Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pork, Bamboo Shoot and Tianjin Preserved Vegetable Stew

Before coming to Hong Kong my favourite pickle was gherkins. I love the crisp and sour taste of these baby cucumbers preserved in white vinegar with dill, mustard seeds, pearl onions, etc. When I think of cornichons I immediately picture in my mind a saucisson and of course a fresh baguette! {I suddenly feel hungry!}

Stall selling preserved produce
Mongkok (Canton Road)

Here in Hong Kong I discovered many kinds of pickles. Chinese people not only pickle cucumbers but also fruits and greens’ roots and leaves to flavour their dishes. Radish, stem lettuce, Chinese artichoke (a root vegetable that looks like sea shell) and Swatow mustard greens pickles are commonly sold (in glass jars) in supermarkets and Chinese grocery stores. They are also sold loose (unpackaged) by weight at the wet market.

Chinese artichokes (pagoda vegetable - bóu-taap-choi- 宝塔菜)
Also called stachys affinis

While some vegetables are preserved in brine (salted types) and others in vinegar (sour types) some have been salted and underwent different fermentation processes. Over the years here in Hong Kong I took a liking to Chinese pickles. Here are 3 of my favourites:

No.1: Preserved mustard cabbage/greens, muìh-choi 梅菜 (literally means “plum vegetable”).     
Mustard greens are also called Indian mustard, Chinese mustard or leaf mustard. The famous Hakka dish Múi-choi-kau-yuhk – 梅菜扣肉 is made with pork belly and lots of muìh-choi. (扣肉kau-yuhk means steamed pork).

Preserved mustard greens
No.2: Preserved mustard root, jaa-choi 榨菜 (literally means “pressed vegetable”).
This pickle is made with the hearts of mustard cabbage/greens - gaai-choi 芥菜 which are salted, pressed and dried, before being rubbed with chilli and let to ferment. I usually put jaa-choi in Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐 màah-pòh- dauh-fuhor in steamed meat patties to add crunch and flavour. 

Preserved mustard root
(Top & front left) pickled Swatow mustard greens
No.3: Tianjin preserved cabbage, dûng-choi 冬菜 (literally means “winter vegetable).
Tianjin cabbage is similar to Chinese white cabbage or bok-choy and is preserved with salt and (most often) minced garlic. {I read that there is a version without garlic for the Buddhists who don’t eat garlic.} It is sold in the supermarket in a brown ceramic jar.

Tianjin preserved vegetable

Tianjin preserved vegetable
(In Cantonese: Tînjeûn dûng-choi)

I use Tianjin preserved vegetable to make the following pork stew.

Pork, bamboo shoot and Tianjin preserved vegetable stew.

This recipe is an adapted version of the one in “Chopsticks Recipes Chinese Casseroles” by Cecilia J. Au-Yeung.

  • 500g pork belly
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 2 tbsp dark soy
  • ~250g fresh bamboo shoot
  • 100g Tianjin preserved vegetable
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp dark soy

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • ¼ tsp salt,
  • 2 tsp light soy
  • 2 tsp sugar

Garnish (optional): parsley or spring onion

  1. Wash and cut the belly pork into bite-sized pieces.   Blanch in the boiling water. Rinse with cold water. Dry with paper towel and brush with dark soy.
  2. Prepare fresh bamboo shoot: Cut halfway through the outer leaves (it will cook faster) and cut off the tip (not edible). Cook in boiling water for 30 minutes (or until tender). Remove the outer leaves and cut into thick slices. (Alternatively use bamboo shoot in can: rinse, blanch and drain).
  3. Soak the Tianjin preserved vegetable for 1 hour. Wash, drain and dry with paper towel.
  4. Shred the ginger. Slice the shallots and garlic. 
  5. In a large saucepan heat oil to sauté the ginger, shallots and garlic till fragrant.
  6. Stir in the belly pork to fry for a while.
  7. Add the bamboo shoot slices, Tianjin preserved vegetable and the seasoning ingredients.
  8. Stir well. Cover and cook on low heat for ~30 minutes.
  9. Mixed cornstarch and dark soy and add in stew. Stir well.
  10. Serve hot with parsley or chopped spring onion on top.

I like the crispness and mild flavour of bamboo shoot. It blends well with the salty flavour of the sauce.

Fresh bamboo shoot

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