This was easy to put together last weekend thanks to the Taiwanese sandwich buns that are sold frozen in many Chinese shops. I bought mine at my local Wing Yip and I’ve found them online (for local delivery only) at Bristol’s Wai Yee Hong. They look petite when frozen but after their session in the streamer, they puff up and you quickly adjust your number of buns per person.

I filled mine with a very simple braised pork mixture that tastes fantastic in spite of its simplicity. It’s a bung it all into a pot and leave it deal. And I like to think that as I’m using pork shoulder instead of the usual fattier pork belly but really, that’s just me being a bit deluded. The work is really minimal and you’re rewarded with big puffy sandwiches filled with juicy meat.

Taiwanese Style Pulled Pork Buns

Taiwanese-Style Braised Pulled Pork

Pork shoulder, about 1.5 kg
Daikon radish, 1, peeled and cut into large slices
sunflower oil
100 ml light soy sauce
100 ml dark soy sauce
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 star anise
1/2 tsp five spice powder

Cut the pork shoulder into large chunks, trimming off the fat and skin. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add a little sunflower oil. Add the pork shoulder and brown on all sides. Cover with water and add the soy sauces, garlic cloves, star anise and five spice powder. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 1 hour. Skim if necessary. After an hour is up, add the daikon, adding more water if required and continue simmering for another hour. At this point, the daikon should be tender and the pork chunks falling apart at the prod of a fork.

Now to put together the sandwiches!

Taiwanese Pulled Pork Buns

Prepare the buns (my package said to steam for 15-20 minutes). Take a small handful of roasted peanuts and chop finely and mix with sugar. Chop some pickled mustard greens as well. Get some crispy fried shallots/onions. Clean a few sprigs of coriander.

Take a few pieces of braised pork and shred them using two forks, pulling the meat apart. Pile generously into the steamed buns. Add a slice of daikon if you wish. Top with some of the chopped pickles, peanuts, fried shallots and coriander. Eat.

Advertisements

I’ve only recently discovered the Japanese recipe website Cookpad; it’s full of both traditional and modern recipes all provided by the Japanese public. Of course, I don’t read Japanese so I’m eternally grateful to the the translators who do translate the more popular recipes to English. On the Japanese site, the collection is currently at over 1.5 million recipes and at the time of writing, over 18,000 recipes have been translated – that’s still more than one could ever try to cook in a lifetime!

It was on Cookpad (and all the browsing through recipes I’ve done on the site) that I encountered this very simple way of presenting a Japanese nabe: sliced pork and sliced Chinese cabbage are placed upright in layers to great effect. The recipe I present below is a very simple one, with very few ingredients, and it feels quite light and healthy for a cold day (June, what is wrong with you?!). The presentation makes it feel that bit more special.

Pork and Chinese Cabbage Nabe

Pork and Cabbage Nabe
serves 2.

Half a large Chinese cabbage
A length of pork loin (how much depends on how hungry you are)
Soy sauce
Shaoxing rice wine
about 400-500ml chicken stock (I made it from a bouillon powder)
Salt and ground white pepper

Slice the pork loin crosswise as thinly as possible (this will be easier if it’s half frozen). Marinate it with a little soy sauce and a little rice wine. Slice the Chinese cabbage into wide strips crosswise. Layer the cabbage and pork together, alternating the layers, in a large clay pot (nabe) as in the photo. Pour over the chicken stock and season with salt and white pepper, if desired. A little soy sauce here wouldn’t hurt either. You’ll see that I also put in some mushrooms that I had lying about; some spring onions would be good too.

Place the lid on the nabe and place it over high heat. When it all starts steaming, reduce the heat and let it all simmer until everything is cooked. Serve with lots of white rice.

It took a couple of attempts but I’m finally happy with this recipe for khao kha moo, a Thai dish of braised pork leg on rice. This is apparently one of the most popular dishes in Thailand but I’ve only ever seen it once in London, at my local Thai restaurant and it was only a special that day. I haven’t seen it since.

Khao Kha Moo

Luckily, it’s very easy to make at home. All that’s needed is time and all the spices in your kitchen cupboards. The pork leg (I used a hock) is quite an economical cut too. Do keep the skin on your pork hock – it has a great texture after all that braising. Some recipes online have you fry your pork hock first but I don’t bother to keep things easier and it turns out just fine. Do serve this with lots of white rice and either a boiled green vegetable (I boiled up some spring greens) or pickled vegetable to have on the side. And the sauce isn’t optional – its strong garlicky tang helps cut through the richness of the pork.

Braised Pork Leg

Khao Kha Moo
serves 2-3.

1 pork hock (approx 800-1000g)
6 cups water
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark thick sweet soy sauce
1 large chunk rock sugar
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp five spice
6 black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
4-5 sprigs coriander
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

for the sauce
3 cloves garlic
1 large green chili
1 tbsp sugar
2-3 tbsps rice vinegar

to serve
cooked white rice
boiled greens or pickled greens

Place the pork hock and all the braising ingredients into a large pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to leave it at a simmer and then half cover the pot and let it braise for at least 2 hours or until the pork is starting to fall off the bone.

Braised Pork Leg

In the meantime, blend together the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.

When the pork hock is tender, remove it from its braising liquid and let cool enough to handle. Slice the meat (and the skin too!) and plate with the rice and greens, pouring some of the braising liquid over. Serve the sauce on the side.

I didn’t get a chance to try the famous Momofuku bo ssäm when I was in New York a few years ago but I’d been meaning to make it at home for a while. The recipe is in the Momofuku cookbook but if you don’t have it, Sam Sifton detailed how to cook and eat it in the New York Times Sunday Magazine earlier this year. With my working from home one weekend and requiring something low maintenance and pork shoulder on sale at my local supermarket, it felt like the right time to finally try my hand at it. It was also a trial run for a possible dinner party centrepiece.

Momofuku Bo Ssam

My pork shoulder (2kg) was smaller  than what the original recipe required but the method still worked. I also reduced the amount of sugar and salt used in the dry brining stage – about 2 tbsps sugar and 1 tbsp coarse salt and again, this was fine and we didn’t find the surface of the pork too salty as others have. The mixture was pressed into the pork shoulder and the whole thing refrigerated overnight. The next day, about 6.5 hours prior to dinner time, the oven was preheated to 150 Celsius and the entire thing chucked in there in a roasting pan. I basted the meat (but not the skin) hourly.

Momofuku Bo Ssam

After 6 hours of cooking, the pork was fork tender (and the flat was pork scented) but it wasn’t finished yet. With the pork resting on the counter, the oven was heated to its max temperature. A mixture of 2.5 tbsps of brown sugar and 0.5 tsp of salt were pressed onto the surface of the pork – it may not all stick but that’s alright. It went back into the oven until the sugar melted and caramelised all over (this step may cause a lot of smoking in your kitchen!). While the slow roasted meat was amazingly soft and incredibly porky, the skin had hardened into a crunchy shell of sweet, porky, fatty crackling: it was pig candy.

Bo Ssam Meal

We ripped the meat apart with tongs and ate it ssam-style: each mouthful was built up with a base of lettuce, a dab of gochujang-based sauce, a spoonful of short grained white rice, a leaf or two of kimchi and then shredded bits of pork and, of course, a crackle of pig candy. It was a glorious dinner.

What was possibly even better was the leftovers. The following afternoon, a portion was chopped up and fried with kimchi and rice and all topped with fried eggs. Oooh, yes.

Leftover Bo Ssam with Kimchi and Rice and Egg

And after that, the rest of the pork was chopped up and cooked together with fried onions and rice and peas, similar to my recipe for chorizo rice but you know, without the chorizo and the tomato paste. The rice had become infused with all the porkiness of the bo ssam and was just insanely good.

Leftover Bo Ssam with Rice and Peas

Or maybe leftover pork tacos. Or pulled pork sandwiches with a bit of barbecue sauce. How about just pork and eggs? Or have it ssam-style again the next day?

So that 6 hours in the oven really paid off and yes, it’s definitely going on a dinner party menu later in the year. My fingers are crossed that there’ll be leftovers again… Bo ssäm: it’s the meal that keeps on giving.

My happy days are the ones where after I come home after a long day at work, I find a new Saveur magazine waiting for me to curl up with on the sofa after dinner. Their latest issue was dedicated to the art of all things barbecue and while I absolutely adore all the slow cooked and smoky grilled meats featured, I have nowhere where I can actually make them at home. We have no outdoor space to speak of and barbecues are forbidden in our local parks.

Spare Rib Chop Dinner

I did find one recipe though that catered for us no-outdoor-spacers. I just couldn’t stop staring at the gorgeous photo of the St. Louis style barbecue ribs, where the meat is cooked in barbecue sauce, and the impetus was so great that I actually made them the next day. They are fantastic, all tender and flavourful, and the barbecue sauce recipe is delicious. As I failed to obtain some of the more American ingredients in the recipe, I fell to substituting them with whatever I had or could find and these substitutions certainly didn’t diminish the dish. Just a bit of barbecue love indoors then.

St. Louis Style Barbecue Spare Rib Chops

St. Louis Style Barbecue Spare Rib Chops
adapted from this Saveur recipe.
serves 4.

For the barbecue sauce:
4 slices streaky bacon, finely chopped
1 large chipotle en adobe, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can (400g) whole, peeled tomatoes, pureed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 heaped tbsps whole grain mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I like quite a bit)

4 large pork spare rib chops
2 tbsp sunflower oil

First make the barbecue sauce. Heat a pot over medium heat and then add the bacon. Fry, stirring constantly, until all the fat renders out (if your bacon is quite lean, add a bit of oil to help it along). Add the chipotle, garlic and onions and continue frying until they are all soft. Pour in the rest of the ingredients: tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and stir thoroughly. Turn up the heat to bring it to a boil and cook it for 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and set aside. Prevent yourself from sticking your finger in one too many times for a taste.

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat and then add the sunflower oil. When hot, lay in two of the spare rib chops and fry, turning once, until brown on both sides. Set aside and repeat with the second batch of two. Place the browned chops into a baking dish that will fit them (I used a roasting pan) and pour over the barbecue sauce to cover the chops. Bake for about 1 hour (or until the chops are cooked and tender – and a knife cuts through them easily). Serve.

I love sobrassada. The first thing I ate on my very first visit to Barcelona was a toasted sobrassada sandwich and I fell in love with the spicy paste. This Mallorcan treat is a cured raw pork sausage that is soft and spreadable and flavoured with plenty of paprika. In Barcelona, you can find it plain, baked into pastries, cooked into dishes, and of course, as a sandwich filling; I’m sure I’ve left out lots of other things to do with this wonderful spread. Luckily, it is available here in London but you have to search for it. I buy mine at R Garcia and Sons on Portobello Road; actually, I purchase most of my Spanish goods there.

On Bread

It’s sold in two forms in the shops. The first is stuffed into an intestine skin, looking like a giant red sausage (pictured below). You’d usually buy thick slices of it, throw away the outside skin and eat the insides. The second form is just the cured pork meat in a small plastic tub. There’s nothing wrong with this – I’ve had excellent versions. The main thing you want to look out for is that it’s sobrassada de Mallorca.

Sobrassada

The next step on the sobrassada sandwich scale was an introduction to a hot sobrassada and cheese sandwich a couple years ago. I was introduced to Forn Mistral by another friend now living in Barcelona, a great bakery/cafe near the Universitat metro stop. It’s a great place to stop in for a treat and what I chose that day was a this thin little flute filled with sobrassada and cheese. Absolutely delicious.

A Snack

This past trip, at a tapas bar with Blai and his brother, we shared a toasted sandwich with sobrassada, cheese and honey. Honey! Oh, its sweetness goes beautifully with the salty, spicy fattiness of the sobrassada. Inspired by this, last weekend, I turned a can of refrigerated crescent rolls (don’t judge – it was on sale and I was curious and I was working all weekend!) into delicious sobrassada, cheese and honey crescents which we wolfed down in about 10 minutes flat. Of course, the filling ingredients would go together wonderfully in a toasted sandwich too.

Sobrassada, Cheese and Honey Crescent

Sobrassada, Cheese and Honey Crescents
makes 6.

For the pastry, I used one can of refrigerated crescent rolls but a sheet of puff pastry somehow cut into 6 triangles would work too. Along the short end of the triangle, lay out about 2 tsps of sobrassada, a bit of cheese (I used manchego) and a good drizzle of honey. Roll them up, pop them into a preheated oven (follow the instructions on your packet) and there you have it – hot yumminess. Eat.

The words “ready meals” suffer a bit of a stigma over here as one initially pictures the sad sweating plastic wrapped packets on the supermarket chilled shelves, ready for a nuking in the microwave. But the ready meals I’ve come across in Barcelona were always wonderful – freshly made croquetes, roasted chicken parts and meat stews, cooked legumes, and trays of prepared canalons ready for a cooking in the oven. Needless to say, you can pick all these up and more at one of the many fabulous markets scattered throughout the city. This is what London is missing!

Catalan-Style Stuffed Aubergines

Anyway, what I wanted to really talk about was what I recently encountered on my last trip there – stuffed aubergines. I saw trays of them ready for the oven – halved aubergines (usually the slim kind rather than the large bulbous ones) stuffed with a meat mixture and slathered in a rich bechamel. They looked fantastic and though I never tasted them, I knew I wanted to recreate something like that at home. But aubergines are not the only vegetable that’s filled; if you take a look at Colman Andrew’s fabulous book Catalan Cuisine, he has a whole section on stuffed vegetables.

Stuffed with Pork Filling

It turned out to be quite straightforward – all the components can be cooked ahead of time and put together well before they need to be baked. The meaty filling was so flavourful with the onion and tomatoes cooked down until they were melting together in their sofregit; the silky aubergines, though quite lovely by themselves, were really just carriers for the meat! The bechamel was luxuriously rich and I dolloped it on with a generous hand – the recipe below does make quite a lot. The only things I’d change next time is to try the thinner Japanese aubergines and to be more generous with the Parmesan cheese on top!

Slathered in Bechamel and Parmesan

Catalan-Style Stuffed Aubergines
serves 4 as a main course.

4 small-medium sized aubergines
olive oil

For the filling
2 tbsps olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 medium or 1 large tomato
500 g minced pork
a large pinch of dried thyme
a large pinch freshly ground nutmeg
salt
freshly ground pepper
4 tbsps fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg

For the bechamel
500 mL milk
80g unsalted butter
4 tbsps plain flour
salt
freshly ground pepper
a large pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

freshly grated parmesan cheese

Prepare your aubergines. Cut each in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides leaving at least a centimetre of flesh (I tossed the insides as mine had a lot of seeds). Arrange cut side up on a baking tray and brush liberally with olive oil. Roast in a hot oven until tender and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Prepare your filling. First we’ll make a sofregit of the onions, garlic and tomatoes. In a frying pan, heat the oil over low heat and add the finely chopped onion. This has to cook until the onions have become soft and golden – this will take at least 15 minutes on a low temperature. When the onions are close to this, you can add the minced garlic and continue cooking until the onions are cooked and the garlic has lost its rawness. In the meantime, prepare your tomatoes – cut each in half around its equator and deseed them. Use your palm to push each cut half against a box grater and grate the tomato pulp, leaving behind the skins. Add this tomato pulp when the onions are golden and continue cooking over low heat until the tomatoes have melted into the onions and its redness is darker. That’s your sofregit. Add the minced pork and fry, stirring frequently so that the pork is crumbly, until the pork is all cooked (about 10 minutes). Add the thyme and nutmeg and season well with salt and pepper. Stir again and then turn off the heat. In a bowl, beat the egg and add the breadcrumbs to this. Stir together and then add this mixture to the pan with the pork. Stir to incorporate and there’s your filling.

Make the bechamel. In a heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and whisk together until incorporated. Let cook for about 3-4 minutes, whisking from time to time. Pour in the milk about a quarter of the volume at a time (you could whack in the whole thing but then it always seems to take longer). Whisk very well after each milk incorporation and then continue adding once the mixture gets thick. After all the milk has been added, continue cooking over low heat and whisking often until the bechamel is thick. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a little freshly ground nutmeg, give it a final whisking and turn off the heat.

Put it together. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Lay your roasted aubergine halves in a baking dish and fill them with the pork mixture. Really stuff them well – use all that filling up! Top each filled aubergine half with a good couple of spoonfuls of bechamel and then sprinkle with some finely grated parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes – the filling should be cooked through (that egg) and the tops should be golden brown.

Serve with a salad and bread on the side.