Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hung Shao Yuen Ti


Although I've watched my MIL 'red cook' many pork dishes, I can't quite get them as good as her. Other than not being Shanghainese, who are the best at hung shao ('red cooking', slow braising of meat with soy sauces and spices), I also lack patience. MIL's hung shao yuen ti ('red cooked' pork hock) is not braised but steamed and anyone who has cooked a whole pork hock knows that it takes about 2 hours to tenderize the meat by braising and upto 4 hours by steaming. The hock has to be so tender that it jiggles on the serving plate but still remains intact. This is a dish that is is served during special occasions such as birthday dinners or festivals.

We rarely order this dish in our local restaurants because the few times that we did, we were disappointed. None of them came half as close to MIL's yuen ti. Two things make a fantastic yuen ti: 1) the seasoning ingredients used, the most crucial being the right brands of soy sauces  2) the way the yuen ti is cooked. Many restaurants cook their yuen ti in pressure cookers which don't give the same flavor as yuen ti braised or steamed slowly. Slow cooking such as braising and steaming allow the soy sauces and spices to be imbibed by the pork. Steaming the yuen ti not only gets the pork hock all soft and tasty, it also leaves the skin smooth. Braising the hock can cause damage to the skin from the frequent stirring needed to prevent it from getting scorched and stuck to the pot. The hock also risks getting cut up during stirring especially when it becomes tender. Another difference is that MIL marinades the hocks for at least three days prior to cooking. Which restaurant will do that? Oh, make it three: experience in cooking yuen ti will be the most important criteria for making not a good yuen ti but an extraordinarily fantastic yuen ti.

This hung shao yuan ti was made by my MIL for CNY in February and frozen until now. Because it takes so much time and work to cook yuen ti, MIL makes about 4 to 6 each time and freezes the leftovers. Her strict instructions on re-heating the yuen ti was to steam it until it is heated through and thicken the sauce by reducing it over fire. Guess what I did. Yup, don't tell her, I reheated it by boiling. I  reduced the sauce but also used a corn starch water mixture so that I get more sauce.

This is a dish for those who don't mind stirring or checking the steamer half a day in the kitchen. Me, I'd rather play the good DIL and get my yuen ti from my MIL.

It rained yesterday for the first time in months as I harvested the last crop of kai lan for the hung shao yuen ti. Rain means I can grow more veg again.

Hung Shao Yuen Ti

2 pork hocks, deboned
2-3 thin pieces ginger, bruised or crushed with a cleaver
2 star anise
1 T minced garlic
1 T light soy sauce
4 T dark soy sauce*
1 t salt
2 T castor sugar
4-5 T shao xin wine
some white pepper

*The best yuen ti MIL made was with a dark soy sauce from Singapore, "Da Wah" brand. The amount of ingredients here are estimates only because MIL cooked yuen ti in bulk. The taste can be adjusted later.

1. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a deep bowl (big enough to hold the two hocks) until the sugar has dissolved. Place the hocks inside and coat with the marinade sauce. Cover bowl with cling wrap and leave in fridge for at least 3 days. Once in a while, turn the hocks to make sure they get well marinaded.

2. Heat up the steamer. At this point, MIL removes the ginger and anise but I think it's okay to leave them in. Steam the pork with the marinade sauce until the hocks are tender, about 3-4 hours.

When cool, the hocks can be frozen.

To serve, you can either re-steam the hocks or cook it gently in a pot. I prefer the later because the pork skin will go gloriously darker and also at this point, I season the sauce to taste with more sugar or salt or wine. Remove the hock to a deep serving plate with a bed of blanched greens such as kai lan or choy sum. Turn up the heat and reduce the sauce until it is thickened**. Pour over the hocks. Serve hot with plenty of rice. USe kitchen scissors to snip the hock into smaller pieces.

**If you want more sauce or if the sauce is too salty, add a bit of water to the reduced sauce and thicken with a corn starch and water mixture.


"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

i would die for some, it simply looks so stunning and too good to eat!

ann low said...

This "元蹄" looks so delicious, look at that texture~~very tender and almost melt in your mouth. I already bookmarked this ~ Thanks for sharing.

Jade said...

yummm...pork hock...the fattier the better. that looks amazing. now to find me a shanghai-nese MIL too...

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

this dish makes me salivated! yummy! and love your home planted kai lan,

the lunch guy said...

i know, i have been away a long time, but i never forgot you.

this dish is also one of my family's favorites and has been for 30 years or more. i can understand when you say that little things such as the brand of soy sauce can make all the difference.

my family first had it in a Boston Chinese restaurant owned and operated by the famous Chinese/American Chef Joyce Chen. my mom found the recipe somewhere, and she has been perfecting it ever since. just last Christmas when i went home for a visit she made it for me. however, she does not use the hock, she uses a whole fresh ham with the bone in. and of curse, no pressure cooker, a heavy cast iron enamel Danish dutch oven, and it takes a loooooooong time.

living in New England the fresh pork is easy to come by, but the greens are not. (she buys all the other ingredients when she goes to the city and stocks up on them.) so she uses fresh steamed spinach and snow peas with a hint of sesame oil. some times she will dry cook Szechuan style string beans.

when i was a private chef in nyc a few years back i had to cater 1 or 2 parties in house every week. many of the guests were Asians so i always had some Thai or Chinese dishes for them. one guy who was there most of the time was a Chinese American guy who grew up in nyc on his mother and grandmother's food. he liked the way i prepared this dish so much that he dragged his older brother to one of the dinners because his brother said that it was impossible to make it well if you are a white jewish guy from ny. needless to say my years of eating my mom's and the uncountable times i have cooked this dish with the utmost of attention to the nuances of the dish, turned him around.

there are only a few dishes that i have spent as much time and effort on over the course of my cooking (30 years) this is one of them, teriayaki chicken marinade is another.

TIPS: if anyone goes to make this with an entire ham i highly suggest that the pot be has heavy and thick on the bottom as possible, use a wire rack to keep it off the bottom and from scorching or sticking, and of course you will need more of the ingredients so that the sauce doesn't become to reduced and thickened while cooking for so long. you know it is done when the bone moves easily within the meat.

a long and slow time spent braising is the key to this dish.

when you go to take it from the pot be very careful. when the entire ham is placed on a large platter whole, with the various greens surrounding it, it is awesome to behold.

to serve all you need do is just provide two large forks to pull the meat away. rarely is a knife required.

like any dish that takes a while, people are inclined to keep lifting the lid to check it. this is ok, but be careful of the steam escaping. always tilt the lid away form you, and leave the rim of the lid within the pot so that the sauce that has condensated on it will run back into the pot, not down your arm or onto the stove top. you can also put this in an oven once it is simmering on the stove top. this way a rather large piece will safely braise for the extended time that it takes.

this is also an great dish for reheating. just place some in a covered bowl with some of the sauce and reheat gently. or dice it up and use it in fried rice.

the lunch guy said...

i forgot to add some very important notes to my process.

scald the ham for a minute or 2 in boiling water to clean the outer layer of the fat. this helps to keep the final sauce more refined and glossier.

no marinating is required because this cooks for so long a time.

just place the scalded meat on the rack in the pot, add all the marinade ingredients, and braise.

needless to say this is a reciope that feeds 15 - 20 =/- guests if you get a large fresh ham.

ssblurqueen said...

"...so tender that is jiggles on the serving plate..." That really took my breath away! Definitely a must try recipe.

Rasa Malaysia said...

Tell you a secret, I have never had a yuen ti in my whole life. The jiggly fat skin and meat scares me. LOL.

Big Boys Oven said...

this is truly lovely, thinking of forking into one can be very entertaining and can so full of enojoyment, prefect for a great feast! :)

TeaLady said...

Looks delicious.

Why ruin your good standing with your MIL by making yours and not being able to praise hers.

Hope all is well you and yours, Terri.

terri@adailyobsession said...

joe: it is a stunning piece of meat :)

anncoo:make it soon!

jade: u sound like my wey "the fatter the better". first find the shanghainese son!but i must warn you, shanghainese MILs are quite a challenge.

sonia:tq. if u have land, plant your own veg.try it. so gratfying.

lunchguy: i missed u, good to know you're still reading.

a whole leg of ham, red-cooked! tt must be a sight to behold. and eat. it sounds truly awesome, like a festive turkey. better than a turkey i think.i can imagine it must be a feast nobody'll forget. like the whole pig buried in hot coals luau-style tt i had in whidbey island a long time ago--i'll never forget the sight, smell n taste of that oice of fantastic, tender, sweet, moist pork. one day, david, one day, maybe you can come visit n we'll cook this together :))

terri@adailyobsession said...

ssblurqueen: :D it did jiggle!

rasam: i know, i think it's an acquired taste. i rmber when we first went to china n were served tung po pork. all of us gasped when we opened the lids of the bowls. the block of pork was totally translucent fat n skin, it was scary! but one guy did eat his share, n his expression was like he'd never eaten anything better. of course years later i did eat tung po rou n i realized what a waste of tt forst tung po rou bc i didn't eat it. u've gotta try everything once!

bbo: yes, imagine a big jiggling piece of tender braised ham and a whole family digging in! so fun ya!

tealady: now tt's a truly wise piece of advice :)) n tq for noticing--:D--i'm much better now, from a sore throat.

the lunch guy said...

some things turn out so much more tastier when cooed in large quantities, this is one of those dishes. i have searched my HDD for a photo of this dish, i surely must have one after all the times i have cooked this item, but alas i don't see one.

maybe my next big cooking/photo/video project should be this ham.

to tell you the truth i have thought about coming to see you a few times, it is only a few hours by air and i have not been to your neck of the woods before. i have only been to Penang.

i think we could have some good fun shopping, preparing, cooking, recording and eating for a day or two. possibly over the holiday season if you are planning to stick close to home. this is when i have a long break and i believe your family is all gathered together, its a lot of food. think about it.

Sabrina said...

This was the first thing my ning bo grandma cooked for my dad went he went to Meet The Parents. hehehe. Lots of story about it. But my mum is too lazy to cook this up. complains about the calories too. Typical taiwnese. hehehe. i would love to taste this. =]

Anonymous said...

Hi Terri, how are you?

I cooked this last week but its yucks! And my children said its tasteless. I followed your steps & ingredients to the T but it does not turn out as expected. What is wrong, huh?


terri@adailyobsession said...

lunchguy: yes, the holidays' the perfect time, the kids'll be back n it's so merry. i'll be so humbled by your cooking skills!

sabrina: 'meet the parents' dish ah, so sweet of ur grandma :)) so the dish convinced him the family cooks n eats well?:)))

jean: you marinaded it, steamed it but did you reduce the sauce by intense cooking? tt way, the flavor is intensified n the sauce caramelises. if u don't do tt, the sauce can be very ordinary, even yukky i imagine. aw, i can't imagine other than not doing tt, what else could've made it taste so bad...did u taste n season it?

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