I’ve got to the stage that I find myself rushing home from the city centre with that “can’t wait” feeling whenever I have a new recipe from Shan to try out. Of course I inevitably have questions for her when it it 3.30 in the morning in Beijing so I’m usually on my own interpreting her instructions when it comes to my first attempt at a dish.
This is Shan’s latest recipe and it is a common dish in the Northeast of China. What struck me immediately about it is what good use it makes of fresh Irish ingredients – pork, carrots, leeks and potatoes. It is easy to make and took about 45 minutes from the time I got in the door to get it on the table. Shan says its best served with rice.
When I’m cooking Chinese food I usually only need a wok and one saucepan and on a weeknight I serve straight from the wok to individual bowls which also cuts down on the washing up.
Pork Rib & Potato Stew (tu dou dun pai gu 土豆炖排骨)
- Pork rib chops (500g, ask your butcher to chop them to 3cm long pieces)
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 2 big potatoes
- 2 carrots
- 1 leek
- Vegetable cooking oil or groundnut oil
- 2 dried chillies
- 1/2 tsp of Sichuan pepper
- Light soy sauce
- Oyster sauce (optional)
- Chinese rice vinegar
- Small piece of cinnamon stick (optional)
- 1 star anise
- Put water in a pot big enough to boil the pork ribs.
- While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the vegetables.
- Peel the garlic cloves and cut them in half.
- Wash vegetables and peel potato and carrots.
- Cut the potato, carrots and leek into chunks of about the same size as the meat to add to the stew later.
- Line up the other ingredients in the order used in cooking below.
- When the water is boiling, put the pork pieces in and boil them until they are nearly cooked and have lost their pinkess, then drain them. This takes about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Put 6 tbs of cooking oil in the wok, heat up and add the Sichuan pepper, half of a chopped leek and the dried chillies, then add the drained pork ribs in and stir fry them.
- When the ribs are looking golden, add the following ingredients with 30 seconds between each one (you have to keep stirring all the time):
- 2 tsps sugar;
- 2 tbs light soy sauce (or 1 each of soy sauce and oyster sauce);
- 1 tbs Chinese vinegar;
- Chopped garlic, star anise and cinnamon (optional).
- Stir fry until the pork ribs look quite dark due to the soy sauce.
- Add a generous amount of water to the wok, put lid on and wait until the water starts boiling (if you are not sure how much water to add in the beginning, add just enough to cover the ribs then add more when you put the vegetables in).
- Add potato, carrots and the rest of the leek – the water should almost submerge all the vegetables but not quite that much.
- Bring the water to boil then reduce the heat so it’s just simmering. Put the lid on and you can come back in 10 minutes to mix it a bit and add salt to taste.
- Meanwhile you can cook the rice.
- Put the lid on again for another 10 minutes or until the water is reduced to thick sauce, then it’s done.
- Remove the star anise and cinnamon stick before serving.
Variations to the dish:
You can add green beans or bell peppers to the dish but you have to add them when the potatoes are half-cooked so they don’t get too “mashy”. You can also replace the pork rib with oxtail or chicken pieces if you prefer. You can use any beer or Guiness to replace the water to stew. However if you use oxtail, red wine is a better choice and it should be added when you are frying the oxtails in the beginning. (I need to check with Shan if she would omit any of the other flavourings if using beer or wine).
Yet another tasty dish which we really enjoyed. It’s like an Irish stew with a bit of a kick but is not very spicy as the potato absorbs the flavours of the chilli and Sichuan pepper. For that reason it’s a good introduction to Chinese food for the uninitiated.
I used chunks of pork belly on the bone and was surprised at how well boiling them for a few minutes tenderised them before frying them off in the oil. I gave them 5 minutes boiling time but the next time I think I will give them a little bit longer so that they can become even more tender. The combination of oil and water with the seasonings gave the meat an interesting texture and created a rich, silky sauce into which the half cloves of garlic had melted. I was afraid that the amount of oil used at the beginning would make the dish taste oily but it didn’t.
The quantity in the recipe would probably be sufficient for 4 with rice but was gobbled up by us three adults (my niece Jody is staying with us and she has already become a Shananigans guinea pig!)
My first attempt at the dish is pictured below. I notice my dishes nearly always come out paler than Shan’s which I’d like to think is down to lighting or the use of a darker soy sauce but I suspect is more to do with wok technique. Still lots to learn.
If you try this dish or a variation of it at home let me know how you get on. I love to hear your comments.