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Home Cooking 5

Peking soy-paste pork and related meat specialties

eatzalot | Jan 6, 201110:37 AM

Practical follow-up on a type of cooking I picked up from Kenneth Lo's 1979 book _Chinese Regional Cooking._ (Spun off from thread on pre-1980 cookbooks that helped to popularize Sichuan food in the US; neither this meat specialty nor Lo's book is specifically about Sichuan.)

Describing them briefly without recipes, Lo (1979) characterizes these cooked marinated meats as a simple Winter charcuterie or preservation popular around Peking: Chiang Rou, Chiang Ya, and Chiang Chi, or soy-paste (Chiang) pork, duck, and chicken. Lo says meat prepared this way "will generally keep for a week in a cold place" and is served cold in bite-size pieces or slices, with rice. "The jellified gravy [is] exceptionally delicious with hot soft rice or Congee." Can anyone blame me for immediately cooking several variations of this after reading that in the 1980s?

These Peking specialties recall Canton's famous red roasted pork (char siu), familiar to dim-sum fans as a filling, and used in other Cantonese specialties. It's seen hanging in some US Cantonese restaurants that use a lot of it. Also, Fuchsia Dunlop gives a recipe for a Sichuan relative of Lo's pork: nitrate-cured "jiang rou," differently seasoned. (The nitrate preservative would make it a flavorful variant of traditional Anglo-American "salt pork.")

Lo's Peking-style soy paste is a "thick form of soy sauce." One of my two neighborhood Chinese grocers (whose condiment selection rivals Chinese supermarkets -- we have those too, farther away, the Ranch 99 chain) has Kimlan brand "Soy Paste" in bottles like soy sauce. For flavor rather than preservation, after mentioning it here in the cookbooks thread I made a simple form of chiang rou and froze it in convenient portions. Marinated lean pork loin in a Dutch oven with the soy paste, abundant crushed fresh garlic and ginger, a little tamari, white wine, and chili bean paste. After a few hours refrigerated marination (overnight is better) I sprinkled some finely chopped scallions and shallots (on general principles), slowly heated the heavy pot, and braised at gentle simmer a few hours until tender. Along the way I added a pint of strong unsalted chicken stock (not to miss out on that prized "jellified gravy"). Cooled, chilled, sliced, divided, froze.

It's delicious, but it illustrates a broader principle I've learned. Having seasoned cooked pork loin on hand, frozen in small portions, is extremely handy for adding a flavorful meat presence to simple noodle dishes, soups, etc. (Much as char-siu is a convenience in Cantonese cooking.)

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