Pork 10: White-Braised Pork (白煨肉)

持牲單::白煨肉
每肉一斤,用白水煮八分好起出,去湯;用酒半斤,鹽二錢半,煨一個時辰。用原湯一半加入滾乾,湯膩為度,再加蔥、椒、木耳、韭菜之類。火先武後文。又一法︰每肉一斤,用糖一錢,酒半斤,水一斤,清醬半茶杯;先放酒,滾肉一二十次,加茴香一錢,收水悶爛,亦佳。

This Okinawan braised pork hock dish (てびち汁) is actually kinda similar to the white-braised pork described in this section. (Credit: Jnn)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::White-braised pork
Boil a jin of pork for in water until it is almost done. Strain out the liquid, then braise the pork in half a jin of wine and two qian of salt for 2 hours. After this, pour back half of the liquid used for boiling the pork and reduce it to the desired richness. To finish, add green onions, Szechuan pepper, wood ears, garlic chives or similar ingredients. When braising meat, the heat must be initially fierce but gentle afterwards. [1]

Another method is to first take a jin of pork, one qian of sugar, half a jin of wine, one jin of water, and a half tea-cup of light soy sauce. Boil the meat first in the wine for ten to twenty gun [2] then add the rest of the ingredients along with one qian of fennel seeds. Continue simmering the meat until soft while reducing the cooking liquid to the desire richness. This preparation is also very good.

Random notes:
[1]: Unlike its better-known relative Red-cooked/braised pork, one rarely sees white-braised pork in modern Chinese cuisine. In fact, a quick google search reveals that most references to the term (白煨肉) is associated with the Suiyuan Shidan. The closest example to white-braised pork that I can think of is the classical preparation of Taiwanese pork hock noodles(猪脚麵線) that uses little to no soy-sauce. The cuilinary trend, sadly, seems to be towards the use of more and more soy-sauce to the point that now the noodles have now split into “clear-cooked” (清燉) and “red-cooked” variants (紅燒), where the meat is cooked with salt or soy-sauce, respectively. Maybe this is just the more “global” shift in Chinese cooking, where people just tend to go more towards the darker soy-sauced/richly flavour items more than the simply flavoured stuff. For instance, the term lu (æ»·) was used exclusively to describe brine, but is now so commonly used in describing soy-sauce based braising that its original meaning had largely changed. Use the terms lu shui (æ»·æ°´), lu wei (滷味), and indeed, lu, is now all about the soy-based stewing liquid, items cooked in said liquid, and the cooking technique using the liquid, respectively.

[2]: Here we go with this gun (滾) business again. In Pork 1: Pig’s Head, I’ve sorta decided it’s 3 seconds/滾 which makes 10-20 gun around 30-60 seconds. This step sounds like boiling off the alcohol.

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Pork 9: Three Ways of Preparing Red-Cooked Pork (紅煨肉三法)

持牲單::紅煨肉三法
或用甜醬,或用秋油,或竟不用秋油、甜醬。每肉一斤,用鹽三錢,純酒煨之;亦有用水者,但須熬乾水氣。三種治法皆紅如琉璃,不可加糖炒色。早起鍋則黃,當可則紅,過遲則紅色變紫,而精肉轉硬。常起鍋蓋,則油走而味都在油中矣。大抵割肉雖方,以爛到不見鋒稜,上口而精肉俱化為妙。全以火候為主。諺雲︰「緊火粥,慢火肉。」至哉言乎!

Red-cooked pork on rice. Looks good. (Credit: FotoosVanRobin )

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Three Ways of Preparing Red-Cooked Pork
To make red-cooked pork, one can used Tianmian sauce [1], autumn sauce, or neither of these two sauces. For each jin of meat, add three qian of salt, and braise it with wine.[2] If one uses water in cooking the pork, it must be boiled away to reduce the cooking liquid. All three methods of preparation produces pork with colours as bright as red cast glass, [3] thus there is no need to prepare caramel in order to colour it.

If the meat is removed from the pot too early it will only be yellowish, but if is cooked for the right amount of time its colour will become an appetizing red. However, if the pork is cooked or soaked for too long in the cooking liquid, the meat will darken from red to purple, with the leaner meats turning dry and hard. [4] Be aware, if one continuously opens the lid to check the cooking pork, the oils inside the pork would be rendered out of the meat along with its flavours. [5]

The pork for this dish should be cut into rough cubes and braised until their edges and corners have become rounded and soft [6], the lean meat melting in ones mouth. The success of this dish depends wholly on the strength of the cooking heat. A proverb goes: “A burning hot flame for congee, but a slow flame for meat.” What a pertinent saying!

Random notes:
[1]: Translated by some as ” sweet bean sauce”, a type of fermented bean paste made with a large amount of white flour or dough giving it a special sweetness. It’s also the sauce one uses when wrapping and eating Peking duck.

[2]: One jin (斤) is 597g while one qian (錢) is 3.7g

[3]: Liuli (琉璃) is considered one of the precious items in Chinese Buddhism along with gold, silver, giant clam shell, agate, amber, and coral. What is confusing is that depending on the source, luili could either refer to cast glass or a deep blue stone (likely lapis lazuli). In this case, Yuan Mei’s red coloured liuli is clearly not the latter, which means that he was referring to the red cast glass produced in Tibet that was very popular in Ming and Qing Dynasty China.

[4]: Some recipe books suggest that the cooking liquid be strained out from a red-cooked dishes like this and only added back in when serving, all to prevent the meat from being made salty, darkened, and hardened by the sauce.

[5]: See Things to Avoid 11: Rendering Fat (戒走油)

[6]: Basically the meat should be so tender as to barely be able to hold its form.

Pork 8: White-sliced Pork (白片肉)

持牲單::白片肉
須自養之豬,宰後入鍋,煮到八分熟,泡在湯中,一個時辰取起。將豬身上行動之處,薄片上桌。不冷不熱,以溫為度。此是北人擅長之菜。南人效之,終不能佳。且零星市脯,亦難用也。寒士請客,寧用燕窩,不用白片肉,以非多不可故也。割法須用小快刀片之,以肥瘦相參,橫斜碎雜為佳,與聖人「割不正不食」一語,截然相反。其豬身肉之名目甚多。滿洲「跳神肉」最妙。

This is not exactly white-sliced pork but a spicier (and over-sauced) variant called white pork with garlic sauce (蒜泥白肉). Om nom nom nom… (Credit: Alpha)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::White-sliced pork
This dish should ideally be prepared using a pig that one had raised in their own household. Slaughter the pig and boil it in a large pot until partially cooked. Turn off the heat and let the meat soak in the hot liquid for two hours before removing. [1] Cut off the well exercised meat from the thighs or shoulders and serve them thinly sliced. The meat should neither be hot nor cold, but pleasantly warm.

Northerners are especially adept to the preparation of this dish. Although Southerners try their best, they are not quite able to successfully make it. Note too that the successful preparation of the dish requires using the whole animal and cannot be made from an assortment of pork cuts from the market.[2] It is for this reason that when poor scholars [3] have guests over for meals, it is better for them to serve bird’s nest rather than white-sliced pork since the latter cannot be served or prepared well in small quantities.

The way to cut the meat for this dish is to slice it using a small sharp knife, mixing the leaner with the fattier slices of meat. The meat can be sliced in any manner desire, be it against the grain or obliquely. As well, broken or torn slices of meat should be served together with everything else regardless of appearance. In this case, one does opposite of the Sage’s admonishment: “Do not eat things that are haphazardly sliced”. By serving it this way, one can experience the many types and cuts of meat that can be found in a pig. The Manchurian “Ceremonial pork” is the best. [4]

Random notes:
[1]: One old Chinese day is split into 12 Chinese hours (時辰). Each Chinese hours is 2 hours. Incidentally, this “boil quickly and let it sit” method is same one uses to prepare white-cut chicken.

[2]: I don’t think anyone does this nowadays since one would have to find quite a large cooking pot and stove. I’ve heard of people buying a shoulder, lower ham, a belly and braising them together for red-cooked pork, but never for white-cut or white sliced pork. Usually it’s just one cut of meat boiled in a pot.

[3]: Aptly named the “scholars of winter’s chill”, hanshi (寒士) are the less successful scholars who did not perform well enough in their examinations to gain recognition and state employment to lift themselves out of poverty. While the term may literally describe the cold winds these individuals have to endure, it likely also points at their feelings of dejection from their lack of success.

[4]: Tiao shen rou (跳神肉) or literally “Jumping God pork” comes from the pigs sacrificed for the Tiao shen yi (跳神儀) ceremony. I think it’s something like a Manchurian version of Taiwanese da bai bai (大拜拜).

Pork 7: Tenderloin (豬里肉)

持牲單::豬里肉
豬里肉,精而且嫩。人多不食。嘗在揚州謝蘊山太守席上食而甘之。雲以里肉切片,用縴粉團成小把入蝦湯中,加香蕈、紫菜清煨,一熟便起。

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 (é®®) 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)

持牲單::豬腰
腰片炒枯則木,炒嫩則令人生疑;不如煨爛,蘸椒鹽食之為佳。或加作料亦可。只宜手摘,不宜刀切。但須一日工夫,才得如泥耳。此物只宜獨用,斷不可攙入別菜中,最能奪味而惹腥。煨三刻則老,煨一日則嫩。

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)

持牲單::豬肺二法
洗肺最難,以冽盡肺管血水,剔去包衣為第一著。敲之、僕之,掛之、倒之,抽管割膜,工夫最細。用酒水滾一日一夜。肺縮小如一片白芙蓉,浮於湯面,再加作料,上口如泥。湯崖少宰宴客,每碗四片,已用四肺矣。近人無此工夫,只得將肺拆碎,入雞湯煨爛亦佳。得野雞湯更妙,以清配清故也。用好火腿煨亦可。

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)

持牲單::豬肚二法
將肚洗淨,取極厚處,去上下皮,單用中心,切骰子塊,滾油炮炒,加作料起鍋,以極脆為佳。此北人法也。南人白水加酒煨兩枝香,以極爛為度,蘸清鹽食之亦可;或加雞湯作料煨爛,燻切亦佳。

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?