Category Archives: pork

Easy Chinese style red braised pork belly and ribs (红烧肉)

I promised more Chinese food posts from a dinner I made with my boyfriend earlier this year, so here is part II. Is there anything more heavenly than a bowl of steaming hot rice with a dish of Chinese style red braised pork belly to go with it? No, don’t even think about it, the the answer is no. Red braised pork belly is one of those Chinese comfort food treats that I look forward to every time I visit my parents, because they’re the only ones that can make it so perfect (my dad is a pro at this one). Tender pork belly and ribs with the meat falling off, bathed in a luscious soy-based sauce that is just the right combination of savory and sweet (the signature of a Shanghainese dish done right)… just the thought of it is making me dizzy. My dad’s version is even more uber because he adds kao fu (烤麸), which is “steamed wheat gluten”, aka juicy cubes of spongy vegetarian protein that absorb all the wonderful sauce cooking in the pot with the pork belly. Trying to describe kao fu with words feels so wrong, because it tastes amazing but sounds terrible in English. Just trust me on the kao fu.

Anyway, that’s not the point today, because today I’m writing about a super simple version of red braised pork belly that I can make easily away from home, and it still tastes great (I’d say it’s 8/10 if 10 is the traditional version). Whereas the traditional version can get complicated with things like rock sugar, star anise, five-spice, and maltose, this recipe uses easy-to-obtain ingredients, which is especially nice for students or people with small pantries. The secret ingredient? Coke. Yep, the soda. A few years ago, I described to you that my mom made a similar red-braised chicken dish in her pressure cooker called Cola chicken, which uses a can of coke and soy sauce. The same concept is adapted here to make quick and easy red braised pork belly, because the phosphoric acid in coke is a great meat tenderizer, and the sweetness blends perfectly with the soy sauce to create that mix of sweet and savory necessary for a red braise. The process involves first blanching your meat in boiling water to seal the surface and remove some of the bloody impurities. Then you simply saute the meat in a pot, add your liquids, and simmer away! I recommend letting the meat simmer for as long as possible before you eat it, so that it has time to achieve the absolutely falling-apart texture, but if you’re in a pinch, about an hour or so will get you to an acceptable texture. As always with Chinese recipes, play with the recipe until you find something that works for you! And for those of you uneasy about eating the fatty pork belly… in Asian culture the women believe that the pork skin with its high collagen content is great for your skin. Or just… tell yourself that it’s okay to indulge every once in a while ;)

 

Easy red braised pork belly


Easy Chinese Style Red Braised Pork Belly and Ribs (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pork belly and ribs (ask your butcher at the store to cut it up for you into chunks)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 slices ginger
  • 2 stalks of scallions chopped into 1″ segments
  • 1/2 cup Coke (use classic if possible)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine
  • Pepper

Directions:

1. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil. Blanch the meat for 2 minutes in the water, then drain and set aside.

2. In a skillet, heat some cooking oil on medium-high and saute the ginger, garlic, and scallions for a few minutes. Toss in the blanched pork belly and rib chunks, and sear until lightly browned.

3. Transfer to a medium saucepot, add in the coke, water, dark and light soy sauces, rice wine, and a few dashes of pepper. Make sure the pot allows the liquid to cover most of the meat. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

4. Simmer for 1 and a half hours, adding the carrots when there is 30 minutes remaining. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks and that the liquid does not boil dry. The sauce should start to reduce nicely. You may optionally stir in a cornstarch slurry (mix together 1 tbsp cornstarch with a few tbsp cold water, and slowly stir into your boiling sauce), watching until your sauce becomes the desired thickness. I left my sauce as is, not quite so thick.

5. Serve with a side of sauteed Shanghai bok choy and fluffy white rice. Did I mention this was heaven?

Easy red braised pork belly

Previously, I wrote about the honey soy sauce glazed chicken wings which was also part of this Chinese dinner. Look for parts III and IV (a Chinese vegetable dish and soup) coming in the future!

P.S. You may have noticed that the look of My Edible Memories has changed a little! I switched to a new theme today that I thought was a more appropriate feel for a food blog. Let me know what you think!


Saturday, May 5th – Senior Ball

11:30AM Campus – en route to Kendall Square
1 strawberry flavored Special K bar with a big gulp of water.

I went to bed at 7am this morning because I was up late writing a paper for a humanities class. I only got about 4 hours of sleep, and woke up at 11am. No time for breakfast/lunch! This is the last minute of the last minute prep work I needed to do for senior ball. I had to go to the Cambridgeside Galleria to buy jewelry and some miscellaneous senior ball supplies:

1:20PM Highlights Salon on Newbury St.
Appointment to get my hair done in an updo with my friend Karen. The stylists were really nice, and even brought me a cup of tea with honey while I was in the middle of getting my hair done. I brought in pictures of the hairstyles that I was interested in, but the stylist kind of went off and started doing her own thing. Oh well haha. It took an hour and a half to do the whole updo, but I liked how it turned out. It was a non-symmetrical updo, with a mixture of curls, pinned up sections, and even a mini-braid added for variety, and the stylist left my shorter hair in front as a soft side-swept piece to frame my face.


4:00PM Dorm Room
Painting my fingernails and toenails (two different shades of pink), then eating part of a salad topped with grilled sha cha (Chinese satay) seasoned chicken while waiting for the polish to dry. I didn't want to go to senior ball starving, but I also wanted to save room for the dinner which was in about 3 hours, so I ate about 3 oz. of the chicken and 1/3 of the salad greens dipped in a vinaigrette dressing made with sha cha seasoning, sesame oil, vinegar, and scallions. According to Wikipedia, sha cha sauce/paste is made with soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chilis, brill fish, and dried shrimp. Interesting, I couldn't tell from the flavor.

7:30PM The Sheraton in Copley Square
I met my boyfriend at about 6pm and he gave me my corsage. It was so pretty! We went to the florist to order the corsage and the boutonniere together so that they'd match. I got light pink roses of different sizes for my corsage, decorated with purple accent flowers and a white satin ribbon. I didn't know which dress I was wearing when I chose the corsage, so I tried to get one that would match most colors lol.

Dinner started off at the Sheraton with a basket of rolls and a plate of little balls of butter. The bread was okay, but I was slightly weirded out by the butter balls. I prefer other butter designs much more. The little balls just seemed odd.

Next came a salad of  baby greens, baby yellow beets, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, and a slice of goat cheese, all drizzled with champagne vinaigrette dressing. The salad was actually pretty good, I really liked the combination of sunflower seeds with the sweetness of dried cherries. The goat cheese was soft and mild, which gave the salad some creaminess to balance the vinaigrette. Even the baby beets were good, they were subtle, and reminded me of squash.

For our entree we had a choice of pork chops, baked chicken, or vegetarian napoleon. I went with the pork chops, and while it was okay, I had expected much better. The pork chop itself came as a thick chop maybe an inch or more thick. In effect, the middle was dry and difficult to cut and chew. The pork chop was topped with a little bit of bbq sauce, and some tiny fried sweet potato strings that looked more like shaved sweet potato bits than anything else. The pork had mixed vegetables on the side, including asparagus, peppers, squash, and a small carrot. You can't see it in the picture but there's a dallop of mashed sweet potatoes under the pork chop, which was creamy but infused with ginger (I dislike ginger). The dinner was served with peach and ginger chutney and beurre blanc sauce. I poured a little bit of each on my plate to see if it would go with the pork, but all I really wanted was more of the bbq sauce on the pork.

After dinner we got a dessert that was unfortunately very disappointing. It was supposed to be tiramisu with strawberries and raspberries drizzled with chocolate. We got a tiramisu that I wouldn't even consider a real tiramisu. It had no espresso soaked layer on the bottom! It was just a layer of marscapone sandwiched between two layers of sponge cake, then dusted with cocoa on top. Therefore, it was terribly dry for a tiramisu (though perhaps okay if I consider it just a regular sponge cake with cream), and we didn't even get the strawberries with it. For a dessert-lover like me, this was such a tragedy.

Dinner was served with ice water only, and if you wanted other drinks you had to buy it from a cash bar. The menu clearly stated that we were supposed to get complimentary iced tea with dinner, but that never appeared at any point during the ball. Bummer.

1:00AM Baker Dorm 4th Floor Lounge – Senior ball afterparty, a.k.a. watching a movie, munching, playing foozball
2 drinks of peach Schnapps mixed with Mountain Dew, 1.5 powdered sugar covered crunchy round things that looked like donut holes, and a small handful of pretzels.

All in all I had a fun night, and a lot of fun prepping for the ball this past week. It was like re-living the excitement of prom all over again, except this time I didn't have parents to fuss over what I wore, who I went with, what I did, etc. I also loved seeing all my friends and classmates dressed up really nice, you don't get a chance to see that during the rest of the time at college because our formals are never quite that formal. All the ladies had such beautiful dresses in all these pretty colors! And men in tuxes make me weak in the knees :) Here are a few pictures from the ball:


Saturday, April 28th

11:00AM Dorm Room
1/2 entree of spaghetti and meat sauce (1 cup spaghetti pasta, 1/3 cup tomato meat sauce, parmesan cheese sprinkled on top), 1/2 cup of zucchini. I bought this entree from Baker dining last night since I knew I had to eat an early lunch today. I was going to volunteer for a whole afternoon at a hepatitis B and liver cancer run/walk here in Boston, called LIVERight. The spaghetti was pretty good, although the meat part of the meat sauce I thought was a bit too chunky, like chopped up meatballs. I would have preferred good old ground beef. The flavor wasn't bad though. But I was in a rush anyway so it didn't matter to me.

2:00PM LIVERight Run/walk at Artesani Park
1 Asian pear and 1 sample-sized Promax protein bar (cookies 'n cream flavored). Volunteered are allowed to eat the free food provided for the runners, so I grabbed a snack to eat while the runners were doing their thing. It was a beautiful day for a run, the only downside was that there were puddles at the park from yesterday's rain, so it was wet and muddy on the grass. Luckily the run took place on pavement.

The Promax protein bar sample was actually pretty good, I thought. It's not really cookies and cream flavored, more like chocolate flavored, with chocolate cookie bits mixed in, and covered with a white yogurt coating. Still, I liked it quite a bit. Granted, I don't have that much experience with protein bars, so I can't really say that it's the best brand ever, but from the ones I have tried, including Zone and Luna, I thought Promax had the best taste and texture. Sure, all protein bars will be a bit powdery and have some aftertaste, but this one had minimal aftertaste, and the powdery texture was offset by the crunchy cookie bits. The chocolate flavor also helped mask any unpleasantness. All in all, a fun bar to eat. I grabbed like 25 of these mini-bars (about 1/4 of the size of a real protein bar) after the event was over, since we had tons of leftovers. They'll be good for breakfast, lunch, and snacking. I also brought back some apples, oranges, and bananas. Yay for free fruit!


5:00PM Dorm Room
1 Promax mini-bar. Tired after a long 5 hours at LIVERight.

12:00AM Dorm Room – Late Dinner
Dumplings (6 regular sized ones and about 20 tiny ones… approx 11 regular sized in all). Yeah, didn't have anything else to eat in my room and I didn't feel like ordering out, so I boiled the last batch of dumplings I had in my freezer. I kind of had to mix and match haha.


Friday, April 20th

8:30AM Dorm Room – Getting Ready for Lab
1 packet of Quaker instant oatmeal, cinnamon roll flavored, prepared with water. I haven't had oatmeal in a while. I used to eat it every morning before work about two summers ago. Must have gotten sick of it that way. I had to go into work early this morning, so I thought I would try and fill up more during breakfast.

3:30PM Cambridgeside Galleria Foodcourt – Thai Accent
1/3 entree of pad thai with roast pork. I had surprisingly little appetite after having starved all afternoon, since there was no Friday Forum to get free food from today. Maybe it's like how sometimes you get so hungry that you feel nauseous so you just can't eat a lot. But it was tasty at least. I always get the pad thai with roast pork whenever I eat at the galleria's foodcourt. Mostly because the other stuff, like Taco Bell and BK don't interest me at all.

9:00PM Vinny T's in Copley Square
A few pieces of thin Focaccia bread smeared with fresh roasted garlic, 1/2 entree of pollo alla fiorentina (penne with spinach, red peppers, chicken breast, in a light cream sauce with pecorino romano), and part of a chocolate bomba for dessert ("dense chocolate genoise with layers of rich mousse, hazelnuts and shaved white chocolate with creme Anglaise.")

Mmmm what a yummy dinner. I love Vinny T's bread with roasted garlic. It's so much more vibrant than other restaurants with their rolls and butter. Very comfort-food-like, though a little bit messy to eat. Don't ever go to Vinny T's unless you are comfortable with the both of you smelling like garlic all night. Greg and I polished off practically one whole head of roasted garlic, haha.

The chicken pasta entree was pretty good too. I especially loved the taste of the fresh, tender spinach in the pasta. I have always loved spinach, but only when it is freshly blanched. If I ever order this dish again, I'm sure I will try and ask for extra spinach in it.

And finally, the chocolate bomba dessert. It was super rich, which was a bit much for me after having pasta for dinner. I originally wanted tiramisu, but my boyfriend wasn't feeling it. The chocolate bomba was a slice of cake that had a layer of chocolate cake on the bottom, and the top 2/3 was a layer of chocolate mousse that was almost fudge-like. It was sprinkled with roasted hazelnuts (yum!), and sitting in a little pool of creme Anglaise, which is a vanilla-flavored custard sauce. It was really good, but just hard to eat very much of, since it was so rich. I'll put up a picture of it later when I get it off of Greg's cell phone.


Saturday, April 14th

1:00PM Simmons Housemasters' Brunch
1 buttermilk pancake with syrup, slice of honey spiral ham, 1 oz of smoked salmon, small handful of baby carrot sticks. 1 glass of freshly blended fruit smoothie. The housemasters at Simmons always have the best brunches. They make fresh pancakes, french toast, and eggs on portable griddles. And there's always smoked salmon and spiral ham, as well as random other yummies like coffee cake, quiche, vegetables, bagels, yogurt, cereal, crackers & cheese. The housemaster himself is always manning the smoothie station making his famous smoothie recipe, with fresh fruits, juices, and yogurt. Greg and I like to bring our own cups so that we can get more smoothie than with the tiny plastic cups they provide :) Today I also grabbed a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, to save for another meal heh.

6:30PM Chinatown – Big Fish Restaurant
Family dinner for 4, shared with Greg, Tony, and Jacqueline. We got a savory egg drop soup with corn and fish maw to start. The entrees in the dinner-for-4 package included clams in black bean sauce, sauteed broccoli, beef with scallions and onions in a sizzling bowl, and King To pork chops (京都排骨), which is a favorite in my family. They food came with rice too, of course. The dishes were all really tasty, although the broccoli was cut too big for me to grab comfortably with my chopsticks. I kind of dropped a piece all over the tablecloth before I was able to get it into my bowl haha. We got some bowls of red bean soup for dessert, but I only ate some of it because it was a bit too sweet. I um, forgot to take pictures of the meal, as usual, because I always get too excited when I'm eating out or at a special event. I tried to take a picture of the left over pork chops, but failed miserably because the I was unable to hold the camera steady enough at the wobbly table with everyone leaning on it and eating on it. Sorry :P

But here is a picture of Greg and I at Big Fish to compensate for lack of food pictures hehe:

9:30PM Baker Pizza & Ice Cream Social
Friendly's ice cream (pistachio, fudge swirl, and cookies n' cream flavors). Mmm I needed some dessert… I also grabbed 2 slices of pizza for a meal tomorrow or something. Can't pass up on free food especially on a long weekend when the dining halls are closed!


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