You may not think of me as an Asian Home Cook, but I do some (just some) Asian dishes reasonably well. They are mostly things I absolutely love to eat myself and this is one of my all time favourites. It’s not something you will find in restaurants, so you have to make it yourself, or cultivate some Chinese friends who can cook. It’s easy to make, can be assembled ahead of time, put in the chiller and then just goes into the steamer for half an hour and you’re done.
- 200g lean pork belly, very thinly sliced
- 40g premium quality salted fish, skin and bones removed, thinly sliced
- 20g thinly sliced shallots
- 15g red chillies, finely sliced
- 15g ginger, julienned
- 15g black beans, rinsed
- 5g sugar
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp rice wine
- 2 Tbsp water
The pork belly is much easier to slice as thin as you will need it, if you put it in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes before slicing. Place the belly on a piece of parchment paper on a metal tray, or plate and put it uncovered into the freezer. The meat should feel solid, but not hard as a rock, so when you slice through it, the centre is firm, but easy to slice through. It doesn’t work the other way around, where you take the solidly frozen meat from the freezer abd defrost it for a while. Reason? The outside will be soft, while the inside is still hard.
The success of your dish depends on the quality of your salted fish, so don’t stinge and buy the best, meatiest you can find. I actually don’t wash my salted fish at all, because I love that funky flavour and full saltiness, but if that’s too much for you, give the salted fish a quick wash after you have cleaned and sliced it, just to wash the top salt off. Please don’t soak it, it’s supposed to taste of salted fish!
Quickly rinse the black beans and again, don’t soak them. You can chop them roughly if you like, but I like them whole. Now slice your shallots and chillies and julienne your ginger. You do that by first slicing them thin, stacking the slices and then slicing that stack again.
Put all your ingredients into a bowl, add the sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine and water and mix it thoroughly. I add one single pinch of salt, but that’s because I like things well seasoned. Leave to marinate for half an hour. Spread this mix an a serving bowl big enough to hold it in a single layer. I use a flatish 20cm Le Creuset bowl, which is perfect for it and looks rustically stylish, even though it’s hardly Asian. You can actually prepare this hours in advance and put the whole ready filled bowl, covered with cling film, into the chiller. Your finished mix will look quite dry, but don’t let that worry you. There will be plenty of delicious sauce once it’s steamed.
Once your steamer is at full steam, put the serving bowl in and steam for 30 minutes. All that sliced pork, fish and vegetables will actually turn into a solid meat cake within half an hour. It’s tender, juicy, delicious and just heartily satisfying.