One of the most beloved Chinese comfort foods is Mei Cai Kou Rou, a braised and steamed pig belly dish. A dish that will make every Chinese person homesick, a food that will take me back to my youth, and a dish that will always remind me of Yong He Da Wang.
To impress your guests, serve them some Mei Cai Kou Rou and claim that you toiled away in the kitchen all day. The most time-consuming step in making this dish is cleaning the pickled veggies.
This is a dish that is considered a specialty among Chinese pork belly recipes, and for a good reason: the preserved mustard greens lend a flavor that is both distinctive and irresistible.
These dried vegetables need to be soaked for 5-6 hours in clean water and then washed and re-soaked 6-7 times until the water runs clear. The final dish should be free of any of these, which are notoriously sandy.
They won’t clean up well enough with just a colander and some running water. Locate your largest available bowl or basin, and soak and rinse the items no less than six times. It looks like a lot of labor, but the actual preparation time is minimal.
Boxed dried mustard greens always seemed to be of higher quality than their bagged counterparts when I bought them. Get that one if you can locate it!
Mustard greens can be salty (the salt content varies by brand, and much of the salt is lost during washing), so add soy sauce slowly and taste as you go.
- 1 ½ pounds of pork belly
- 6 ounces of dried preserved mustard greens
- 2 slices of ginger
- 2 star anise
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of shaoxing wine
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
- Get the pickled greens ready. Set in water for 5-6 hours. To remove any remaining dirt and sand, wash them in a wide basin of water 6-7 times. Rinse and set aside the water.
- The pork belly goes into a pot and is covered with cold water. Put in the star anise and ginger pieces. Start with a rolling boil, then turn down to a simmer for 35 minutes. The pork should be removed and placed aside.
- Warm up a tablespoon of oil in the wok over moderate heat. The pig skin side should be browned first, then the other sides. After the pork has browned, add a teaspoon of dark soy sauce and a tablespoon of water and stir to coat. The pork can cool in the wok once the heat has been turned off.
- Cut the pork loin into half-inch slices and line the bottom of a shallow heat-proof bowl with them. Put the sugar and extra tablespoon of oil into the wok and stir. The sugar should dissolve and turn a caramel color while cooking.
- After 30 seconds, add the ginger that has been finely diced. Then, after a couple of minutes of stirring, add the pickled vegetables.
- Add 1 cup chicken broth, 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, 2 teaspoons light soy sauce, 2 tablespoons shaoxing wine, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Cook until it boils, then remove from heat.
- The pork belly in the bowl should be completely covered with the preserved vegetable combination. The bowl should be steamed for a total of 75 minutes in a steamer.
- To make the sauce, remove the bowl from the steamer and carefully pour off any extra liquid into your pan. To thicken the liquid, bring the heat to a low simmer and whisk the cornstarch. The pork should be served by inverting a serving dish over a bowl.
- Serve the entrée with the sauce poured on top. This dish truly shines when served with nothing more than a bowl of plain white rice.