Thursday, 30 May 2013

Taiwanese Stewed Pork with Eggs

I felt like I haven’t done any Asian cooking - or at least new and interesting Asian cooking - in absolutely ages. So I decided to revisit an old favourite the other week and typed my way over to Sunflowers Asian food blog . I’ve either cooked up her recipes or used them as inspirational starting points quite often in the past but it looks like she hasn’t posted in some time which is a real shame. That said, I came across a couple of Taiwanese recipes, and as I don’t think I’ve tried to cook Taiwanese before thought I’d give it a shot.

This then is an amalgamation of 2 of Sunflower’s recipe - basically the North & South Taiwan version of Lu Rou Fan or Stewed Pork with Rice (lu is braised, rou is pork and fan is rice).. evidently minced pork is used in the North and diced pork in the South, meaning that at heart this is the Southern Taiwan version but I have also added oyster sauce taken from the minced pork version.

Unfortunately I’d thrown my dried shrimps away when I moved (I didn’t think the bf would appreciate the rather, let’s say pungent, aroma wafting out of the not particularly well sealed bag) so where the original recipe calls for a tablespoon or so of dried shrimp, I toasted a teaspoon of shrimp paste in a little foil pouch in a hot oven and used that instead.

Unauthentically it would seem, but I was battling a head cold / chest infection combo at the time of cooking, I also added a whole dried chile de arbol for some soothing warmth and immune system boosting qualities.

If you are in fact going to make the effort of making homemade crispy fried shallots you will need to do this step first as you can then use the shallot flavoured oil for cooking the pork. If not, of course that won’t matter and you can just use groundnut oil in its place.

The addition of hardboiled eggs partway through cooking means that they soak up the sauce’s flavour as they simmer in it and make them deliciously rich. The longer you then leave them to soak in the sauce, the more they will absorb the flavour so do leave this as long as you can before reheating. A good couple of hours at least.

Stewed pork and eggs
serves 2-3

500-600g pork belly (with skin and fat), cut into 1.5cm cubes
20-25g dried shitake mushrooms, soaked then cut into pieces (soaking liquid reserved)
1 tsp toasted shrimp paste
1½ tbsp shallot frying oil (or just groundnut oil)
3 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp oyster sauce
½ heaped tsp Chinese 5 spice
3 crushed peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2cm knob ginger, chopped
1½ star anise
1 small piece cassia bark (or cinnamon stick)
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 dried chilli de arbol
35g crispy fried shallot (* see recipe below, or you can buy it ready-made from an Oriental supermarket), crushed
3 boiled eggs, shelled

Heat the oil on a moderate heat then add the garlic and ginger, stir for a minute or so then turn the heat right up and add the pork.

Stir the pork around continuously until it has lost its raw colour and is browning in places.

Add the mushrooms, shrimp paste, 5 spice, peppercorns, light and dark soy, oyster sauce, star anise, cassia and sugar. Keep stirring for another minute or two.

Add the cooking wine and about 250ml water (top up the reserved mushroom soaking water to make 250ml) so that all the meat is just about covered.

Bring to the boil then cover and simmer on a low heat for about an hour.

Add the boiled eggs, try to make sure they are covered in the sauce and continue simmering for another 30 minutes or so until the meat is tender. Turn the eggs once or twice during this time.

Finally add in the crushed fried shallots. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Taste for seasoning, adjusting soy or sugar as necessary.

The stew is now done but the best thing to do is let it sit for at least a few hours at room temperature (or overnight in the fridge) and then reheat before serving.
Serve with some plain rice, and scatter over some crispy shallots.

Crispy Fried Shallots
makes about 100g

250g Thai / Asian shallots, peeled and very finely sliced
1 ½ tbsp plain flour
175ml (about ¾ cup) sunflower or groundnut oil

Mix the thinly sliced shallots with the flour, breaking up the rings / slices as you do.

Heat the oil in a saucepan until medium hot - test it by dropping in a small piece of shallot, it should fizz and sizzle. Add the shallots, and as they will instantly lower the temperature of the oil, turn the heat up to high.

Stir the shallots slowly but fairly continuously with a wooden chopstick to prevent uneven cooking. Continue frying until the shallots have started to turn a light golden. This is the point when they can quickly become burnt so turn the heat down, continue to stir and watch closely.

When they have become a deeper golden brown, remove from the heat and using a slotted spoon place into a metal sieve resting on a bowl so that excess oil can be caught in it.

Let this cool: whatever isn’t used in this recipe can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks.

Reserve the oil which will be flavoured with shallot and keep whatever remains after cooking the stewed pork for soups, stirfries etc.

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