Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cooking the Book - Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook - Red Braised Pork

After reading her memoir “Sichuan Pepper and Shark’s Fin Soup”, I knew that I had to get my hands on Fuschia Dunlop’s cookbooks. At the end of one of the chapters in “Sichuan Pepper” there was the recipe for Mao Zedong’s favorite dish: red braised pork belly. Thankfully that recipe was included in Dunlop’s second cookbook, “Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from the Hunan Province”.

I knew this recipe would be a great use for the pork belly I had picked up at Star Provisions in Atlanta.

Having set the belly to defrost, I started on getting the rest of the ingredients ready and set up.

I suppose the simplicity of this dish reflects Mao’s humble beginnings.

These are all the spices for the dish: a small piece of cassia, three dried chilies, one star anise, and an inch of ginger (sliced, skin on)

Once the pork had fully defrosted, I followed Dunlop’s recipe and dropped the pork into a pot of boiling water and simmered for 4-5 minutes.

Nothing quite as exciting as seeing a big piece of fatty pork quietly simmer. Luckily, we have a tv in the kitchen.

After retrieving the belly from the pot of water, I let it rest on the cutting board.

I know its pork belly, but there seems to be a suspicious lack of meat in this cut of meat.

With the pork having a chance to rest, I took my knife to the pork belly.

Just about bite sized.

Next, I took 2 tablespoons of peanut oil and white sugar.

Put them in a cold wok, and started them over a low heat.

The idea is to melt the sugar until it turns a rich, caramel color. I know it’s a bad picture, but you can see how dark the sugar can get.

Now we can really get going with the dish.

I added the pork into the wok along with a tablespoon of Shaoxing cooking wine. You can already see how the dish gets the name of red braised pork.

Add enough water to cover the pork.

Add the spices, bring to a boil and then turn to a simmer for 40-50 minutes.

With a little time and heat, the pork went from this:

To this

Ending up with this

Per Fuchsia’s instructions, I had turned up the heat the last 5-10 minutes, just to thicken up the sauce.

I tried the dish, and I had no idea what to expect. It was a delightfully sweet dish that had the slightest chili undertone. The smell was the real dealmaker. The entire house smelled like a Chinese kitchen, and I love that smell.

Before serving, I did add a little soy sauce, just to cut through the sweetness. I’m not sure if this is a dish I could enjoy on a regular basis, much less the twice daily dose that Mao enjoyed. I see how the Chairman’s doctors encouraged him to cut down on the red braised pork, but I suppose you must have a high fat meal when you’re starving millions of your own people.

1 comment:

dumplingdesignz said...

Hey, I made the same recipe too - it's amazing how different one recipe can turn out! Have a look at my photo's at http://dumplingdesignz.blogspot.com for comparison. It looks like my pork belly had a lot more meat than yours so don't be put off by the end result.