This is a very famous Hakka dish which most families will have eaten before. I remembered I first eaten this dish was a type of canned food imported from China. That was during my childhood time but it seems that recently, this canned food has disappeared over the years.
When I worked in Hong Kong and Shanghai, this is a rather common restaurant dish that we ordered whenever it appeared in the menu.
As we are not Hakka, my mum has never prepared this dish at home and I have been procrastinating the recipe because of the long winded recipe. I knew that pressure cooker can help but for this dish, I am rather reluctant to issue a recipe using pressure cooker because of the plating of the dish. Therefore, the dish needs long hours of steaming and in this illustration, it took me 1.5 hours to prepare the dish. But there are also recipes that called for steaming of 45 minutes to 2 hours.
Though it is rather laborious compared to other household dishes, the waiting time is worth the effort. It tastes so satisfying with white rice and we finished the dish in seconds during our meal. The meat is soft and aromatic. The mei cai, with proper treatment and stewing, is soft and provide an unique aroma that blends well with the meat.
This is a rather long winded recipe and I have to apologize to the readers that I have forgotten to take picture of one critical step. The pan frying of the skin until crispy. I totally forget about picture taking and only realized when I wanted to issue the post. What is needed is putting some oil on a pan, with the skin facing downwards, pan fried until the skin is brownish and crispy. This step is very critical. It help to provide the “sexy” wrinkle brownish colour skin. If you by pass this step, your stewed meat will have a smooth skin. Well, this step is still considered as optional depending on what you are looking for. For health reasons, you may want to avoid this step.
This dish will require a a special type of preserved mustard head or dried mustard head. Unlike salted vegetable , the mustard head is rub with salt or sugar or sundried whereas for salted vegetable, it was submerged into saline solution for preservation. You can get it easily in Singapore and Malaysia, and I believed all Chinatown should have sell this vegetable as it is easy to keep and well liked by Chinese worldwide.
As mentioned above, there are salty mei cai or sweet mei cai or dried mei cai which neither have salt or sugar. Whichever type of mei cai you used, you will have to soak and clean the mei cai thoroughly until all the sand and impurities are gone. For dried mei cai gan , you have to soak in the water for at least 1/2 day such that it is fully expanded.
As for the meat, it must be pork belly and the initial stage of preparation is rather lengthy. However, there is a shortcut method that I will not share here. Instead of using raw pork belly, you can always used roast pork purchased from the stores. Trust me, with the store bought pork belly, your dish will become much more attractive and you will shorten the preparation time significantly.
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Servings: 4-6 adult servings
- 600 grams of pork belly
- 80 grams of preserved mei cai
Blanching and marinating of pork belly
- 4 slices of ginger
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 star anise
- 2 tablespoons of dark soya sauce
- 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine
Mei cai Preparation
- 1 tablespoon of minced garlics
- 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine
- 1 tablespoon of dark soya sauce
- Pinches of salt
- 2 small pieces of rock sugar
- 1 metal bowl suitable for steaming
- Some aluminium foil
- 1 tablespoon of corn starch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
STEPS OF PREPARATION
- Wash the mei cai and tear it into small long pieces. Cut off any part that is hard to tear or cut. Cut into small pieces of about 1 cm bit. Soak in the water for at 15 minutes. Change water and soak for another 5 minutes. Drain, squeeze dry and set aside. The soaking is for reference and it all depends on the type of mei cai you used.
- If you are using dried mei cai unlike the picture above, you will need to soak in water for at least 4 hours to let it fully expand.
- In a pan, put 2 tablespoons of oil, sauté the minced garlic and minced ginger until aromatic. Add the mei cai, stir fry for 1-2 minutes until aromatic. Add the dark soya sauce, wine, sugar followed by another 1 cup of water. Bring to boil, once it boils, reduce the heat to medium, let it simmer until the vegetable is softer and flavour developed which will take about 15 minutes. Set aside for cooling.
- Pound the rock sugar until fine using a pestle and mortar . This step is optional and you can use 1 teaspoon of icing sugar as substitute, if desired.
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the garlic, ginger, star anise, wine and the pork belly. Boil the pork belly for at least 15 minutes and if preferred, fully cooked when a chop stick can pierce through the meat. However, there is no need for the meat to be fully cooked as it will be cooked again at the later stage. Drain and let the skin to dry which take about 15 minutes. If the skin is not dry, use a kitchen towel to patch dry. Drying of skin is important as it will help in the next step of pan frying the skin.
- In a pan, put 3 tablespoons of cooking oil, put the meat with the skin facing the pan, pan fry the skin under medium heat until the skin is crispy and brownish. You can also use oven to bake the skin. Alternatively, you can deep fry the whole piece of meat until the external is set.
- Once the skin is ready and cool to touch, cut the meat into smaller pieces of about 1 cm thickness.
- Marinate the meat with the soya sauce for at least 15 minutes until the colour is even.
- Grease the steaming bowl with cooking oil and sprinkle with pound rock sugar or icing sugar as evenly as possible. Put the cut meat in your designed pattern with the skin facing the bowl. Top the meat with the mei cai prepared earlier. Press it as compact as possible.
- Cover the steaming bowl with an aluminium foil and make a small hole. Steamed under high heat for at least 1 hour. I steamed my meat for 1.5 hours.
- After the steaming, invert the bowl into the serving plate or clay pot. Pour out all the meat juices into a pan, bring to boil, add the starch . Once it thickens, pour the sauce over the plated meat dish. The dish is ready to be served with white rice.
This is a rather lengthy post but it is worthwhile to prepare it for festivals. If you are running of time, just use the store bought roast pork. In my next attempt when I need no picture taking, it is very likely that I will use pressure cooker to prepare the dish but I have to find a suitable bowl for pressure cooking. If successful, I will upload new pictures in the blog .
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