Ginger Pork Cutlet

(edited and re-published) This Ginger Pork Cutlet really hits the spot when I’m craving for something salty and fragrant to go with rice.

Cooking cutlets is for me a little more involved. There’s the trimming of fat, the thinning of the meat to cutlet-thickness, and the pan-frying followed by sauce-making. But is it worth it? YES. Enjoy!

Homemade ginger pork cutlets

Homemade ginger pork cutlets

Ginger Pork Cutlet

Ingredients
6-8 pork cutlets, fat trimmed off (you can buy pork chops then slice them in half to as close to 1/4 inch thickness)
ginger,* 3-5 thin slices
light soy sauce, 2 teaspoons
rice wine, 2 teaspoons
rock sugar, 2 teaspoons
salt
cornflour
vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon

*A nice variation would be substitution of ginger with a trio of minced garlic, red chilli, and spring onion

Method
1. Mix soy sauce, rice wine, and rock sugar together. Add ginger slices to infuse. Set aside
2. Marinate pork cutlets lightly with salt, and then a thin layer of cornflour, for at least 15 minutes.
3. Heat oil in frying pain on medium heat.
4. Pan fry pork cutlets. When nicely browned on one side, flip, and add soy sauce mixture including ginger slices over cutlets, caramelizing the meat.
5. When other side is brown, flip cutlets back to cook away any juices that may have oozed from the meat. Pork needs to be cooked thoroughly before consumption.
6. Serve with white rice, or a light salad with sesame dressing.

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Chinese Pork and Watercress Soup

In Cantonese cuisine, soup is very important. When I was growing up in Hong Kong and Singapore, my family would enjoy hot soup at the start of dinner, emptying our bowls before heaping freshly boiled white rice into it for the main meal. My favourites at home were my mom’s fish and tomato soup, and pork and lotus root soup; out at restaurants, double-boiled pig’s lung soup (yep, you read correctly).

To Western palates, Cantonese soup may resemble more of a meaty broth or consomme. And while I love soups like potato and leek, and New England clam chowder, nothing compares to homemade Chinese-style soups in their simplicity, healthiness, and subtlety in taste.

W and I often eat this Pork and Watercress Soup when we are lazy or feeling a little under the weather. It keeps well – just make sure you sterilize it by bringing to a full boil before eating and before storing in a covered pot.

Pork and Watercress Soup

porkwatercress

Ingredients (makes about 4 servings):
0.5-0.8 lb boneless pork stew cubes, excess fat trimmed
1 medium bunch of watercress, soaked and thoroughly washed in cold water
3-5 dried red dates
small handful of wolf (goji) berries
1.2 litres of water
salt to taste

Method:
1. Add pork, watercress, red dates, wolf/goji berries, water, and a dash or two of salt to large pot. Bring to boil.
2. When mixture has come to full boil, lower heat so that soup is just simmering.
3. Simmer soup for at least 1.5 hours. Before serving, check taste and add more salt if necessary. Use ladle to skim off any excess oil or scum that might have rendered from pork.

Despite my love of savoury foods, I am equally quite appreciative of ‘blander’ foods so I like this soup for its subtle sweetness. The pork in this soup is also great dipped in light soy sauce if you want more saltiness in your meal.

A Life Update, with a side of Sweet and Savoury Pork Spare Ribs

It’s been a whirlwind few months – I left my previous job and moved out of Oxford over the summer, went back home to get married :), spent a month with my in-laws in Malaysia and had another wedding reception there, and then moved to New York with WS end of September.

It’s been exciting, tiring, stressful, amazing, fun, scary – so many different emotions but perhaps the feeling that sticks with us most is gratitude for this opportunity to be able to experience incredible NYC!

This is not the first time we moved to a new place together. In 2010, we moved to Oxford for our graduate degrees, but we lived in separate colleges and had only been dating for 1.5 years back then. Being married feels different in the sense that there is a feeling of mutual obligation to really make a home for ourselves, to invest in nice, practical things that we will use, hopefully, for a good time yet (let’s see how our new rug and cookware hold up!)

I’m rambling on about life when my blog is supposed to be about food. Well, food and life are inextricably bound up with one another; life is sustained by food, and life is also made wonderful by the food we eat and the people we share it with! Anyway, I recently made these Sweet and Savoury Spare Ribs – because they are easy to make and remind me of home, which is nice when you’ve just moved to a new city and everything is different. My mom taught me this recipe many years ago when I left for college because she said it is the easiest thing to make. Most Cantonese families have this recipe because it is a simple 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ratio of ingredients. Oh, and it’s also very tasty.

Sweet and Savoury Spare Ribs

Forgive me for the terrible photo. These pork ribs truly epitomise the saying, ‘tastes much better than it looks’!

image

Ingredients
1-1.5 lbs pork spare ribs (best if chopped into short ribs)
1 tablespoon rice wine (or dry sherry, or cooking wine)
2 tablespoons vinegar (red Chinese vinegar, or rice vinegar)
3 tablespoons sugar (rock sugar, or white sugar)
4 tablespoons light soy sauce (if using cooking wine instead of rice wine, reduce to 3.5 tablespoons because cooking wine has salt content)
5 tablespoons water, you may need more if a lot of it evaporates
3 or 4 slices of ginger

Method* edited 10/March/2015 to include step 0 after discovering this makes a huge difference!

0. Parboil ribs – boil ribs in medium-sized pot for 2-5 minutes until outside cooked and blood seeps out. Drain away water and wash ribs with cold water to remove any scum.

1. Mix wine, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce in separate bowl then add to pot.
2. Add pork ribs to pot and coat with sauce. Add ginger.
3. Add water to pot. If 5 tablespoons not enough to cover most of ribs, add a little more water.
4. Bring pot to boil. After full boil reached, turn down heat to as low as you can to keep the ribs simmering. Skim off any more dried blood with spoon.
5. Now, if you like ribs to really be falling off the bone, then you’re going to need to simmer these ribs on low heat for 2 hours. But of course they’ll cook in less time, just that they might not be as tender as they could be!
6. When ribs are fully cooked, remove ribs from the pot, then boil to condense the remaining sauce. You want at this point also want to skim off some of excess oil (depends on how fatty the ribs are).
7. Pour sauce over ribs and serve.

Very low effort, no?

I have to confess though that four years ago, I attempted to cook this for my now mother-in-law and brother-in-law but failed MISERABLY. I had used white vinegar and added too much water, creating a watery, sour-ish sauce that was truly awful. It was the first thing I had ever cooked for WS’s food-loving family, too, so I was extremely embarrassed. I was only saved by the fact that WS’s vegetable dish that he served up was not much better :P. Yep, I like to think we’ve come some way!

Simple Chinese Braised Pork(紅燒肉)

Sorry for the slight hiatus in posts — I was in Paris last weekend for a quick getaway , and somehow got caught up with various things ever since! But as the Clouds of Oxford have decided to pour down every last bit of rain they’ve got on us today, I thought I would get to my backlog of blogging while I curl up at home … and first up in the queue, Chinese Braised Pork!

Soft pork shoulder spiced with Chinese spices and served with mushroom and egg

This was my first attempt at making Chinese Braised Pork, more commonly known as ‘Hong Shao Rou’ 紅燒肉. There are many versions of this dish typically made with pork belly. I realise that pork belly is not something that one normally stocks in the freezer, so I’ve used pork shoulder because I had some bought some the week before on offer and also because pork shoulder has enough fat to mimic the fatty layer one finds in pork belly. It was a bit of a gamble to be honest — I’ve never seen this dish made with any other cut of pork, but hey, fortune favours the brave, no?

Thankfully it turned out well; pork shoulder doesn’t have that thick layer of fat that pork belly does, so I adjusted by slicing the meat into smaller cubes, and adding water throughout to ensure that the pork was kept moist. You can see from the photo that a lot of the fat is still rendered into oil, but I guess that’s what makes this dish so yummy and great to eat with steamed white rice! And what I particularly like about this dish is that it is like Chinese cuisine’s answer to the standard and might I say slightly boring, beef stew. The cloves and star aniseed lend a different flavour to the meat; I don’t know quite how to describe it, but the flavour of the dark sauce becomes very warm, almost like a peppery cinnamon flavour. (But better than cinnamon… I’m not so much a fan of cinnamon.)

Chinese Braised Pork (紅燒肉)

Ingredients (serves four persons)
– 400-500 grams pork shoulder or pork belly. Slice so that layer of fat is evenly distributed across the cubes of meat — slice against the grain (perpendicular to the direction of the fibres of meat).
– 6-8 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked in cold water and then drained after they have become puffy/reconstituted
– 4 eggs, hard-boiled in advance and de-shelled
– 2 garlic cloves, skin peeled
– water, 500 ml to start with, add more throughout braising process
– 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
– 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
– 1 star anise
– 4 cloves
– 2 Tbsp rock sugar
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 Tbsp mirin, or Shaoxing cooking wine
– 2 Tb vegetable oil
– salt and white pepper to taste
– 1 stalk spring onion, as a garnish

Method
0. Prepare the pork by first blanching with boiling water. Drain away the water. This will lend itself to a cleaner stew of pork, without some of the scum that you sometimes get when simmering it.
1. Heat oil in wok, or deep bottomed non-stick pan on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, brown the cubes of fatty pork shoulder, adding the dark soy sauce to the wok.
2. When both sides of pork are brown, add in water, garlic cloves, mushrooms, Chinese 5-spice, star aniseed, cloves, soy sauce, mirin (or some kind of white cooking wine), rock sugar, salt. Cover wok/pan with lid. Turn down heat to medium or low so that the meat can simmer away slowly.
3. Simmer for at least an hour and a half. The longer you simmer the meat, the softer and more tender it will become!
4. Add in hardboiled eggs in the last 10 minutes or so. Taste the sauce and add a dash of white pepper, and salt if necessary.
5. Garnish with spring onion (optional). Serve with steamed white rice.

The smell of the spices reminds me so much of home… it is certainly a nostalgic dish, one to be made on rainy days, which are not rare in England. Now that the days are getting shorter, I’m going to have to slowly arm myself with comfort foods like this.