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Melt in the mouth Mei Cai Kou Rou 梅菜扣肉

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Ingredients

Adjust Servings:
250g Salty Mei Cai
250g Sweet Mei Cai
1kg Pork Belly Whole pieces cut 6cm wide
3 tbsp Five Spice Powder
1 tbsp Salt
4 tbsp Olive Oil For browning meat if not using air fryer
5-6 tbsp Pork Oil For frying spices
1 stick Cinammon
5 pieces Shallot Peeled and clean
5 cloves Garlic
2-3 slices Ginger
2 Small Red Chillis stem and seeds removed
6 Rock Sugar Cubes
1 tbsp Mushroom sauce Or Oyster sauce
2 tbsp Hua Diao Wine
3 tbsp Dark Sauce Adjust to taste and colour
1 tbsp Light Sauce

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Melt in the mouth Mei Cai Kou Rou 梅菜扣肉

Melt in the mouth tender and so flavourful. Simply the best!

  • 3.5h
  • Serves 6
  • Medium

Ingredients

Directions

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First off, it is very hard to get a good picture with neat pieces of the Mei Cai Kou Rou 梅菜扣肉 or Braised pork in fermented mustard greens. Maybe my cutting skills are not so good, but the meat just keeps falling apart. -_- Learning how to cook good food and to take nice photos are 2 different skill sets and I am still figuring the latter.

mei cai kou rou
Photo from last attempt. Pink and soft sous vide like quality. By chance. Will experiment more and inform if interested.

Mei Cai Kou Rou is one of Ed’s favourite dishes from my mother. Odd really, considering he usually avoids pork belly and he does not like food preserved vegetables. Mummy’s Mei Cai Kou Rou is a good balance of savoury and sweet, with the aromatic fragrance of the Mei Cai and the pork that it practically melts in your mouth. I used to down 2 bowls of rice just with this 1 dish and I do not usually eat pork belly. But then many of mummy’s dishes will make me do that. And when my colleague, a Hakka from Yongding told my mum that her Mei Cai Kou Rou is fantastic, I take that as high praise. In fact, just last night, my niece who usually does not eat much kept asking for the pork during dinner. =) So here, I would like to share her recipe with you and may delicious food pass on through generations.

MY MISTAKES

Truth be told, I had wanted to share this recipe long ago. However, I always had a mishap each time I cook it and I am ashamed to say it is because I did not have patience to read the instructions properly. Usually I only need one trial to get it totally right. But this time, it took me 3.5 times. -_-

First 2 times I did it, the time gap was about 6 months. So I made the same bloody mistake –  forgetting to rinse the Mei Cai. -_- The result is a ridiculously salty sauce that you feel a headache with just a sip. Luckily for me, both times I tasted 1 hour or so into the braising and realised my mistake. Adding more water (2x more) did not salvage the sauce, but it salvaged the meat. Meat was extremely flavourful and great for eating by itself (no sauce) or in fried rice and noodles or making claypot rice (little sauce).

Third time I did it, well Ed did it (because he got fed up of my bungling his favourite dish), we rinsed but I forgot to tell him to poke the meat to let the flavours through (it was only in verbal instructions from mum). We only poked the skin. Luckily, my in-laws could not come for dinner that night, instead they were coming with some relatives the next day and I had the chance to rectify that by poking the meat with a chopstick and fork and throwing it back to cook a little longer. Thus the additional 0.5 times. =P

TIPS ON TOOLS

Mei Cai Kou Rou is a dish that looks like it is a lot of hard work, but it is actually pretty simple (if you remember all the steps). Just need some time to soak the pickled vegetables or mei cai and to braise the meat. I have combined some modern techniques like using an air fryer to fry the meat instead of browning in a pan. Reason is that it really helps to keep the oil splatter down. The first time I did the frying on the stove, I had oil splatter everywhere and let’s just say that thanks to this dish, Ed finally caved in to the air fryer. =D

Mei Cai Kou Rou - against oil splatter
Image courtesy of hotels-worldwide.info. Protection against oil splatter. I had goggles, apron and mitts on. No bike helmet at home.

We also used a cast iron pot to stew the pork with the Mei Cai. The heat retention and distribution properties of the pot made the pork very soft. If you do not have cast iron, you can try claypot or vision ware or slow cooker or well, any regular stainless steel pot like my mum.

We do not use any meat tenderiser or special tool to poke holes on the skin. Just fork and a chopstick. The fork is very useful in poking holes on the skin before air frying and the chopstick is very useful for poking holes on the meat for flavour penetration. You do not need the hole to be through the meat, half way is good enough and just do rapid stabs on each side of the meat, except the under side. A pair of tongs will be useful too for transferring the meat out of the water, in and out of the air fryer and into the pot.

WHAT IS MEI CAI?

Mei Cai is basically a pickle originating from the Hakkas all over China. It consists of a whole head of various varieties of Chinese mustards and cabbages (芥菜、油菜、白菜) that has undergone the process of drying, steaming, and salting. First, the vegetables are harvested and sun-dried until limp. It is then brined and kneaded until the juices are exuded, then left to ferment in large clay urns for 15 to 20 days. The vegetable is then repeatedly steamed and dried until reddish brown in colour and highly fragrant.

Mei Cai Kou Rou - mei cai
Rinsed and soaked then cut into 1cm wide strips or cubes

NOTES ON THE RECIPE

This recipe calls for equal portions of salty Mei Cai and sweet Mei Cai. A lot of recipes I saw online usually just call for one type. I guess having the 2 types makes the dish less salty and balances the flavours. I got my Mei Cai from the dried goods store at the wet market and just tell them you want equal portions of sweet and salty Mei Cai and she will grab it for you.

To prepare the Mei Cai, you have to wash it a few times, rinsing off the excess salt. Rinse till the water runs clear. Then soak the Mei Cai in water for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Rinse and soak. Taste the water to test. The water should be still salty, but not too salty.

For those who do not eat pork or do not enjoy fatty pork, using the same method, you can also prepare Mei Cai Duck or use leaner cuts with the pork belly. I usually do one piece of pork belly and one piece of pork neck rolled up tightly and tied with string. There is still some fats, but because it is marbled, it tastes less “sinful”. You do need some fats for the meat not to taste too dry. After all, this dish is fantastic because you have this amazing blend of flavours that melts in your mouth. But honestly, the pork belly still tastes the best. You can try asking the butcher for a less fatty cut of the pork belly and I usually cut the pork belly to big strips of about 5-7cm wide. This allows a faster cook through, yet slow enough to have your melt in the mouth pork. Please refer to picture below.

The pork needs to be blanched in boiling water for 3-5 minutes to remove any scum followed by a quick rinse in cold water. Then rub with salt and 5 spice powder mix before you air fry at 200C for 5 -8 minutes on left, right and skin side facing up to brown it. I place an aluminum foil in the air fry basket in an attempt to collect the oil, but well, don’t bother as it will still leak to the bottom. After browning, let it rest.

mei cai kou rou - blanched pork
After blanching

Using the pot that you will be braising the pork in, fry the spices and aromatics with the pig fat rendered in the air fryer. Add rock sugar and allow it to caramelise then add the finely chopped (about 1cm thick) Mei Cai into the pot and slightly, stirring to mix evenly.

Mei Cai Kou Rou spices
Five spice powder for rubbing meat. Garlic, shallots, ginger and cinnamon for frying. Missing from photo is 2 small red chillis, seeds removed.

Add the pork into the pot and add enough hot water to cover the pork. Add hua diao wine and oyster sauce. Bury the pork under the Mei Cai and cook over medium fire, boiling for 30 minutes then lower the heat to simmer for 2 hours or until the pork is soft. Your fork should poke through the meat without any effort. Season with dark soy sauce and oyster sauce to taste 30 minutes before the end. Remove the pork and slice it before serving on a bed of mei cai and sauce drizzled over.

The beauty about this recipe is that you can cook 1kg to maybe 2.5kg of meat without adjusting the other ingredients. I will double the rock sugar, cinnamon, ginger, shallot and garlic if I am above 2kg, but keep the Mei Cai weight. Mei Cai Kou Rou is one of those great recipes to prepare for gatherings as almost same amount if work can feed an army, or over the weekend to be slowly consumed over the week either with white rice, white porridge or to be added to fried vegetables, noodles and rice. It is also a great choice for bento boxes that can be reheated in the office as it reheats well. In fact, it tastes better with each reheat. Do not attempt to add eggs, tau kwa, etc into the sauce and braise it like you would with Lor Bak as it is just not suitable.

MANY WAYS TO EAT MEI CAI KOU ROU

We eat mei cai kou rou with rice or porridge. We also add it to fried rice and sometimes to fried vegetables. The extra mei cai left, we steam fish with it. We also For a carb free meal with Mei Cai Kou Rou, you may check out this Fried Cauliflower Rice recipe. We also make little crepes like those peking duck wrappers and wrap the mei cai kou rou “peking duck style”. You can also have it with burger either with whole slices of pork or pulled pork style.

mei cai kou rou wraps

mei cai kou rou burger

Do let us know how your attempt went. We would love to have your feedback and hope to improve from there. I hope my instructions are clear enough…For other recipes, please visit our homepage or click the food tab on our menu bar and choose from there.

HEALTH NOTE

Due to the high fat and salt content of the dish, it is not a good idea to have Mei Cai Kou Rou too often. But this is definitely a dish that we can all indulge in once in a while. After all, what is life without some indulgence, right? We live to eat, love and laugh! Happy living everyone!

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Steps

1
Done
2 hours

Rinse and soak Mei Cai

Rinse both sweet and salty mei cai thoroughly in a colander till water runs clear. Soak mei cai for 1.5 to 2 hours. Change water and taste water to see if enough salt is soaked off. Water should taste tolerably salty.

2
Done
2 min

Dry and cut Mei Cai

Remove the Mei Cai from water, squeezing it dry. Chop them about 1cm thick and set aside.

3
Done
5 min

Blanch and season Pork

When buying the pork belly, try to get the butcher to cut into whole pieces about 5-7cm thick and however long instead of a whole slab to have a faster cook through but slow enough to cook to a melt in the mouth effect.
Blanch pork in boiling water for 3-5 minutes or till no more scum is appearing.
Rinse in cold water, pat dry and poke holes on the sides and skin of the pork belly with a chopstick and a fork.
Rub pork all over with salt and 5 spice powder.

4
Done
10-15 min

Brown pork

For those with air fryers, place pork in basket and air fry for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. If necessary, fry the skin side up till the skin is brown and crispy on the surface.
For those without air fryers, heat the wok or braising pot with olive oil. Using a long pair of thongs, place the pork in an brown each side. Cover with a oil cover (can get from Ikea) to prevent oil splattering.
Set browned meat aside.

5
Done
5 min

Fry seasoning

To the braising pot, add pork oil rendered from browning meat. Fry the whole garlic and shallots, cinnamon stick, chilli and ginger till slightly brown. Add rock sugar and caramelise. Then add Mei Cai and mix evenly.

6
Done
2-3 hours

Start the braise

Add Pork belly and water so that the pork belly will be submerged in water. Add wine and mushroom or oyster sauce. Cover the pork belly with Mei Cai and cover the pot. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes then lower to a simmer for 1.5 - 2.5 hours or until the pork is soft. (Fork can go through with little resistance)

7
Done

Slice pork and serve

Remove pork and slice.
Place on a bowl or deep dish on top of a bed of Mei Cai. Drizzle with sauce and garnish with coriander.

BluRain

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