from one generation to the next
You may recall me mentioning Chinese regional cookbook author Fuchsia Dunlop earlier this month. Tuned into my local intelligent radio station while attending to boring domestic chores, I dropped everything and listened when Dunlop came on to be interviewed about her latest publication “Land of Fish and Rice.”
Dunlop, an Englishwoman has lived, worked and studied in China. Her latest book focusses on traditional food found in the region south of the Yangste River, Jiangnan. She spent time there in restaurants, private homes, culinary training schools and markets learning from those that are considered to be the masters of the provincial cuisine. Dunlop is held in high esteem in China, she is considered a learned conduit between China and the west.
At the end of the interview rather than return to the chores I went into my local Library’s online catalogue and reserved the copy they had on order. It arrived within a few days and after a quick browse made no hesitation in adding Dunlop’s latest book to my wishlist. Meanwhile I intend to keep it for the maximum borrowing period allowed.
Like most Australian cooks, I’m no stranger to Chinese ingredients, in fact many are staples in my pantry including those needed for this dish. Without hesitation I decided to try Dunlop’s recipe for Dongpo Pork
The preparation was simple. The long slow braising of the pork belly reduces the meat, fat and skin to an unctuous melt in the mouth texture with an umami rich sweet but savoury flavour the Chinese do so well. The sticky richness of the pork needed no more than plain white rice and steamed Chinese greens.
This is meat you can cut with a spoon. I cooked the pork a little longer than Dunlop suggested, testing it with the point of a knife until satisfied it would easily fall apart, as she says, it should be “so exquisitely tender that it melts away at a chopstick’s touch.”
We devoured the leftovers cold, sliced and stuffed into sushi handrolls.
1kg boneless pork belly in one piece, lean end
3 spring onions, green tops only
30g fresh ginger, skin on
4 tablespoons castor sugar
5 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
250mls good Shaoxing wine
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Place the pork into the water and boil for 5 mins.
Drain then rinse the meat under the cold tap.
Cut the pork into 5cm X 5cm squares. Keep any trimmings.
Whack the ginger and spring onions lightly with the back of a cook’s knife blade.
Put the sugar, soy sauces and Shaoxing wine into a heavy based ban wide enough to accomodate the pork in a single layer.
Bring to the boil, stirring frequently until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the ginger, spring onions pork trimming, then lay the pork on top, skin side down.
Return the pan to the boil, cook for 2 minutes then place a simmer pad under the pan and lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
Cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours checking from time to time to make sure the pan doesn’t boil dry. Add a little hot water if necessary. I added 1 cup of water over the cooking time.
The pork should fall apart when tested with the point of a paring knife.
Remove the ginger and spring onion then refrigerate the pork to overnight.
The next day remove the congealed surface fat from the sauce.
Bring the pan back to the boil to reheat the pork. Once the sauce has loosened turn the pork skin side up then simmer until the sauce is thick and syrupy.
Serve with plain rice and steamed greens.