Pork 14: Pork in Porcelain Urn (磁壇裝肉)

持牲單::磁壇裝肉
放礱糠中慢煨。法與前同。總須封口。

Rice chaff can be used for cooking. Interesting. (Credit: Green)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Pork in Porcelain Urn
Prepare the pork as in the previous recipes, [1] but braise it by placing the covered bowl into smouldering rice chaff. [2] It is important for the lid of the bowl to be tightly sealed in this preparation. [3]

Random notes:
[1]: This recipe probably tasted more or less like the previous “Dry-Steamed” Pork (乾鍋蒸肉) and Pork in Lidded Bowl (蓋碗裝肉) recipes, which in turn tastes more or less like pork stewed in a crock.

[2]: First time I’ve heard of a Chinese baking technique using burning rice chaff. A rareness in among rareness.

[3]: Seal your container well, oherwise the pork will end up tasting like smoky rice chaff.

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Pork 13: Pork in Lidded Bowl (蓋碗裝肉)

持牲單::蓋碗裝肉
放手爐上。法與前同。

The stove used for this recipe is probably less like a hand-warmer and more like a charcoal burning stove used in this Thai Chim-chum (Credit: Takeaway)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Pork in Lidded Bowl
Prepare the pork as with the previous recipe. [1] However, place the large bowl directly on top of a hand-warming stove [2] to cook.

Random notes:
[1]: The recipe probably tastes more or less like the previous “Dry-Steamed” Pork (乾鍋蒸肉) recipe, which is in turn more or less pork stewed in a crock.

[2]: Shoulu (手爐) is a small hand-warmer carried by people in their sleeves during the old dynastic days to warm their hands on particularly cold days. Whether this dish uses an actual hand-warming stove or just a small stove, I don’t know.

Pork 12: “Dry-Steamed” Pork (乾鍋蒸肉)

持牲單::乾鍋蒸肉
用小磁缽,將肉切方塊,加甜酒、秋油,裝大缽內封口,放鍋內,下用文火乾蒸之。以兩枝香為度,不用水。秋油與酒之多寡,相肉而行,以蓋滿肉面為度。

Two Chinese shaguo (沙鍋) would work perfectly for this recipe. (Credit: Qurren)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Dry-steamed [1] pork
Chop the pork into cubes and combine with sweet wine and autumn sauce in a small bowl. [2] Place the small bowl into a larger bowl, then seal the large bowl and place it into the wok to “dry-steam” for a period of two incense sticks without any water.

The quantity of autumn sauce and wine to use depends on one’s taste and the quantity of meat being prepared. In general, the braising liquids should just cover the top of the meat.

 

Random notes:
[1]: Yuan Mei’s dry-steaming process is basically using a wok to do Western style dutch-oven/ceramic pot type stewing, somewhat akin to a cassoulet.

[2]: Actually cibo (磁缽) means “earthenware mortar” or “earthenware alms bowl”, basically a thick-walled ceramic bowl. By cooking with one thick-walled ceramic vessel inside another all baked inside a wok, the actual cooking heat would be low, slow, even, and perfect for braising.

 

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 (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 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?

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

持牲單::豬蹄四法
蹄膀一隻,不用爪,白水煮爛,去湯;好酒一斤,清醬酒杯半,陳皮一錢,紅棗四五個煨爛。起鍋時,用蔥、椒、酒潑入,去陳皮、紅棗,此一法也。又一法︰先用蝦米煎湯代水,加酒、秋油煨之。又一法︰用蹄膀一隻,先煮熟,用素油灼皺其皮,再加作料紅煨。有土人好先掇食其皮,號稱「揭單被」。又一法︰用蹄膀一個,兩缽合之,加酒、加秋油,隔水蒸之,以二枝香為度,號「神仙肉」。錢觀察家制最精。

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.