[Image: A square of skin-on pork belly, covered in a dark glossy sauce, and served in a shallow white dish garnished with steamed Chinese greens.]
At first glance, 東坡肉 (Dōngpō ròu) may seem quite similar to a dish I've posted about before, red-cooked pork (紅燒肉/hóng shāo ròu). Like red-cooked pork, Dōngpō ròu consists of pork belly, braised for a long time in a sauce including soy sauce, Chinese wine, caramelised sugar, star anise, and other aromatics.
One difference between the two dishes is that the lengthy process of making Dongpo pork includes a number of other stages in addition to red-cooking. Some recipes begin by frying the pork, others by blanching it in hot water. The red-cooking, or braising, stage comes next, followed by an optional steaming for an hour or more, to make it even more tender.
The versions of red-cooked pork I've had tend to include less wine than I see in most Dongpo pork recipes, and also the pork is cut into smaller pieces. For Dōngpō ròu, the sauce should be highly fragrant with wine, and the pork should be in fairly large squares, each tied up like a parcel with thick strands of dried grass or butcher's string, as illustrated in the photo above.
I intended to make 東坡肉 this week, to serve to some friends I have coming round for dinner tonight — but I forgot to buy the wine! I was planning to follow Carolyn J Phillips' Dongpo pork recipe, which requires a bottle and a half of Shaoxing wine for half a kilo of pork belly, and I only had about a quarter of a bottle at home. So my friends will get red-cooked pork instead, and you will get my reassurance that Carolyn's recipes do tend to turn out well (though I've included links to several others at the bottom of this post too).
I've always had Dōngpō ròu with rice, but I would like to try having it with 饅頭 (mántōu, a type of steamed bread) some time, as sung describes in his post about the Dōngpō ròu he ate at Phoenix Palace in London.
I'm also keen to try Carolyn's vegetarian version, which is made using winter melon. Carolyn's name for this adaptation is Sù Dōngpō (素東坡), which is a pun on the name of the poet/politician Sū Dōngpō (蘇東坡) who as I mentioned last week gives his name to the dish Dōngpō ròu. Note the only difference in pronunciation here is in the tones — 素 (sù) is fourth tone, and means "vegetarian", while the poet's family name, 蘇 (Sū), is first tone.
Here are some recipes for 東坡肉:
- Carolyn J Phillips: Dongpo pork — 東坡肉 Dongpo rou
- Eating China: Dongpo pork 東坡肉
- Egg Wan: Dongpo pork
- Kaixin: Dongpo rou
- kattebelletje: Dongpo pork [东坡肉]
- Lily's Wai Sek Hong: Dongpo rou
- Rasa Malaysia: Braised pork belly (Dong Po rou/东坡肉)
- The Food Canon: Tung Po pork belly (red braised pork belly)
- 紅燒肉/hóng shāo ròu (red-cooked pork)