Last week, eating out, impromptu at Nice Day Chinese Seafood Restaurant (1425 Liliha Street, Honolulu, Hawaii). We were in the area.
Eggplant and Tofu
The Cat liked.
Vegetables with Glass Noodles
Chinese Style Pot Roast Pork with Taro
I know the dish as “Kau Yuk” (don’t as me to translate it). The Cat doesn’t even know what I’m talking about. And the internet has very little info except referencing to Hawai`i. Might be a regional thing.
It’s pork, usually the belly, seasoned with fermented bean curd, and cooked for a very long time. The bean curd is preserved in rice wine (white or red), and sometimes with chili. Because of the fermented bean curd, the meat takes on the fermented, salty taste. It’s an acquired taste, but ask most old timers about it, and their eyes light up and they start to drool.
If my memory is correct, one of my father’s last solid foods he had was an order of kau yuk I snuck into his hospital room. The meat also wasn’t red, but he scarfed it down like a starving man (he hated hospital food).
This version was not bad, pretty good. Well prepared (like buttah), tasty, but … the taste (and color) I grew up with was somewhat different.
To get a better reference point, let’s channel The Doctor, H.G. Wells, Dr. Samuel Beckett, or any other time traveller.
One of my father’s favorite dishes. He was old school. The kau yuk had to be red. Almost like an Asian lacquer red. My palate was not so developed back then and I couldn’t appreciate the flavors and textures of a well prepared pork belly.
These are some examples (pulled from the internet) that would’ve gotten my father drooling.
Pot Roast Pork Belly (Red)
Pot Roast Pork Belly (Red)
Not sure what these restaurants are using to achieve the red coloring. I’m curious.
Got a hold of a jar of the red fermented bean curd.
This is the same brand featured in a Ken Hom cookbook, so I feeling good about this.
The Stuff of Legends
Got some belly pork.
Followed a couple of recipes I found on the internet.
Parboiled the belly pork (I think this renders some of the fat out of the meat).
Sliced the pork into chunks, tried to crisp the skin a little.
And here’s where the recipes and I diverted.
Most of the recipes call for the pork to be marinated in the fermented bean curd mixture (along with sugar, soy sauce, or oyster sauce, or “hoi sin” sauce) then steamed with raw sliced taro.
Didn’t have taro nor a proper steamer to fit a dish to accommodate the pork (we have a make shift steamer that fits a bowl of rice or something similar).
So, I slowly simmered the “kau yuk” with the bean curd mixture.
The results were just okay, not great. The simmering liquid wasn’t the thick consistency of memory (a little cornstarch helped but not enough). You probably can’t tell from the picture but the coloring was redder than the dish we had at the restaurant but not the lacquer red I was hoping to achieve. The Cat said the taste was spot on though. The bits you see on the pork is the fermented bean curd not completely dissolving. I liked it. I compare it to undissolved salt crystals, I get bits of intense salt hits. Nom!
Turns out, one recipe calls for red food coloring. Uhm, no. Decades ago, I thought there was a ban on red dye No. 2 that’s still in effect. I know it’s not the same red dye chemical, but still, eww. I’m contemplating the possibility of using a little beet juice the next time I try this. Not enough to change the flavor, but to add some “color” to the meat.
Anyway, bent your ear long enough.
Enjoy. Eat well.
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