Often I see recipes that I'd love to attempt, but time is a great factor. On a good day, I might get home from work by 7:15pm and will usually allow myself of up to an hour before dinner must be in my belly. This doesn't allow a lot of room for long and involved recipes. So, this weekend was all about that.
When I first saw this recipe for Dong Po Pork, and then saw it blogged by Josh here, I knew it had to be done. Who doesn't love belly pork, after all? Off I went to the butchers' (the excellent GG Sparks) and returned armed with various bits and pieces, purely for the purpose of long and slow cooking (more on this later).
Dong Po Pork is famous Hangzhou dish, supposedly named after the revered Song Dynasty poet, artist and calligrapher Su Dongpo who is said to have invented, or at least inspired it. My gosh, what a recipe. It involves blanching the piece of pork in boiling water, then simmering the pork for a half hour, then another simmer in a sauce mixture, then some hazardous frying, another simmer in tea-flavoured water, before a final 2 hour steaming.
The recipe I used was from Eating China. It was very easy to follow, but like I said; labour-intensive. My kettle has never been so boiled before, at least 6 or 7 full loads. I knew the frying of the pork would be treacherous due to what Josh said about it before. As I placed the pork in the pan I thought I'd got away with it. Then I turned it over onto it's skin side and it started spitting angrily all over the kitchen. I retreated, spatula in hand, quite swiftly, so do beware if you have a go yourself.So what of the result? Unctuous meat, falling apart with just the gentlest of persuasion. I'm quite used to strong, robust flavours from braising meat from using fermented red bean curd, Sichuan peppercorns, chillies and so on but this was very different, surprisingly so. The flesh was delicately flavoured, the sauce light and a little sweet. The skin was a deep caramel colour and while it can sometimes be a bit chewy, it melted in the mouth. The fat was bursting with intense pork flavour. Plenty of white rice and the obligatory steamed greens soaked these flavours up well. I didn't want it to end but unfortunately it did. Labour-intensive, yes - worth it? Definitely.
The recipe states using a 1kg lump of belly. Mine came in at 850gr, and we ate it between the two of us. What piggies (!) we are.