Saturday, April 21, 2012

[moved] Dongpo Rou (Dongpo Braised Pork Belly) 东坡肉



Just look at that piece of meat, then imagine it being perfectly braised. Yum! It was so good, I had to give you two full-sized pictures instead of my usual one. It is so tender, so flavorful, and the fat has that perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture. Even Jason, who doesn't quite like pork belly because it is so fatty, liked this dish. Thank me later - this is just the perfect way to eat pork belly. I'm sure this would work in a slow cooker too.

I first had Dongpo Pork back in 2000 when my school orchestra was on a performance trip in China. We visited the city of Hangzhou (杭州) , and I remember distinctly having this dish for the first time - I still remember it today, some 12 years later. I haven't had the opportunity to have this dish since then, but when I got my hands on some nice pork belly at the Chinese market (my regular market doesn't sell pork belly!), I knew immediately that I wanted to make Dongpo Pork.

Like many other Chinese dishes, there is a story to Dongpo Pork, which is named after the Chinese scholar Su Dongpo (苏东坡) who lived in the Song Dynasty (宋朝). He was exiled to Huangzhou (黄州) for publicly criticizing the emperor. One day, he was playing Chinese chess with his friend, and forgot that he was braising some pork at home, and left the pork cooking for longer than he had intended. Initially, he thought the pork was ruined, but after he tasted it, he realized that this pork was tastier and more tender than the original recipe. Thus, Dongpo Pork was born.

Later, he was at Hangzhou overseeing a construction project. As a sign of gratitude to the workers, he cooked Dongpo Pork for them. The dish was enjoyed by all, and still remains a signature dish of Hangzhou cuisine.

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