I grew up in a poor household, but that didn’t stop my grandmother from telling me to dream big. If I wanted to eat lobster, she told me to close my eyes and imagine the next bite I was taking was lobster. That was a wonderful leap of imagination and I’ll always be grateful for her teaching and discipline. So the story behind this dish touches my heart.
In the early 20th century, Lao Chen was a tofu maker in Beijing, selling the tofu and bean curd skins to neighbouring restaurants, including the famous Peking duck restaurants. His grandson would often ask his grandfather to buy him a duck-the smell of those roasted ducks was irresistible. But Mr Chen was too poor to buy a duck: the sale of tofu and tofu skins didn’t earn much money. When Chinese New Year arrived he told his grandson he’d buy a duck; however, after counting all the pennies in his tin, he still didn’t have enough. So Lao Chen bought pork, shredded it, mixed it with yellow bean sauce and told his grandson this was his version of the aromatic duck and pancakes. His grandson gobbled it up and really enjoyed it. When the grandson grew up, he could afford to buy duck and it struck him that it tasted quite different from the ‘duck pancakes’ his grandfather made him. The grandfather finally confessed that during that period of hardship he didn’t want to crush the boy’s dream of having duck for Chinese New Year so he had created his own version. The grandson was so overwhelmed by this story that he burst into tears and hugged his grandfather and thanked him for that protection and care. He continued to make this dish using pork out of respect for his grandfather.
Jing jiang rou si Recipe (Sautéed Shredded Pork in Sweet Bean Sauce)is a famous Beijing street food that is very close to my heart.
Ingredients for Jing jiang rou si
200g/7oz pork fillet(tenderloin)
2-3 spring onions(scallions)
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp potato starch
vegetable oil for deep-frying
1 tbsp yellow bean paste or yellow bean sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
Chinese Crepes, to serve
Jing jiang rou si Recipe
Slice the pork into matchstick-size strips. Slice the spring onions into matchstick strips and set aside.
Put the pork in a bowl, add the wine, salt, egg and potato starch and mix well.
Half-fill a wok or large saucepan with vegetable oil. Heat the oil to 180°C/350°F; if you don’t have a cooking thermometer, test by dipping a wooden chopstick or wooden spoon into the oil-if bubbles immediately form around the chopstick the oil is hot enough. Using a slotted spoon, drop the pork into the oil and stir for 5-6 minutes until it is cooked and crispy. Drain on paper towels.
Pour off the oil into a metal container. Put 1 tablespoon of the oil back into the wok over a high heat. Add the yellow bean paste and fry for a minute or so, then add the sugar and sesame oil and 2-3 tbsp water to make a sauce.(If you are using yellow bean sauce,omit the water.)
Return the pork strips to the wok and toss well to coat the pork lightly in the sauce.
Serve hot, with Chinese pancakes and the sliced spring onions, wrapping the pork in the pancake as you would with crispy aromatic Peking duck.
Tips for Jing jiang rou si
If you are unable to find yellow bean paste, you can use hoisin sauce as an alternative.