Since the Spring Festival, or Chūn Jié (春节), is the most important holiday for Chinese people, they start to prepare for it some weeks before. For more information on how this is done, check out this article on Xiao Nian Festival.
Superstition dictates that on the Eve and the first days of Chinese New Year, families are not allowed to use knives or other sharp things. So, on the 26th day of twelfth lunar month (January 27th this year according to the Gregorian calendar), they have to prepare and chop pork (as it symbolizes strength, wealth and blessings) into pieces for the coming Spring Festival. That is why this day is called Pork-Stewing Day.
As a major foodie, I would like to share a traditional Chinese New Year’s recipe with you. Braised Pork Belly with Arrowhead Root, or 慈菇焖腩肉 (cígu mèn nǎn ròu in pinyin) is a good choice for a meal around Spring Festival. Arrowhead root is a tuber that looks like a small onion, only without the layers, and that is close in taste to water chestnuts. Let’s try to cook this dish together!
Prep time: 15 mins; Cook time: 1h20mins; Total time: 1h35 mins.
The recipe is for 4 servings.
You will need:
- about 1 kg of pork belly
- 10 arrowhead roots (or 2 – 3 large potatoes)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 20g rock sugar
- 2 large pieces of red fermented bean curd, 红腐乳 (hóng fǔrǔ in pinyin, which you might see labeled as “bean cheese”; make sure you are buying the RED kind, because there is also one that is white) plus 1 tablespoon of the liquid from the jar
- 1/4 cup shaoxing wine
- 1 ½ teaspoons dark soy sauce
- 5 cups water
- Cut pork belly into large (0.75” x 1.5”) chunks. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and blanch the meat until it just turns opaque. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
- Peel the arrowhead roots. Just trim off the top and bottom, and peel the outer skin. Immediately drop each peeled root into a bowl of cold water to prevent oxidation. If using potatoes, you are going to want to cut them into 1½-inch chunks, but do not cut them just yet (they take less time to cook than the arrowroot).
- When you are ready to cook, take the arrowroots out of the bowl of water and cut each in half. Heat the oil in a wok over low heat and add the rock sugar. Let it melt slowly and then add the fermented bean curd as well as the liquid. Stir for a minute. Now add the blanched pork belly and arrowhead roots (if using potatoes, do not add them yet).
- Turn the heat to medium and mix everything well. Add the Shaoxing wine, dark soy sauce, and 2 cups of water. Stir everything together and cover with a lid. Simmer over medium low heat.
- Check the pot every 5-10 minutes. As the liquid evaporates, add more water 1 cup at a time and replace the lid. Continue doing that until the meat is fork-tender and the sauce is thickened enough to coat the pork. When trying this, it took me 4 cups of water, and about 1 hour to fully cook the pork and arrowhead root. If using potatoes, cut them into chunks and stir them in after the pork has cooked for about 45 minutes.
- If the pork is fork tender, but there is still a lot of visible liquid, uncover the wok and turn up the heat to medium high. Stir constantly until the sauce is reduced to a gravy-like state.
The original recipe can be found on: http://thewoksoflife.com/2015/02/braised-pork-belly-arrowhead-root/ where you can find pictures for each step and also other recipes for some delicious Chinese meals.
Let me know how you liked the dish in the comments below and remember to share this article with friends and family if you liked it.