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Abroad in my own kitchen

Passport & Plate - Chairman Mao Candied Pork

China | Sunday, 1 March 2015 | 3 photos

600g pork spare ribs (boneless)
2cm square nob ginger, peeled and sliced
1 large red chilli, cut lengthways
3 cinnamon quills
2 star anise
½ cup Shaoxing wine
½ cup sherry
8 cloves garlic
teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 tablespoons caster sugar
4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
100g moist shredded coconut
½ red onion


How to prepare this recipe
Cut pork into 2 cm sized pieces
Cover with water
Add 6 cloves garlic, smashed with skin on
Add the salt
Bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes.

Drain (keep the liquid)
Remove the garlic
Set aside the pork.

In a heavy based wok, heat oil and half the sugar, until the sugar starts to dissolve
Add Shaoxing and Sherry (this will get very hot – be careful)
Add star anise, ginger, cinnamon, chilli, 2 peeled garlic cloves
Allow to simmer for a few minutes. You an add another chilli, dependent upon how hot you want it.
Add the pork and soy sauce, and then cover with the stock from the pork.
Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Check seasoning.
Remove the cinnamon, ginger, star anise, garlic cloves and chilli
Add the remaining sugar, turn heat to high and allow to caramelise. The liquid will reduce until the sauce on the pork is thick and sweet.

Finely slice red onion and mint, then tear the coriander, and make into a salad
Roll the candied pork in the coconut
Serve on the onion, mint and coriander salad.
Have a side of steamed basmati rice and a glass of Riesling to enjoy.


The story behind this recipe
I am not Chinese, have no Asian heritage and my ability to cook Asian food is not handed down. I am a bog Irish Aussie lad who cooks for and with love. But, I have perfected this dish. It’s not ground breaking but I love it.

My partner and I have a favourite restaurant in Melbourne, and we will be having our non state sanctioned wedding there in December. Every time we have eaten there, we order this beautiful candied pork. – it’s sweet, mildly spicy and deliciously sticky. We think the chef likes serving it for us as much as we love to eat it.

One afternoon, I decided to give it a go, and came up with what is now my own recipe. It has evolved and changed, and recently I was proud enough of the dish to show the chef. He loved it.

I love candied Chinese pork because it reminds me of the many times my partner and I have eaten at this restaurant together. We have seen in a couple of new years with friends and loved ones here, and cooking this dish reminds me of those times – of friendship, fellowship and love shared around a table.

I enjoy trying new things in the kitchen, and taking myself out of my comfort zone. It would be easy to cook what I know and like but the challenge of trying something, and making it my own is fulfilling.

As we grow older, I want to remember these times, and this candied pork will serve as a reminder of our younger days dating and getting to know each other – sort of like a photograph, but with taste - 'the Umami of my mind'.

I love that food can transport us to somewhere, to take us to a place far away. Smells like star anise, cinnamon and chilli remind me of times spent in other lands.

This recipe does that. I don’t have an old grandmother who inspired this recipe or any great culinary heritage that I can point to in my past. But I am creating memories for the future that I can pass on to others – my own taste stories.

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