Pork 7: Tenderloin (豬里肉)


To me, pork tenderloin is analogous to chicken breast, a mediocre yet rather pricy cut of meat. While it’s certainly not bad, neither is it remarkable. It’s just another homogenous blob of meat.(Credit: Julo)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is fine textured and very tender. However, most people do not know how to prepare it. I had a tenderloin at Yangzhou Prefect Xie Yunshan’s banquet that was delicious. [1] The meat was sliced, coated in starch, [2] then simmered in shrimp broth with shitake and laver. It must then be immediately removed from heat when cooked.[3]

Random notes:
[1]: Gan (甘) is one of those Chinese words that is a bit difficult to translate into English. Although its most straightforward translation would be the word sweet, it is usually used to describe a pleasant taste that is not overtly sour, bitter, or salty, but also not quite “sweet”. In Taiwan, the word is used extensively for describing the more “elusive” tastes, for instance, the pleasant taste of emulsified fats such as mayonnaise and creams, or that pleasant aftertaste one gets from eating things like bittermelon. For tenderloin cooked in shrimp broth, shitake, and laver, gan is most likely used for referring to their umami tastes (鮮) or at least the taste’s more delicate aspects. To convey the standard sweet sense of taste meant by native English speakers (sweet like sugar), the word tian (甜) is used instead.

[2]: This technique is called “velveting” by some. When you have the choice, use either potato, arrowroot, or sweet potato starch. Corn starch performs poorly for this purpose.

[3]: I was thinking that this was served as a soup but truth be told, but it could just as well be just the tenderloin slices. You decide.


Pork 6: Kidney (豬腰)


Here is a dish of delicious stir-fried pork kidney (爆炒腰花) to punctuate the images of bloodied pig parts gracing the previous posts. (Credit: Rolfmueller)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Kidney
Stir-fry kidney slices until well-done and they will be tough and as dry as wood. But serve them tender and they will leave people doubting their doneness. It is more preferable to braise the kidneys until soft [1] and eat it dipped in Szechuan pepper salt. Alternately, it can also be finished with the preferred seasonings.

To clean the kidneys, pluck out their insides by hand, but do not cut them with a knife. [2] One needs to braise kidneys for a whole day before they are tender and soft as mud. Kidneys should only be cooked on their own [3], and never used with other ingredients since their off-flavours would overpower everything else. Braise for only three ke [4] and kidneys will toughen but braise them for a day and they become tender.

Random notes:
[1]: It seems tastes in Chinese foods have changed since Yuan Mei’s time. These days, kidneys are rarely eaten braise to the point of extreme softness (soft as mud) as he suggested! Rather, most modern Chinese preparations involve rapid cooking to maintain the crisp texture of the kidneys. A perfect example of this is “stir-fried kidney flowers” (爆腰花), where the clean and prepared kidneys are cut in the lychee pattern (荔枝型) or wheat sheaf pattern (麦穗型), parboiled to deodorize them, and rapidly stir-fried in burning hot oil.

[2]: The white coloured insides of the kidney, known as the renal pelvis, is where urine filtered from the blood is collected and sent to he bladder. They are likely tough when cooked and potentially stink as well which justifies their removal thourough. I doubt it’s easy to do this without using a knife though.

[3]: It is for this reason precisely that I don’t like steak and kidney pie. Or maybe that “special” flavour is just an acquired taste.

[4]: One ke (刻) amounts to around a quarter of an hour.

Pork 5: Two Ways of Preparing Lung (豬肺二法)


Pigs lungs for sale at a Chinese market. Laborious and tedious amounts of cleaning required. (Credit: Earthengine)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Two Ways of Preparing Lung
Lungs are the most difficult to clean of all the organs.[1] First, one has to clear the lungs’ bronchi [2] of all traces of blood and remove the membrane surrounding each lung. Then comes the delicate tasks of beating, squeezing, inverting, hanging the lung, and pulling out its numerous bronchial branches and tubes. [3]

Prepare the lung by boiling it in a mixture of water and wine for a day and a night. When the lung has shrunk to the size of a white hibiscus blossom, floating on the surface of the liquid, season as required and serve. The lung should be so tender that it falls apart and melts in the mouth.

When the Ancient Official Tang Ya [4] hosted banquets, each bowl would be served with four pieces of lung that were originally prepared from four whole lungs. People nowadays no longer have such skill, thus the lungs are prepared by tearing them into small pieces and cooking them in chicken broth until soft, which is still good. This preparation is even better using pheasant broth, which accompanies the gentle flavours of the lung with its own delicate flavours. One can also braise the lung with good ham.

Random notes:
[1]: Just when you thought pig stomach was a pain to clean, along comes pig lungs. To be honest, I didn’t think the lungs were eaten, but I should have known better. It seems to be used as a restorative in Chinese medicine for, not surprisingly, the treatment of lungs and respiratory systems related conditions. The traditional process for cleaning lung as described by Yuan Mei is messy and tedious, but thankfully technology in the form of commercial kitchen faucets and pressurized water sources has spurred on the development of an innovative “flow-through” lung cleaning technique. Just look at that snow white colour of those cleaned lungs!

[2]: These are the branching cartilage supported tubes that bring air into the depths of the lung, so you (or the pig) can breath.

[3]: The modern recipes I have looked at don’t removed the bronchial tubes. It seems you just slice everything up and then braise.

[4]: Shaozai (少宰) appears to some sort Vice Administrative Official from Zhou dynasty. In the case of “湯崖少宰”, I’m assuming 湯崖 is the person’s name.

Pork 4: Two Ways of Preparing Stomach (豬肚二法)


A cleaned pork stomach ready for culinary action with all the slimy gunk scrubbed away, the tough membranes sliced out, and unsavory bits trimmed off. (Credit: Michel Venot)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Two Ways of Preparing Stomach
Wash the stomach clean and reserve its thickest part. [1] Discard its tough inner and outer membranes, using only the muscular middle layer. [2] Dice the stomach, stir-fry it in boiling hot oil, season, and then plate it. For this Northern method of preparation, the crisper the meat’s texture, the better it is. [3]

The Southern method involves braising the stomach in a mixture of water and wine for a period of two incense sticks until sufficiently soft. It is then eaten dipped in plain salt. The stomach is also delicious braised until soft with the rights seasonings in chicken broth, then smoked and sliced. [4]

Random notes:
[1]: Pig stomach has a fantastic crispness (脆彈, lit. crisp and bouncy) when cooked a-point and a soft springy texture (“Q”) when braised. The only problem is that it’s an absolute pain to clean. There is a lot of slicing, scrubbing, massaging, scraping, rinsing, and parboiling to rid the stomach of its sliminess and smell. Just Google “洗猪肚” (washing pig stomach) and you’ll see numerous articles devoted to the subject and numerous strategies to speed up the process. My mother cleaned tripe using Coca-Cola, which appears to also work for pig stomachs.

[2]:The inner membrane is the mucosa and the outer membrane is the serosa, both of which need to be removed before stir-frying due o their tough and unpleasant textures. Only the orthogonal layers of smooth muscle tissues and connective tissue are used in the dish, providing the a nice “crisp” bite.

[3]: An example of stomach cook in this fashion is the famous Shandong dish: Youbao shuangcui (油爆雙脆, lit. two crisp items stir-fried in boling oil), which consists of rapidly stir-fried “chrysanthemum” cut chicken gizzards and pig stomach.

[4]: Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this together make three methods and not two?

Pork 3: Trotters and Tendons (豬爪、豬筋)


Trotters for sale with their hocks or knuckles still connected. (Credit: MutHwaBC)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Trotters and Tendons
Take just the trotters, remove their large bones, and braise them in plain chicken broth. [1] The flavours of the tendons and trotters are similar and match each other well. In fact, if one has a good ham hock with the trotter [2] it can also be cooked with the tendon to support its flavour.

Random notes:
[1]: Just what does he mean by braising with a “chicken market/factory/arena” (雞肉場)? Google this section of Suiyuan Shidan and we see that 場 was not a typo from Wikisource but rather it was printed this way in the actual text. In reading the sentence as whole, I’m tempted to believe that the Qing Dynasty typesetters that put together the First Edition of Suiyuan Shidan most likely made a mistake, erroneously setting the sort for 場 instead of 湯 (soup/broth). This changes the statement from something that would have been expected: “stew using clear chicken broth” (用雞肉湯清煨之), to something completely non-sensical: “stew using a clear chicken market” (用雞肉場清煨之). I’m going with the “broth” and dumping the “market” interpretation.

[2]: 腿爪 (tuijua) means “leg and trotter” which likely refers to the ham hock (and a bit more) still connected to the trotter. Though it could also mean the entire ham with the trotter, it’s rare in Chinese cooking to cook the entire ham together in one dish in the manner similar to a Western Roasted ham.

Pork 2: Four Ways of Preparing Ham Hock (豬蹄四法)


A delicious looking red-cooked ham hock (紅燒元蹄) prepared using techniques similar to the third method of preparation here. If we look at the bones, this may actually be the knuckle (radius and humerus) and not the hock (mainly tibia). (Credit: Stu Spivack)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Four Ways for Preparing Ham Hock
Take a ham hock [1] with the trotter removed and boil it in plain water until soft. Discard the cooking liquid and add to the meat half a kilogram of good wine, half a wine cup [2] of light soy sauce, four grams of dried tangerine peel, and four or five dried red jujube, then stew the ham hock until meltingly soft. When it is done, remove the orange peel and red jujube and sprinkle the ham hock with green onion, Szechuan pepper, and wine to finish. This is one method. Another method is to stew the hock with wine and autumn sauce in a broth made by simmering dried shrimp in water.

Yet another method is to boil a ham hock until it is fully-cooked, then fry the skin of the hock in vegetable oil until it crisps and turns into crackling. Season and stew the fried ham hock in the manner for red-cooking [3] until done. Some country folk like to pull off this crackling to eat first before stewing, calling it “lifting-off the thin blanket”.

A final method involves taking a ham hock and putting it between two earthenware alm bowls [4] along with wine and autumn sauce, and then steaming it separately from the water for a period of two incense sticks. [5] This dish is known as “Immortal’s Pork”, [6] which is done incredible well at Observer Qian’s abode.

Random notes:
[1]: Ti-pang (蹄膀) is used to refer to the “shin” portion of the pig’s hind-limbs, known also as the ham hock. Some recipes however also suggest using the “fore-arm” portions of the pigs fore-limbs, known also as the knuckle. This article suggests that the hock has the right quantity of fat and the skin is thin, which makes it good for long braising or stewing as required in these recipes.

[2]: Up till now I’ve sorta cheated by translating “bei” (杯) as “cup” when fact is I have no idea how big was Yuan Mei’s cup, much less the size of a “wine cup” (酒杯). Annoyingly there does not appear to be records of how big is one 杯 or 酒杯. One thing’s for sure, they’re not the American Standard cup (236ml). Of the legal volume measures in Qing Dynasty China, “ge” (合) and “shao” (勺) appear to be most likely the units of measurement of Yuan Mei’s cup. Their volumes in metric are 103.54ml and 10.35ml, respectively. Given that the Japanese measure “go”, written also as 合, is also the volume of the standard traditional Japanese wine cup perhaps I can hand-wave myself into believing that the Chinese wine cup is also one 合. So there you go, ignoring the fact that the Japanese “go” is actually 180ml, that we still have no idea how big is one of Yuan Mei’s “cup”, and that all this mess is a guess, let’s just say one “wine cup” (酒杯) is one “ge” (合), or 103.54ml.

[3]: Red-cooking involves slowing braising meat in dark soy-sauce, sugar, wine, and sometimes caramel colouring. Ginger, star anise, and green onions are almost always added to flavour the mix. Black cardamom and cinnamon are also commonly used in flavouring.

[4]: These are of the form of the ceramic bowl that Buddhist monks use for collecting alms. I assume you take two of them and stack one upside down on top the other with the ham hock inside. Or maybe these things already have lids and you put the hock in the smaller bowl inside a bigger bowl and close them up like Russian dolls?

[5]: So how long is the two incense sticks? One incense stick can last anywhere from 5 minutes to more than 1 hour or even 2 hours, depending on its thickness. In my humble opinion, I think these incense sticks here are the one hour kind, making the required steaming time more than 2 hours, though the cooking time may be much longer.

[6]: This may be called this because it uses two Buddhist alms bowls. Or if the bowls for steaming the dish are “stacked one upside on top the other” such that they look a bit like a bottle gourd, a traditional symbol of the Chinese Immortals (神仙) and the mystical medicines that they carry in them.

American Chinese Food in “the Motherland”

An American-Chinese Cuisine restaurant opens in Shanghai to serve the standard horrific mess-of-a-cuisine Westerners here like to call “Chinese food”*. And to great success, no less.


*Okay fine, I admit I enjoy eating it too sometimes.