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I ♥ SAVEUR! – red-cooked pork is great

summary: Red cooked pork from SAVEUR No.100 (March 2007); remember to leaf through the back issues of your magazines! (click on image(s) to see larger view and more photos)

stew I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: I love SAVEUR magazine! We have been subscribing to it for some years now and have a huge stack of magazines. I’ve read through all of them cover to cover and all of them have pages dog-eared, bookmarking the several recipes we neeeeeed to try.

As a new issue of SAVEUR comes in, I rotate the couple of issues that we keep by the bathroom. Not long ago, I decided to add a much earlier issue. And here is what caught our eyes:

I can still recall the anticipation that I felt as a child when my mother made red-cooked pork belly. […] [I]ts fragrance filled the house, teasing my taste buds before it was ready to be devoured. I loved covering my bowl of rice with spoonfuls of the succulent meat in its mahogany sauce and then holding it to my face to breathe in the aroma up close. The pork belly, braised until it was falling-apart tender, was layered with flesh and smooth, rich fat. Long after my stomach was full, I would linger at the table wanting more. […]

[T]hey tend to be rich and hearty, red-cooked […] are served during the cooler months of the year, when a wok gently bubbling on the stove, warming your kitchen and suffusing it with a host of tempting scents, creates a heavenly atmosphere. Many hong shao dishes simmer for a long time, but, after all, some of life’s pleasures are worth the wait.

– Grace Young, SAVEUR Magazine No.100 (March 2007), “The Glory of Red Cooking”, p72, 75

Of course, the pages for the red-cooked dishes were dog-eared. But had we made any of them? Silly us – of course not!

We decided to remedy the situation immediately. We checked to see what we needed. Most of the things we had. But mushroom flavoured soy sauce?? What’s that?! We always have dried mushrooms and soy sauce on hand but there wasn’t anything even remotely similar to mushroom flavoured soy sauce in the cupboards!

So. We raced to our bikes and rode out to get pork belly from the butcher, mushroom soy sauce from the Chinese supermarket, and green beans from the vegetable store. Then we raced home again as fast as our peddles could go for T to amalgamate the two recipes, Red-Cooked Chicken (Hong Shao Ji) and Red-Cooked Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou) in SAVEUR No.100, to make the most wonderful stew.

Wait, I’ll tell the truth. We didn’t use star anise. Even though it’s such a pretty looking spice, we never have it in the house. T used fennel seeds instead. And rather than orange peel, he used some candied lemon peel. We didn’t have any shaoxing jiu (Chinese cooking wine) either; we used sherry.

Sure, once it was made, the stew didn’t necessarily look all that remarkable. But the aroma and flavours were fabulous.

stew We served this wonderful stew with steamed green beans and plenty of rice. And to emphasize and bring out the beautiful red colour of the stew, we garnished the plate with a single bright red nasturtium flower.

Life just doesn’t get much better than this. Thank you once again, SAVEUR!

Pork belly is great but it IS on the expensive side. (I suspect that it was originally used because pork belly was not so desirable and so much cheaper. How times have changed!)

Next time we’ll use pork shoulder. Or maybe we’ll try it with chicken. No matter what meat we decide to use, there will be lots and lots of next times.

 

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