Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hangzhou Braised Pork

The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Mones, was the most recent selection for Cook the Books. If you want plot information, take a look at the CtB blog, or stop by Natashya's or Suzie's blogs.

I had trials and tribulations with this book. Our library system doesn't own the book, so I went through Interlibrary Loan to get a copy. When the copy arrived, I checked it out, then I must have set it down, because someone immediately picked it up, checked it back in, and returned it to the host library. I was not a happy camper/reader.

So, once again, I placed an ILL order, hoping that it would arrive in time. Yay. It did!

This is an awesome love story in every sense: love of country, love of food, love of history, and love between two people. I never wanted this story to end. It was inspiring.

I started a search for a recipe that would engage the senses and related to the setting of the story. After perusing several cookbooks on Chinese cuisine, I chose Hangzhou Braised Pork from The Shun Lee Cookbook by Michael Tong. I did adapt it to the ingredients I had on hand.

This led to my second 'trial and tribulation': the cooking liquid is supposed to be boiled down to make a syrupy sauce. Even though I boiled 3 times as long as the recipe stated, it never became syrupy. I decided I would try again when I reheated the leftover pork, but I was once again thwarted. My daughter beat me to it, eating all of the remaining meat and rice, without spinach and without sauce. She declared it was delicious and I should make it again. All that's left now is a container of sauce, waiting to be reduced. Guess I'll have to make it again.

My adaptation of Hangzhou Braised Pork

2 pounds boneless pork roast, cut into 2" squares 2 scallions, trimmed and cut into thirds 1 cup white wine
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons soy sauce
one 1" piece of peeled fresh ginger, cut into 5 slices
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 whole star anise
one 1 1/2" piece of cinnamon stick
5 small dried hot chilies
1 pound fresh spinach

Place the scallions on the bottom of a flameproof casserole and top with the pork. Add 3 cups water, the wine, the 1/3 cup sugar, the 1/4 cup soy sauce, ginger, white pepper, star anise, cinnamon stick, and dried chilies. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently until the pork is very tender, about 2 hours.

Remove meat from cooking liquid. Remove and discard all the remaining solids. Increase the heat to high and boil the sauce, uncovered, until it becomes syrupy.

While the sauce is reducing, fill a saucepan with water, bring it to a boil, then add the fresh spinach and cook until it is just wilted, about 1 minute. Drain well.

Once the sauce is reduced, add the cooked pork and the remaining sugar and soy sauce. Return to a boil.

Serve the cooked pork with syrupy sauce on top of the spinach.

The sauce has great flavor -- spicy and picante. I will certainly make this again.

Tune into the Cook the Books Club and see what the other readers created, and what our next book will be.


Suzie said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed the novel after your problems getting it. (My copy of The Language of Baklava only just turned up, so I know how frustrating that can be.) It sounds like your pork was wonderful regardless of the thickness of the sauce.

NKP said...

The flavours sound fantastic. I have trouble reducing too. I was just starting to think the other night that I should probably use a wider, more shallow pot for more surface to air ratio.. as I boiled for 3x longer than the recipe stated. I wonder why they don't mention that in the recipes.

Megan said...

Ha! Your daughter beat you to the leftovers - too funny.

I like the looks and sound of it, I'll bet my family would love it as much as yours did.

Alicia Foodycat said...

It looks really good! The sauce freezes well - I have a pot of red braising stock in my freezer that comes out a couple of times a year and adds more and more flavour to the dish each time.

Arlene Delloro said...

This sounds delicious, reduced sauce notwithstanding. The Chinese really know how to do chicken. The texture is like no other cuisine.

Maria Verivaki said...

reduced sauces are also an important part of mediterranean cooking - it's amazing how rustic cusisines from all over the world are so similar - well done

Simona Carini said...

My dish also did not turn out as I expected, but it was good and was appreciated and I think that's the important think. I am sure the sauce will come out all right, next time you try.

Claudia said...

We don't eat much pork, but your dish sounds really good. That's why your daughter ate all those left-overs! I don't know why it wouldn't reduce, but now I want to give it a try.