tbsp caster su­gar or 40g rock su­gar

Hard-boil the eggs in a pan of boil­ing water, then cool and shell them. In each egg, make 6–8 shal­low slashes length­ways to al­low the fla­vors of the stew to en­ter. Smack the gin­ger and spring onion gen­tly with the flat side of a Chi­nese cleaver or a rolling pin to loosen their fibers.

Put the pork in a pan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil over a high flame and boil for 5 min­utes. Drain and rinse it un­der the cold tap. When cool enough to han­dle, cut the meat through the skin into 2-3 cm cubes (if your piece of belly is thick, you may want to cut each piece in half so they end up more cube-like).

Heat the oil in a sea­soned wok over a high flame. Add the gin­ger, spring onion, star anise and cas­sia and stir-fry briefly un­til they smell won­der­ful. Add the pork and fry for another 1-2 min­utes un­til the meat is faintly golden and some of the oil is run­ning out of the fat. Splash the Shaox­ing wine around the edges of the pan. Add the hard­boiled eggs and stock or hot water, along with the light soy sauce, 1½ ta­ble­spoons dark soy sauce and the su­gar. Bring to the boil, then cover and sim­mer for 45 min­utes, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally.

Pour into a pot or a bowl, al­low to cool, then chill overnight. In the morn­ing, re­move the layer of pale fat that has set­tled on the sur­face. Tip the meat and jel­lied liq­uid back into a wok, re­heat gen­tly, then boil over a high flame to re­duce the sauce, stir­ring con­stantly. Re­move and dis­card the gin­ger, spring onion and whole spices. Af­ter 10–15 min­utes, when the liq­uid has re­duced by about half, stir in the re­main­ing dark soy sauce.

Shortly be­fore you wish to serve, bring to the boil over a high flame and re­duce the sauce to a few cen­time­ters of dark, sleek gravy. Turn out into a serv­ing dish. Then go and wel­come your son back from his im­pe­rial civil ser- vice ex­am­i­na­tions!

If you have any left­overs — un­likely, in my ex­pe­ri­ence — you can re­heat them with a lit­tle water and some dried bam­boo shoot, win­ter melon, tofu knots, deep-fried tofu puffs or radishes. In fact, you might wish, like some

Omit the eggs and in­crease the amount of pork to 1kg. Use only 1½ tbsp light soy sauce, 1½ tbsp plus 1 tsp dark soy sauce, 2½ tbsp su­gar and 500ml hot water.

Red-braised pork with chest­nuts

Add a quan­tity of peeled, cooked chest­nuts roughly equal in vol­ume to the pork when you re­heat and re­duce the stew. This is a scrump­tious vari­a­tion made by Zhe­jiang chef Zhu Yin­feng.

Ningbo red-braised pork with salted fish

Omit the eggs, and use only 1 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tbsp su­gar and 500ml stock or water. Soak some dried yel­low croaker in cold water to soften, then cut it into bite-sized pieces. Add the fish to the pork when you re­heat and re­duce the stew. Gar­nish with a few lengths of spring onion greens.

From Land of Fish and Rice, 26 pounds ($32) from Blooms­bury.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Red-braised pork is a per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment to plain white rice with some­thing light, such as stir­fried greens.

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