Monday, December 5, 2011

Joak (Rice Porrige or Congee)

Joak, Jook, or Juk (cantonese) Zhou (Mandarin) Rice Porrige or Congee

This is akin to fried rice, in that in Asia it is a staple comfort food with endless variations in the details of the recipe and condiments.  There is not even agreement regarding the type of rice to use.  All over the Asian continent, hundreds of millions of people begin their day in homes and cafes with Joak , yet it's simplicity belies the fragrant, silky deliciousness of rice porridge.   Rice, water or stock and a dash of salt, simmered for an hour or two--the rest is an accent, and depends on what is available in the kitchen.  It is also a major offering at dim sum, though it is hidden inside a warmer, on a cart, alongside a stack of bowls and chopped green onion.

9 cups stock (see techniques section on homemade chicken stock) or water.
1 cup short grain rice (calrose rice, not glutinous rice; long grain rice can be used)
salt to taste

Rinse the rice two or three times and drain through a sieve.  Add the rice to a pot with the stock or water and bring to a boil, stirring often.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding stock or water as needed to adjust texture.  Add salt to taste.  Joak is generally the texture of a thick soup or batter, and the grains of rice are barely intact.

As for the garnishes and additions, here is a list of typical items, ordered from the most to the least common, although it is purely a matter of personal taste.  Feel free to use none or one or several…

You tiao (Chinese fried cruller, shown in photo)
Green onion, sliced thin, diagonally
Fresh ginger, finely shredded
Pickled ginger, finely shredded
Pickled vegetable
Chinese black mushroom, reconstituted, stem removed, slivered

Thousand year old egg, cut into eighths, lengthwise
Fish, filet, cut in pieces
Lop cheong (Chinese sausage) sliced thin, diagonally
Pork "dumplings"  This simple addition can be made as follows:

Mix 8 oz.  ground pork with a scallion, finely minced and 1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced.  About 4 minutes before serving, pluck a teaspoon or so of the pork mixture with the fingers and drop it in the simmering joak.  Repeat for as many dumplings as desired, then gently submerge the meat and allow to cook for 4 minutes, or until firm.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hui Guo Rou Twice cooked pork

Hui Guo Rou Twice Cooked Pork

Hui Guo Rou (literally, "return to the pot pork") is a classic Sichuanese dish. So much so that it appears often on Chinese restaurant menus in the west; however, as always, the sea change takes its toll on the traditional recipe. Stateside, you might find bell peppers, carrots, green cabbage and sugar as main ingredients, with the meat almost as an afterthought. The treatment in this post reflects our experience of the dish in Chengdu, Sichuan, as well as referencing Fuchsia Dunlop's version in her superb book, Land of Plenty.

Gathering together the ingredients may take a bit of effort: the traditional hui guo rou uses several ingredients that will only be found in Asian groceries, including green garlic (saun miao), Sichuan chili bean paste (dou ban jiang) and sweet bean paste (tian main jiang) . Dunlop points out that one can substitute hoisin sauce for the sweet bean paste, but its distinctive sweetnesss and flavor is a bit overpowering.

12 oz pork belly, skin on

3 green garlic (suan miao) or leeks (sliced diagonally) 2 1/2 - 3 oz.)
1" x 1/2 " pc ginger, sliced thin
1 TAB rice wine or sherry (Shao Xing Chiu)
2 tsp Sichuan chili bean paste (duo ban jian)
1 TAB Sweet bean paste (tian mian jiang)
1 round tsp sugar

2 tsp fermented black beans (dou chi)
1 tsp dark soy
1 Tab peanut or other vegetable oil 

Bring 2/3 quarts of water (you can throw in a couple of chopped scallions and 3 or 4 slices of ginger if the stock will be used later) to a gentle boil; add meat and, depending on the thickness of the belly, simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and allow to cool in the refrigerator at least a couple of hours--if possible overnight. When completely cool, cut the belly piece into sections so that when it is sliced thin across the striations of fat and meat, the pieces will be approximately 1" x 2" x 1/8".

If you are using leeks, remove dryer outer sheaths, slice as indicated and stir fry the leak slivers to soften them. 

Make ready all the ingredients on the list. When the oil is smoking hot, stir fry pork slices until nicely brown on the edges. Don't overcook. Remember, you're frying what is basically bacon, so if you cook the pork until it is well browned, it will be crisp and somewhat tough. If you fry it only slightly, it will turn out soft, gelatinous and obviously fatty. When lightly browned, splash with wine, move the meat up the sides of the wok and add ginger slices, sliced green garlic or softened leeks, and chili bean paste. Stir fry for 30 seconds, add sweet bean paste for 30 seconds, and then toss in sugar and dark soy.  Toss the mixture in the wok for a minute or so, plate the hui guo rou and garnish with sesame oil.