Tribulations of a Timid Taiwanese Trainee-chef - Episode 3
This new working title comes to you courtesy of Sharon. “Trainee-chef” is still a work in progress but at least now it accurately reflects who I am (Taiwanese).
As mentioned before, when my parents leave for extended periods of time I am gifted the contents of their refrigerator. This time, not only did it include a lot of eggs, it also included a few chunks of pork belly – so I decided to attempt a version of the classic Taiwanese dish, 滷肉饭 (lu rou fan – braised pork over rice). I think 99 times out of 100, if you ask someone what is “a typical Taiwanese dish”, they’ll say lu rou fan. It’s greasy, savory, simple and delicious.
Since it’s a very typical dish, there are a lot of recipes floating around. I decided to loosely follow and combine a recipe that my mom suggested (the only one in English out of a few that she sent me) and this one from The Woks of Life, a site that has come up quite a few times when I’ve been looking up Chinese recipes. The Woks of Life recipe called for spices wrapped in a cheesecloth, which I did not have and did not have any interest in obtaining, so I decided to just use Chinese Five Spice as seasoning.
Not pictured here are the shiitake mushrooms, which I forgot I had bought until after I took this photo. Next time I want to try using dried shiitake mushrooms, because apparently they are “stronger in flavor.” Right when the mushrooms started cooking they already had a super fragrant, yummy smell to them so I am intrigued to know how much more flavorful they can be! Both recipes had me blanching the pork before chopping it to smaller pieces and braising. To be honest I’m not sure why, but I did it anyways.
As far as I could tell, the steps were just: start with the extra things (onions, garlic, mushrooms), add in the pork, add in the seasonings (salt, sugar, five spice) and liquids (water, soy sauce) and then let it simmer for a while. So that’s what I did. If I were to do this again I would try and make a bigger portion, because I think you want to cover the pork fully with liquid while simmering, which was harder with less pork. I didn’t really measure out the ingredients, because I wanted to be authentic. Also I was lazy. Right when I sprinkled in the five spice powder it already started to smell like what I expected it to smell like, which made the experiment already seem pretty successful even though I hadn’t tasted it yet.
And that was it! The next step was just to wait. I originally put the lid on the dutch oven, but then learned that if you want the liquid to simmer away, it’s better to keep it uncovered because the liquid will evaporate. (SCIENCE!) So I left it uncovered for the next hour after that. Very yummy, with easy prep.
For next time – more pork, dried shiitake mushrooms, and maybe cooking rice wine? A lot of the recipes I looked up listed rice wine as an ingredient but my mom said it wasn’t necessary (and my resulting dish tasted fine without it, so I agree) – but I also couldn’t find any that wasn’t the Mirin sweet rice wine (like used for sushi rice). I really need to go to an Asian market sometime soon… another suggestion was to make this in a slow cooker (or Instant Pot if you have that). Cooking it in my dutch oven was easy enough, but if I ever do a bigger batch I might consider putting it in the slow cooker.