Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Chinese Dongpo Pork 东坡肉 (Braised Pork Belly)

I am proud to say that this blog post is the first recipe on the Cambridge University Gastronomic Discovery website - you saw it here first!

Update: I've also added it to the BBC Good Food website (you can see it in all its delicious soy saucy glory here), it's pretty much the same thing, but it's on an ACTUAL WEBSITE!


A little bit of research tells me that Dongpo pork is a very famous dish from Hangzhou in China, named/insipried/something-along-those-lines from the poet Su Dongpo, some almost-millennia ago. He was very wealthy (I’m guessing therefore he could afford to buy meat) and made a modified version of the very famous Chinese red-braised pork, by simmering it for a longer time in the traditional sauce plus caramelised sugar.

The emphasis on this dish is really on the fat; the cooking method means that the oiliness seeps out and leaves a gelatinous wobbly bit left, which no longer makes you feel queasy when you eat too much. So you can keep on eating!

I bet Su Dongpo died of a heart attack.

I learnt how to make this with a  ‘teach many yourself Chinese dishes’ (yes that’s really what the cover said) DVD that I bought from China a few years ago. Not only did I learn this recipe, I also learnt some more Chinese too. Apart from that, I spent 20 minutes watching them cook and not really following a word of it.

However, I got the gist, made it a few times, forgot the recipe, made some bits up, and improvised. Like I mentioned before, I made it in China in my grandparents kitchen (a health and safety hazard if I ever saw one), and I finally decided to write it down after I realised that it was pretty popular.

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I also just wanted to say that the recipe is not exact, some people like sweeter, some prefer more soy sauce. Experiment with the ingredients to find what you like!

To buy the ingredients, you can usually get them in the Asian department in the supermarket. I’d suggest the internet, but I’d feel bad you having to bulk buy 20 bottles of soy sauce when you will use about half a cup (though I am not discouraging you from doing this – I am short of soy sauce right now).

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Bonus points if you can get hold of a meat cleaver like the one in the photo!

To make the spring onion curls, peel off strips of spring onion with your fingers (this works with chives too), and then once you have that strip, run your nail across its length. This should give it a natural spiral curl.

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Lesson learned today: you can be a poet (see my blog on rice), and a great cook (see my blog in general), but that doesn’t make you invincible from heart attack.


Dong Po Pork

Serves 6
Takes just over an hour


One thumb sized chunk of ginger, sliced
3 star anise
4 spring onion scallions, cut into long strips, reserving some for decoration 

4 slices of pork belly, weighing about 400g

3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
4 tablespoons of Chinese Shao Xin yellow wine (red wine is fine – if you must)
2 teaspoons of vinegar
8 teaspoons of white sugar
1 teaspoon of salt

Boil some water in a pan (a wok is best), enough to just cover the pork. Put the meat in whole, and simmer for 20 minutes.

As soon as the time is up, lift the pork out of the wok and immerse into ice cold water; this will stop the meat from cooking any further.

Cut the pork into large chunks.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large deep saucepan. When it is hot, add the spring onion, ginger and star anise. Stir fry for about 2 minutes on high heat (careful they don’t burn).

Add the pork, and the rest of the ingredients for the sauce. Stir fry on high for 2 minutes, then turn down the heat to a simmer, and simmer for 40 minutes.

If the liquid in the pan looks like its about to dry out, add some water, but only enough to stop the meat sticking to the bottom of the pan and leaving a mess for the poor person who’s washing the dishes.

Serve the pork, and pour the sauce from the pan over it. Decorate with spring onion.

1 comment:

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