Contrary to myth, the Chinese don’t have magically low cholesterol. But they do know that it’s okay to eat pork belly every week in moderation, as long as you also get a healthy dose of greens, and maybe bike regularly to the grocery store in your clunky steel cruiser.
Not long ago I posted a recipe for Hunan red-braised pork, which many of you seemed to love. Twice-cooked pork is another dish I recently started making at home. Called huiguo rou (回锅肉) in Chinese, which literally means “meat returned to the wok”, this is an extremely popular Sichuan dish that uses the same cut of meat, but this time with a predominantly spicy and salty characteristics.
The “twice-cooked” part refers to the pork belly first being simmered in salted water for an hour until fully cooked, sliced, then stir-fried in its own juices. A home-style dish at heart, the pork is then coated with a hearty sauce of fermented black bean, chili bean sauce and yellow rice wine, and mixed with vegetables like cabbage and bell peppers.
Recently I had an especially nice version at the elegant South Beauty in Beijing, and was inspired to make a more minimalist dish. I used leeks as the only vegetable, and tried out Korean chili paste, which is inherently a tad sweet, instead of the more traditional sweet wheaten paste.
When cooking, the important thing to remember is to pat your pork very dry after slicing, so that excess drops of water don’t cause the oil in the wok to splatter. Twice-cooked pork is a little more time-consuming than some of the Sichuan stir-fries I’ve featured so far, but worth a look if you want to delve further into regional Chinese cooking.
Other pork recipes:
Twice-Cooked Pork (Huiguo Rou)
Serves 4 as part of multi-course meal
- 1 pound pork belly or unsmoked bacon (if using sliced bacon skip first step)
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon chili bean sauce
- 2 teaspoons sweet chili paste
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons peanut oil
- 2 leeks, white parts thinly sliced
1. Place pork belly in a medium pot of salted water and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer, skimming the water as necessary, until pork is fully cooked through, about 45 to 60 minutes. Drain and let cool. When cool enough to handle, pat dry and slice into 1/4-cm thick pieces.
2. In a small bowl, mix together black beans, rice wine, soy sauce, chili bean sauce, sweet chili paste, and sesame oil.
3. In a wok, heat peanut oil until just beginning to smoke. Working in small batches, cook until golden brown on each side. Transfer pork to a separate plate and continue with the next batch. (Drain oil/pork fat after each batch, leaving just 1 tablespoon in the wok.)
4. Stir-fry ginger until just fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add sauce. Add leeks and stir-fry until cooked through, about 1 minute. Return pork to the wok and stir to coat with sauce and cooked leeks. Transfer to plate and serve.