I attempted meat: pork. For the first time ever. Generally, fish is as raw as I get with meat and I always f*k that up somehow.  Either Kyle does the meat, we eat no meat or I buy it already cooked at the market (20 yuan for roast chicken or 10 yuan for roast duck).

My first purchase of raw meat from the market.

There’s a row of five counters each displaying one or two slaughtered pigs. Mr. Piggy is sprawled out on the tile counter: essentially one side of the pig, no skin, simply a blanket of fat with random cuts of meat still attached. Nicely laid out in front of him are his prime cuts (his ribs are the only part I can identify). I stopped at the first merchant (the cutest one). I was looking for a shoulder cut so I point to my shoulder. She shows me a hacked up piece still attached to the fat blanket. Didn’t look great. I ask the next vendor, his shoulder was too lean. Kyle said any fatty piece would work for pulled pork. By now, everyone knows what I’m looking for and as I slowly browse the paths of the market the vendors are all yelling at me, drumming on their shoulders. I find a piece that looks alright. It’s 25 yuan for one jin (500g). It’s really hard for me to judge what size would be suitable. I tell the guy to give me half. He grabs a knife and slices the fat blanket till it’s off, tosses it onto the scale, into a bag and then to me. 30 yuan.

(There’s no education regarding handling of raw meat {or north America is just an overly paranoid society}. Wherever meat is sold, consumers pick up the raw meat, slap it around, with their bare hands, and then go on about their shopping. Oh the bacteria. The butchers cut my piece of meat, touch their scale, open a plastic bag and toss in my meat, take my money, give me my change and bag, all with their meat bacteria covered bare hands. The change stays out of my wallet, and I hang the meat bag off my pinky finger until I stop at my veggie vendor and ask her for a clean plastic bag to transfer my meat bag to.)

We’ve had a thing of miso paste in the cupboard I keep wanting to use. So, in my newly acquired mortar and pestle, I smash up:

Miso Paste for Pulled Pork
1/2  tbsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic
Enough crushed chili, star anise, cumin and coriander seed 
to result in ½ tbsp of each ingredient ground
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp miso

I rub down the pork shoulder, tie it up and into the oven at 150°. Really? Six to eight hours. The thought of having the oven on all day, when it’s already in the apartment, not good. Unfortunately, what makes pork pullable is the long slow roast, (and a tad happily) mine was done in two hours. Even 125° I think would be too hot, perhaps 100°. It looked good. The whole cloves of garlic I put to boil in the pork fat were a flavor explosion in the mouth.

So the pork didn’t just fall apart with a fork but with the amount of fat on that piece, it was undoubtedly going to taste pretty good.

Nice crisp coleslaw.

Fresh buns from the oven.

It was pretty good.

My next meat venture: ribs. It was a true childhood dinner for me, replicating both Auntie Jackie and mom.

Buying the ribs was fine because they’re easily identifiable. 23 yuan for 1 jin. There aren’t any baby back ribs, simply the huge ribs of the pig. A single rib is just over a foot long and weighs just over a jin. I bought one rib.

On a rack, I seasoned the ribs and roasted them in the oven for about 15 minutes before adding the sauce:

Rib Sauce (Auntie Jackie)
2/3 cup ketchup
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp prepared mustard
1 tsp water
1 tsp minced onion
Baked them for another 20 minutes until the meat reached 180°.

The meat wasn’t great. Pretty tough and chewy. Will certainly try again with better looking ribs.

Tip: line the pan with tin foil.

Served the ribs with mushroom rice of course.

Mushroom rice (mom)
1 cup rice
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 bag Dry onion soup mix
As many sliced mushrooms as you like ()
Just under a cup of water
(generally I do equal volumes of rice and liquid)
Mom bakes this at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
I just switched on the electric rice cooker.

I realized that our local family run corner store is in business with a local farm.  Every day they slaughter a pig, and bring the cuts to the corner store, along with a little beef and another meet which I couldn’t translate (unusual, since I’ve learnt most of the meats… Maybe rabbit). The meat looks much better than that at the market (gotta try their ribs). A lot nicer butchery and looks like it’s been properly hung and dried a bit. Also, it’s kept in a fridge, and on trays which are likely washed with soap daily.  A nice feeling.

A good looking piece of pork belly, the piece lined with a thick layer of fat, was 16 yuan for 1 jin. I had one long, narrow slab bagged, it came to 9.9 yuan.

Hong shao rou. Mao Zedong’s favorite dish. I quickly fried some chopped garlic and shallots in oil and then browned the meat, after having cut it into 2 inch pieces. Added braising liquid: 1T sugar, 1T cooking wine, 5-spice, 1½ cups water, ½ cup soy sauce. Simmered it on low for four hours. The recipe I was using called for diced pickled mustard greens to be added in the last ten minutes. Then, served in a steamed bun topped with coriander and crushed peanuts. I served mine on a scone topped with some Asian slaw.

Regardless of how it’s served, the meat was delicious. Melted in your mouth, good.

Poultry. My least favorite of raw meats.  That day at RT-Mart, there were these tiny little whole chickens ( birds) on sale. I bought two to roast in the oven.

The prep was not fun. I was trying to keep the whole process very sanitary, but I was not organized as well as I should have been.

Rinsing and washing the birds, I forgot to give them a salt rub (necessary? I just know mom does it to the turkey). Plucking the random feathers took a surprising amount of strength. However, the real gross part was dealing with the head and feet. I chopped off the neck of the first bird but I didn’t like the gaping hole it left so the second bird only lost it’s head, he got to keep his neck. I thought the neck might be tasty, like jerky, it had some fat on it.  I forgot to try it though. Wonder if Kyle did…?  Dealing with the feet was the worst and the only time I had to make an effort to put my mind somewhere else.  Grabbing the feet and feeling the nails poking into my hand while I wrenched at it to dislocate it’s knee, until finally I cut through it with a knife.  All the while I’m doing this in the sink and cutting up rather than chopping down on a cutting board. Why? No idea.  There’s a learning curve here, now I’ve learnt.

After a final rinse, I pat dry the birds and got them onto a cutting board. I stuff them with half an onion, garlic, a few whole chilies and capers.  I whipped together some butter and minced rosemary and garlic. I slipped that under the skin (I never knew, you can really get under the skin of the entire bird. That’s awesome). My dry rub (essentially just a mix of my spice drawer): salt, coriander, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, rosemary and cumin seeds.

They went into the oven at 230° for 15 minutes then 190°  for nearly an hour and a half. Basting every 20 minutes.

It was tasty. I was surprised how much flavour the stuffing gave the meat. I think the key is however, small birds = small breasts, higher flavor to meat ratio.

Next, I must tackle enemy #1: fish.


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