3 April 2012

Red braised pork chops with carrots and garlic

Another day another Szechuan pork dish. I've cooked red-braised pork quite a few times - it's a total Chinese classic, a piece of piss to do and reputedly Mao's favourite meal. You braise pork in some liquid flavoured with cooking wine, soy, aromatic spices including star anise and cinnamon, a little dried chilli and sweetened with sugar. When the pork is tender you are done. Couldn't be easier really, and doubtless there's any many local variations as there are cooks.

Now Chinese culinary doctrine will tell you that everything in a meal has to be a similar size and grab-ale with chopsticks. European cuisines are more familiar with a large single piece of meat that can be cut with a knife and accompanying veg to be scooped with a fork. This is a slightly Anglicised version of the Chinese classic then - whole pork chops red braised, this time with lots of garlic and some carrots.

  • pork chops
  • half a head of garlic per person
  • two carrots per person
  • Soy, Shaoxing wine, veg oil
  • two chillies, one star anise, one stick cinnamon
  • sugar

Give your pork a quick purge by adding cold water and heating until it begins to boil and scum comes off the meat. This step allegedly cleanses the meat, although I'm unsure of the actual scientific thought behind the process.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of sugar in a pan with some oil until it turns liquid. Add all the other ingredients except the carrots and top up with water.

Simmer away for fifteen minutes and add the carrots in big chunks. Give everything a stir and flip the meat around so it all gets cooked. Simmer for another forty-five minutes or so and leave the lid off towards the end so the sauce thickens up. The garlic will totally dissolve and form a sauce. It's best to go mad with the garlic - bear in mind it becomes very mild when cooked. Taste the sauce and adjust with soy or anything else.

Man, this was tasty. It's quite sweet and mild so I suggest getting your necessary chilli fix by adding pickled or salted chillies from a jar to some greens on the side. The liquid ends up wonderfully thickened with dissolved garlic and makes an admirable sauce. Whole chops will take a while longer than pieces of pork, so make sure you leave an hour to cook them. All you need is some plain rice and you've a wonderful and pretty straight-forward dinner to enjoy.

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