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.
- 1 pound pork belly
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, or substitute 1 tablespoon Chinese black bean paste
- 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon chili bean sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Place the pork belly in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, skimming the water to remove any grayish foam on top, until the pork is cooked through. Drain and let cool. When the pork is cool enough to handle, pat completely dry with paper towels and slice into 1/4-inch-thick pieces.
- Rinse the black beans to rehydrate them and remove excess grit if there is any. Drain and lightly mash them with the back of a spoon.
- Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, rice wine, chili bean sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. Set aside.
- Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a drop of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Working in 2 batches, stir-fry the pork slices until golden brown on each side. Transfer the pork to a plate lined with paper towels. The pork belly will render extra fat, so drain all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the wok, then repeat the process with the second batch.
- Reheat the wok and stir-fry the black beans, ginger, and leeks for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the leeks are softened. Return the pork to the wok. Pour in the sauce, stirring until everything is well combined. Transfer to a plate and serve.