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Braised Pork over Rice

Braised Pork over Rice excerpted from A-Gong’s Table by George Lee.The recipe that follows was made with my mom’s braised pork in mind. Whenever she cooked it, she’d make a huge pot, and we’d eat from it for as many consecutive days as it took for us to finish it. When we got tired of eating it over rice, we used it to dress different vegetables. Her braised pork is simple and as homestyle as can be. Soy sauce is the main seasoning; rock sugar plays a balancing act. Fried shallots permeate throughout, and so does mushroom umami. Five-spice is necessary but cannot be overpowering. The flavors are bold and complex, yet never drown out subtleties of that freshly steamed bowl of rice. In place of the two gluten products, I’ll sometimes use a mixture of fresh and fried tofu, or crumble tempeh. To keep this and any other dish that needs fried shallots allium-free, fry shredded green cabbage, shredded burdock root, or a mixture of chopped cilantro and celery in sesame oil to substitute.

Braised Pork over Rice excerpted from A-Gong’s Table by George Lee.

Braised Pork over Rice

George Lee
Gluten Threads
Dehydrating gluten in hot oil makes it stiff and chewy like lean meat, so this is sometimes called vegetarian duck (sùyāròu 素鴨肉). Soak the gluten threads in hot water for 30 to 40 minutes before use, until it becomes soft and pliable. You can chop the gluten threads to make something like a textured vegetable protein mince or keep it whole like slabs of meat and cook it in more heavily flavored broths.
Note: If you’re lucky enough to be in Taiwan, you can find gluten threads sold at most vegetarian vendors. They are fried until very dry to make them shelf-stable, so you’ll need to soak them overnight before use.
Makes 6 (about 25g each)
• 3 Gluten Intestines (300g total)
• About 2 cups neutral oil, for frying
1) Dig your thumb into the top-center of the gluten intestine and pry it open to reveal its layers. Work downward until you have a whole, flat sheet of gluten with lots of exposed nooks and crannies. Tear each piece in half crosswise and set aside.
2) In a wok over medium heat, warm the neutral oil to 248°F (120°C). Add the gluten and fry steadily for 30 to 40 minutes, until just golden with no more off-white- colored spots. Using a spider strainer or slotted spoon, move the gluten threads onto a paper towel–lined plate and set them aside to drain.
3) Bring the oil up to 300°F (150°C). Fry the gluten threads for 8 to 10 minutes more, until fully dehydrated and a dark golden brown. Remove the gluten threads and drain them on the paper towel–lined plate. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
All-Purpose Stock
Makes about 10 cups
• 14 ounces (400g) soybean sprouts 黃豆芽 (not mung bean sprouts)
• 10 fresh shiitake mushroom stems (about 40g; optional)
• 12-1/2 cups water
• 6 (5-inch) pieces kombu (20g)
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
1) Rinse the soybean sprouts and the mushroom stems (if using). Pick out any bad or discolored soybeans and remove any black spots or debris from the mushrooms.
2) In a tall pot, bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the soybean sprouts and mushroom stems. Lower the heat so it is just barely bubbling, cover, and boil for 2 hours, until the broth has taken on a golden hue and reduced to about 10 cups.
3) Remove the pot from the heat. While the broth is still hot but not boiling, add the kombu. Cover and let the kombu soak for 2 hours. This is just enough time to extract its umami flavors without letting the seaweed odor become overpowering.
4) Remove the kombu using a slotted spoon or spider strainer. Using a cheesecloth–lined sieve, strain the stock into another large pot. Once it’s cool enough to touch, twist and squeeze the tofu cloth (with the soybean sprouts and mushroom stems in it), extracting as much of the stock and flavor as possible. Season the stock with the salt. The stock is very lightly salted and will taste flat, but its flavors will come alive once you add it to a seasoned dish. Cool completely, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze the stock in a few separate resealable bags for ease of access for up to 3 months. You may want to strain the stock again after defrosting, as some kombu debris can come out of the solution.
Gluten Intestine
Makes 6 (about 100g each)
• 21 ounces (600g) Wheat Gluten
1) Place the wheat gluten on a wet cutting board. Stretch the wheat gluten into a 6-inch-Long rectangle, and cut it into six 1-inch-wide batons. If the pieces lose their stretch after cutting them, set them aside for 10 minutes.
2) Leaving a small gap at the tip of a pair of chopsticks, wrap the short side of the gluten around the chopsticks in a spiral motion toward the other end. When you’ve used up about two-thirds of the gluten’s length, wrap it in a reverse spiral back up toward the middle of the roll. Press the wheat gluten tightly to adhere the loose end. Carefully push and slide the completed gluten intestine off the pair of chopsticks. Set the rolledup gluten aside on a plate or tray; repeat with the remaining pieces.
3) Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Add the gluten intestines and boil for 10 to 12 minutes, until they float. Drain and let cool completely. 4 If you’re not using these the same day, pack them into resealable bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw completely before using.
Five-Spice
• 6 whole star anise pods (10g)
• 2 tablespoons (8g) red Sichuan peppercorns
• 1 (6-inch) cinnamon stick (12g), snapped into pieces
• 4 teaspoons (10g) fennel seeds
• 3 teaspoons (5g) coriander seeds
• 30 whole cloves (3g)
Cucumbers in Sweet Soy Sauce
Makes one 4-cup jar
• 6 Asian cucumbers 小黃瓜 (600g)
• Salt
• Soy Sauce Brine
• 1-1/3 cups light soy sauce
• 1 cup (200g) golden granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup Taiwanese rice cooking wine, preferably 19.5 percent ABV
1) Use a sponge to scrub off the prickly spines, if there are any, on the cucumbers. Trim both ends off each cucumber, then cut them into even 1/2-inch chunks.
2) Weigh the cucumbers and multiply that number by 2 percent—that is the weight of the salt you need. Place the cucumbers in a large bowl and toss them with the salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, by which time the liquid should have seeped out and pooled at the bottom of the bowl. Discard the liquid.
3) Pack the cucumbers into a tofu cloth or cheesecloth and set the cloth in a flat tray (for holding any water that is squeezed out). Twist the cloth to tightly pack the cucumber chunks. Weigh this down with heavy weights (about 10 kg or 25 lb) for 1 to 2 hours, or until the cucumbers slightly shrink, become pliable, and take on a uniform, slightly translucent dark green color.
4) To make the soy sauce brine: In a small saucepan, combine the light soy sauce, golden granulated sugar, and rice cooking wine. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to fully dissolve the sugar and cook off the alcohol. Set aside to cool.
5) In a lidded 4-cup glass container, pack the cucumbers. Pour the cooled soy sauce brine over the cucumbers and secure the lid.
6) Refrigerate for at least 3 days before enjoying. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Taiwanese
Servings 6 -8 servings as part of a spread

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Gluten Threads 皮絲 (above), or use store-bought (50g total)
  • 10 dried shiitake mushrooms (25g)
  • 2 cups warm All-Purpose Stock 高湯 (above) or water, plus more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 5 garlic cloves or 1 (2-inch) piece peeled ginger, minced
  • 1 Gluten Intestine 麵腸 (above) or use store-bought (100g total), cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons (10g) yellow rock sugar
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 1 whole dried bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Taiwanese rice cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) Fried Shallots 油蔥, or use store-bought
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Five-Spice 五香粉 (above) or use store-bought
  • Steamed rice, for serving
  • Cucumbers in Sweet Soy Sauce 醬瓜 (above) or use store-bought, for serving

Instructions
 

  • In a small bowl, soak the gluten threads in 2 cups hot water, changing the water when it cools, for about 1 hour, until soft and pliable. Drain, rinse, and finely mince the gluten threads. Set aside.
  • In another small bowl, soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in the warm stock for 20 to 30 minutes, until fully soft. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the stock. Snip off and discard the stems and cut the caps into 3⁄4-inch chunks. Set the mushrooms and stock aside separately.
  • Set a wok over medium heat and heat it until it just starts smoking. Ladle in the neutral oil and swirl it around to create a nonstick surface. Add the garlic and cook for 15 to 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the diced gluten intestine and fry for about 2 minutes, until just starting to turn golden. Add the mushrooms and fry for 2 minutes to release their fragrance. Add the sugar, star anise, bay leaf, and gluten threads. Swirl in the soy sauce and fry the pieces in it for about 1 minute, until the fragrance has deepened. Follow with the rice cooking wine and, once fragrant, add the fried shallots and mushroom-soaking stock. Adjust the heat to high and bring everything to a rolling boil. Season with the salt, white pepper, and five-spice. Lower the heat to a slow boil and braise, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the sauce is reduced by about half.
  • Remove the wok from the heat, cover, and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to infuse without overcooking the gluten. Taste and add more salt as needed.
  • Ladle over steaming hot rice and top with the cucumbers. Serve immediately. Cool any leftovers and store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

A-Gong's Table by George Lee (© 2023). Photographs by Laurent Hsia. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.Recipe reprinted with permission from A-Gong’s Table by George Lee (Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York., 2023). Photography by Laurent Hsia.
Keyword A-Gong’s Table, Asian cucumbers, Bay leaves, Cinnamon sticks, Cloves, Coriander seeds, Fennel seeds, Five-Spice, Garlic, George Lee, kombu, Rice, Shiitake mushrooms, Sichuan peppercorns, Soy sauce, Soybean sprouts, Star anise pods, Taiwanese rice cooking wine, White pepper, Yellow rock sugar

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