Recipe: Twice-Cooked Pork(回锅肉)

Twice-Cooked Pork(回锅肉 hui guo rou, pronounced “hway gwuh roh”, literally “return pot meat”)is one of the most famous Sichuanese dishes! It is called “twice-cooked” in English and “return to the pot” in Chinese, because it is cooked twice. First, it is simmered in water for a while until just cooked. Then, it is cooled down and sliced thinly. Lastly, it is stir-fried in a wok with seasonings. It’s very delicious! 🙂

  
For this recipe, you need a trio of fermented bean seasonings. If you are not used to East Asian food, you may be thinking, “ewwwww!” But fermented bean seasonings are extremely tasty and add tons of delicious flavor and umami. You may already know some fermented bean sauces: soy sauce and miso! So here are the 3 seasonings you need, and you will find them at a Chinese grocery store.

  
1. Paste of Fermented Salted Fava Beans with Dried Red Chilies from Pi County (郫县豆瓣 pi xian dou ban, pronounced “pee syehn doh bun”, literally “pi county bean segment”)

This paste, which I call Pi County Chili Bean Paste for short, is one of the most important Sichuanese seasonings and essential to get a home-style Sichuan taste. I also used it in my Mapo Tofu recipe and much more. I use the official paste from Pi County, which is necessary for the authentic flavor.

2. Sweet Paste of Wheat and Soybean Flours (甜面酱 tian mian jiang, pronounced “tyehn myehn dzyahng”, literally “sweet flour sauce”)

I call this one Sweet Flour Paste, but it has many other names too. It has a slightly sweet and salty flavor. It is used not only in Sichuan cuisine but also in northern Chinese cuisines. This is the traditional sauce served with Beijing Duck. I also used it in my Fried Sauce Noodles (zhajiangmian) recipe.

3. Fermented Dry Black Soybeans (豆豉 dou chi, pronounced “doh chzh”)

These tasty beans are also found in my Mapo Tofu recipe. They are used in Sichuan cuisine and also much of souther Chinese cuisine. I use the ones from Yangjiang in Guangdong Province. They are fermented with ginger.

After you have these seasonings, you will need some pork belly, which is the star of the dish! Pork belly is very fatty. It’s what bacon is made of. It’s very tasty, as long as it is cooked well. Since I don’t like a super fatty texture, I usually fry it longer to render out more fat, and it tastes much better that way.

This time I bought pork belly from my local Costco, which now sells pork belly! Yay! I used to have to go super far to an Asian grocery store, but now Costco sells it too.

Let’s start!

Adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop, my favorite Sichuan cookbook! 🙂

Ingredients: (Serves about 3-4, with a stir-fried vegetable side dish and/or a soup, and cooked rice)

3/4 to 1 lb fresh pork belly, in 1 piece

water (to cover pork)

optional for boiling pork: 3-4 thin slices of ginger, 1-2 green onions cut into 2 inch lengths, 1-2 tbsp Shaoxing wine or sake etc., 1/8 tsp salt

2 tbsp cooking oil

vegetables: choose what you like: 1 small onion cut into squares, 1 small carrot sliced thinly diagonally (optional), about 2 cups cabbage cut into squares, 1/2 bell pepper cut into squares

4 green onions, sliced diagonally (in Sichuan, garlic stems are commonly used, but I do not have any), optionally separate white and green parts

1 tbsp Pi County chili bean paste

1/2 tbsp sweet flour paste

2 tsp fermented black soybeans, lightly rinsed

1 tsp sugar

1/2 to 1 tsp dark soy sauce

Directions:

1. Add pork in one piece, water to cover, and optionally ginger, green onions, wine, and/or salt, to a pot that can fit everything. You can curl the pork to fit it in the pot.

2. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then turn to medium and simmer for 25 minutes. This should just cook the pork. (In 20 minutes, it was just slightly pink inside, so 25 should be fine.)

Meanwhile, you can cut all the vegetables.

3. Now take out the pork and add to a bowl of ice water to cool.

4. Let’s stir-fry the vegetables! Heat a wok over high heat.

5. When hot, add 1 tbsp oil.

6. Add the onion and stir-fry for 1 minute. It will just turn slightly translucent. I added 1 pinch of salt also.

7. Add the cabbage, carrot, and/or bell pepper. Stir-fry for 2-3 more minutes until the vegetables are al dente, cooked but still crisp.

8. Take out the vegetables to a plate and set aside.

9. When the pork is cool, take it out to a cutting board. Slice it thinly. If you aren’t so good at slicing, this is quite challenging! Just do your best 🙂

10. Heat the wok again over high heat. When hot, add 1 tbsp oil.

11. Add all of the sliced pork. Stir-fry.

12. After a minute or so, the pork will release water. And it will start simmering. Let it simmer until dry.

13. When it is dry, you will hear the rendered fat crakling. You can now lower heat to medium.

14. Continue stir-frying for a few minutes. The pork will start to brown and become very fragrant, a little crispy, and tasty. More fat will render out.

15. When you think it is ready (different people like different cooking times, I like it when the pork is a little browned and very fragrant), turn the heat to low, and put the pork to one side of the wok.

16. Hold the handle of the wok (be careful!) and tilt the wok so the fat collects to the other side. Use a spoon or something to scoop out most of the rendered fat into a small bowl. This is lard! It is very tasty. Use it to stir-fry vegetables. Leave 1-2 tbsp of fat inside the wok.

17. Now spread the pork to all sides of wok, leaving a well of oil in the center. 

18. Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the chili bean paste to the oil.

19. Use the spatula to break the chili bean paste and distribute it through the oil. It will smell very fragrant and tasty, and the oil will become red.

20. Now add the sweet flour paste and rinsed fermented black soybeans. Combine them well with the chili bean paste and stir-fry 5 more seconds so they are fragrant too.

21. Now stir-fry everything together for 1 minute, coating the pork in the fried sauces. YUM!

22. Add the sugar and dark soy sauce. Add the white part of the green onion if you separated it. Stir-fry for 1 more minute.

23. Now add the previously stir-fried vegetables and stir-fry 1 more minute to combine everything well.

24. Lastly add the green part of the green onion and stir-fry for 30 seconds to combine.

25. Turn off the heat and put everything onto a plate! Yay! You are finished!

Serve with a stir-fried green leafy vegetable dish and/or a soup, and cooked rice. Enjoy!

  
Now, how to make a soup? Here we go!

If you simmered the pork with ginger, green onion, wine, and salt, then you can use it as a broth!

Strain the broth to remove some of the fat and the foam. Then add some vegetable pieces like sliced carrot, etc. Bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are cooked. Tada! You have a refreshing and simple vegetable soup to serve with the pork 🙂

Enjoy! 😀

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