Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A bit of cooking

One of my favorite Szechuan dishes is Steamed Pork with Mei Gan Tsai, which I discovered accidentally in an Oakland family-style restaurant. At the time, I lived on a ridge above the restaurant, where the kitchen fans blew up to the apartment in the evening. Needless to say, decisions about what to have for dinner often involved walking around the corner for Chinese food. Having become a loyal customer, I could get good advice and make unfamiliar choices. Moving away could have been traumatic, because it's not a commonly-offered restaurant dish, but Bruce Cost's excellent book on Asian ingredients provided the recipe.

It's a simple dish, with a time-consuming preparation. The first step is to boil a nice chunk of pork belly for about 45 minutes. The meat is drained, patted dry and rubbed with dark soy, then browned in very hot oil. Tonight's meat came from Fubonn market on 82nd Avenue, which has an excellent meat department. This is a particularly nice-looking slab with plenty of meat and fat.

Eight cloves of garlic, about four ounces of pickled mustard greens, dark soy and a half cup of Shao Tsing rice wine is sauteed briefly. The meat is sliced and placed in a bowl, with the greens and seasoning ladled on top. The whole dish then goes into the steamer for a good 2.5  hours, during which time the hard fat of the bacon will break down into soft yumminess and add lots of pork flavor to the greens. The process is essentially the same as the breakdown of fat through slow cooking in the best barbecue.
Pork on the left, Ma Po Bean Curd on the right. And, of course, there is rice.

5 comments:

MLS said...

fubon is a favorite in our family. and, just after, we head a block north to the 'good taste' restaurant for a hot bowl of the best wonton in town...

Carol said...

I have this lovely guest room and a great kitchen, how about coming sometime for a weekend and we could cook, and drink and hang out.....get-away to lovely Duvall, Wa....

Love,
Carol

Sean said...

I second (third?) the praise of Fubonn's meat department. Where else in Portland can you find fresh pork uterus?

The 82nd/Division/Powell area is the heart of authentic Chinese cuisine in Portland.

Jeff Frane said...

Carol, I would love to have that weekend with you. I'll start poking at the calendar.

Joel said...

The pork looks tasty enough, but I have my eye on that Ma Po Bean Curd. Might have to try my hand at a slightly Americanized version this next week.