"Vintage Side Dishes"! I have spent days and weeks scratching my head thinking about what recipe I could post. Mainly because the concept of side dishes is different between the Western and Asian cultures. In a typical Malaysian Chinese culture, we tend to have carbohydrate (mainly rice/noodles) as our 'main', accompanied by several other 'side dishes' of vegetables/meat/pork/curry/you name it, and a soup.
I was exposed to different type of cuisines and ingredients since young because Mum was an adventurous cook. Most of my favourites were the Western dishes that she cooks (which is why I find this theme challenging). When mum cooks, she would cook up a storm, sometimes a 3 course dinner, sometimes a simple but heart warming Spaghetti Marinara or a cheese baked rice, or sometimes an Asian/Western dessert (my favourite would be lemon cheesecake!).
So for the sake of this post, I had to think from my dad's point of view. Dad is more traditional when it comes to eating. He likes steaks but he prefers traditional Chinese dishes. One of dad's favourite 'Vintage side dishes' is 'Mui Choy Pork Belly'. This is a traditional Hakka dish that my dad loves as he is Hakka. I always hear my parents rave about the traditional dishes that my grandma prepares and this dish is one of them. 'Mui Choy' are mustard greens and they are preserved with either salt or sugar and can be found in Asian grocers. This dish is traditionally prepared using pork belly with visible overlapping layers of fat. I would always avoid eating the fat layers because of health concerns but dad would just gulp down the whole piece, convincing us that the fat is the tastiest part, which I sometimes agree. But that might also be the reason why dad has a raised blood cholesterol level.
I'm sure most of you know that fats from meat consists mainly of saturated fats, what we call the 'nasty' fats, because it increases the risk of heart diseases and total cholesterol levels in our body. Hence for this recipe, I swapped pork belly with pork shoulder that has a much lower fat content. The slow braised pork shoulder is so tender you can pull the meat apart with a fork. I promise that swapping the pork belly would not be a compromise. With this healthier tweak, I think this old-fashioned side dish will soon be an all time favourite again.
Slow Braised Pork with Preserved Mustard Greens
Ingredients (Serves 4):
- 800g pork shoulder (visible fat trimmed), washed and cut into half
- 200g salt preserved mustard greens
- 200g sugar preserved mustard greens
- 2 tbsp canola oil/ light olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1-inch sized ginger, sliced thinly
- 1 star anise (optional)
- 4-6 tbsp of light soy sauce (to taste)
- 2 tbsp of dark soy sauce or kicap manis
- 2 tbsp of sugar
- 3 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine
- Pepper to taste
- 500mL water
- *1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with water to form slurry
- 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce or kicap manis
- 1/2 tsp of five spice powder
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine
- Mix ingredients together for marinade. Marinade pork for at least 30 minutes.
- Rinse both salt and sugar preserved mustard greens in cold water several times and soak for at least 30 minutes. Blanch washed mustard greens in boiling water for a few minutes to get rid of all the excess salt, sugar, and sand. Drain off excess water.
- Cut mustard greens into 1-2 cm pieces and set aside.
- Fry the marinated pork on medium high heat with 2 tbsp of oil in a pot until both sides are caramelised brown. Set aside on a clean plate and throw away excess marinade.
- Use the same pot to fry the ginger and garlic until fragrant. Next, put in both washed mustard greens and fry for 2-3 minutes.
- Place the pork into the pot, together with all the ingredients for the sauce except the cornstarch. When the sauce comes to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer under low heat for ~3 hours or until the pork begins to fall apart with a fork.
- Pour the cornstarch slurry in if you prefer a thicker sauce.
- Serve this side dish with rice, together with stir fried Asian vegetables or any other side dishes you prefer. You could also serve this with steamed wholemeal Chinese buns.