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Suancai chao rou 酸菜炒肉


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Made something that turned out real good tonight and thought I would share. The main intention behind this and my other food postings is to help people living in China make some tasty dishes at home so they don’t have to eat out all the time.


Same disclaimer as before: I’m not a chef, but just an ordinary guy who has access to a wealth of great local (Kunming) ingredients. This recipe is not precise, and you can add more or less of things as you desire. The predominant flavors here are hot and sour/suan la/酸辣。


When I was shopping this morning at the wet market, I saw a new vendor lady selling pickled items. Her spicy pickled mustard greens caught my eye. I’ve enjoyed them in famous Sichuan dishes such as suan cai yu/ 酸菜鱼, but didn’t realize they were popular here in Yunnan as well. They pack plenty of punch; not for the faint hearted.


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She cut them up on a slightly concave section of log serving as a cutting board. Used two knives at the same time. A real pro. They cost me 3 Yuan and I have some left for tomorrow to try with scrambled eggs.


Pickled greens are called suan cai/ 酸菜,but more specifically these particular ones are spicy pickled jiecai /芥菜, which are mustard greens (dictionary says Brassica juncea.)  They are made by fermenting the ingredients for a long time in large stoneware crocks which have a loose top. (The process forms gas; if sealed tightly, the jars might explode.)


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I looked up several recipes on the Chinese internet as a guide, and they all recommended soaking the greens in cool water for a few minutes. I did that and then strained them. You can see how strongly colored the soaking water became.


Most recipes called for some ginger, so I cut some of that into fine matchsticks.


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Prepared the meat, a piece of lean pork loin/liji/ 里脊, by slicing it fine into slivers/rousi/ 肉丝 and marinated those in cooking wine 绍兴酒 /Shaoxing jiu and 小粉/xiaofen。 Xiaofen is wheat starch; but you could use corn starch instead. The meat cost 6 Yuan.


Cut up part of a Bermuda onion/yangcong/洋葱. Could have used green onions/葱/cong, but had forgotten to buy them. I added some thinly sliced carrots/huluobo/胡萝卜 in order to make it a more balanced one-dish meal.Set out a little rock sugar 冰糖 /bingtang for sweetness to offset some of the sour.


Fired up the wok and first cooked the meat over high fire. Scooped it out into a bowl. (Not the same bowl in which it was marinating.) Added the aromatics, namely the onions and ginger, cooked them until they began to smell good and turn golden. Then added the carrots and the sugar. In a minute added the greens.


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Then put in a little water, turned the fire down low, and put on the cover. Five minutes later, removed the cover, added the cooked meat and stirred it all up. High simmer a minute or two longer until no longer soupy. Dash of salt; MSG if you want it.


Meanwhile I had cooked a pot of rice. Voila, plate it up. Can either serve the rice on the side in a separate bowl, or heap the meat and greens on top of the rice, making it a gaifan/盖饭。 I did the latter in the interest of slightly easier handling since I often eat in front of the TV instead of at the table.




It wasn't much trouble, and I will make it again. Hearty, robust flavor. Cost 10 to 15 Yuan for two generous servings. Was glad to have some left overs.

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