China Memories: Shaoxing Braised Pork

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Mum bought some preserved vegetable from Shaoxing. It’s called mei cai but is quite different from the type used in Hakka braised pork. This version is slightly fermented and has a lovely pungent, almost loamy mushroomy aroma. I braised using a slightly more Western technique by putting it in the oven for a long, slow braise. This  renders out a lot of the fat and makes for soft, yielding meat. It’s up to you if you want to do the hellish job of skimming the fat. I suggest just savouring the dish as is the first time round and put the leftovers in the fridge. The next morning, scrape off the white fat layer from the top.

I have no idea whether this is available outside China, but I suppose you could try using Hakka mei cai or any preserved leafy vegetables. It’s a very simple recipe, so use the best ingredients you can find.

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Ingredients:

600 g belly pork, skin and fat on
100 g Shaoxing mei cai
1 cup Shaoxing wine

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150ºC and heat a casserole dish and lid to heat at the same time.
  2. Cut the pork into large chunks. Make sure you cut against the grain, pretend that you’re cutting out ginormous pieces of siu yok. Pat dry with some kitchen towel, especially the skin part.
  3. Heat a non-stick frying pan to the hottest you can and sear the pork on all sides, skin side down first. Be very careful as the skin will start to blister and pop and hiss and do all sorts of hair-raising (and hair-singeing) things. Be brave!
  4. Take out the casserole dish from the oven and transfer the seared pork inside.
  5. Now off the heat, deglaze the frying pan by pouring the wine in using one swift motion. It will boil but should not spit. Scrape the bottom of the pan so you get all the burnt and good-tasting bits off and pour the lot into the casserole dish.
  6. Add the mei cai and mix the whole lot around. Top up with some hot water if you need, till it just covers the meat.
  7. Cover the casserole dish and stick in the oven for three to four hours, depending on how impatient you are. After half an hour or so, check that the braise is bubbling gently. One or two bubbles per second is fine, just make sure it’s not boiling furiously (lower the oven temperature if it is). If you’re bored or very hands on, stir it once or twice during the cooking process.
  8. It’s done when you can’t wait or till the meat is tender and a lot of the fat has rendered out. Serve with lots of rice.

For two or three people as a main dish.

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