Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Shanghainese Rice with Salt Pork & Bok Choy (Xian Rou Cai Fan)

I came across this recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop's awesome cookbook Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking. Okay, Ms. Dunlop is not Chinese - in fact she's British, but that does not detract from the fact the her recipes are truly authentic. She was the first Westerner to train at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in China and has an amazing grasp of regional ingredients and flavors. Anyways, I'm always looking for something to cook in my clay pot other than Lion's Head Stew (Shih Tzu Tou) - no, not an actual lion's head, but seasoned pork meatballs stewed in chicken stock with Shiitake mushrooms and nappa cabbage in a clay pot - and this recipe seemed to fit the bill. The salt pork is browned and rendered first in a saute pan. Then the raw rice is added and cooked until slightly nutty but not browned, and that is what makes this dish so aromatic and subtly flavorful. If you don't have a clay pot, by all means cook this in a rice cooker or pan - it'll still be good eats!

1/2 cup finely chopped Chinese salt pork (can also substitute with regular salt pork, bacon, or pancetta)
2 tbsp. oil
3-4 bok choy, trimmed and diced 
5 cups hot water (heat in a kettle)
2 cups Jasmine rice

1. Pour 1/4 cup of water into the clay pot and place on a burner over very low heat. This will warm the pot up and keep it from cracking.

2. Heat the 2 tbsp. of oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the salt pork and fry until very lightly browned and rendered. 

3. Add the Jasmine rice and saute until the rice is fragrantly nutty, but not browned. Add the bok choy and stir fry for another minute. Turn off the heat.

4. Pour the water out of the clay pot and wipe dry. Using a paper towel blotted with some vegetable oil, wipe the inside of the pot to lightly oil. 

5. Pour the rice mixture into the clay pot, then add 5 cups of hot water. Bring to a boil.

6. Reduce heat to a very low simmer, cover, and cook 30-40 minutes until the rice is just tender. 

Salt pork.

Bok Choy.

Add 1/4 cup of water to the clay pot and simmer over very low heat (this will heat the pot and keep it from cracking).

Render the salt pork in 2 tbsp. of oil.

Add the rice and saute until nutty and fragrant, but not browned.

Add the bok choy.

Pour out the water from the clay pot, wipe dry, then wipe with a light coating of vegetable oil with a paper towel.

Pour in the rice mixture and add 5 cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.

Cover and cook 30-40 minutes until the rice is just tender. 

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