It’s Cinco de Mayo and you’re probably wondering why I’m sharing a Chinese dish with you on this day that General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín led a ragtag band of Mexicans to victory against a French force double it’s size. Well, I don’t have a good excuse, but I can tell you that this Huí Guō Ròu is AMAZING stuffed into a fresh corn tortilla
Huí Guō Ròu (回锅肉), which literally means “meat returned to pot” is a dish with Sichuan roots. As the name implies, the meat is boiled once before being stir-fried. The idea is that by boiling the pork belly, it not only renders out some of the fat, it also tenderizes the meat. Because the boiling time is so short it’s debatable how tender it makes the meat, but what it does do is prime the fat for high-heat cooking.
After being boiled and sliced, the pork belly is stir-fried over high-heat, crisping up the edges, while rendering the fat in the middle melt-in-your-mouth tender. It’s seasoned with Doubanjiang, a fiery chili broad bean paste, and a sweet and nutty wheat and fermented soybean paste called Tianmianjiang. Added to the hot pan, the sauce instantly caramelizes, glazing each slice of pork with the perfect balance between sweet and spicy, with a lingering savory complexity.
While many versions of this dish call for adding other vegetables such as cabbage, bean sprouts or peppers, I like it simpler. Garlic scapes and scallions are the only vegetables I add, contributing aromatic allium notes while giving the pork center stage.
- Put the pork belly in a pot that it barely fits in. Add cold water until the pork is completely submerged. Remove the pork, then bring the pot of water to a boil. Add the pork, cover and simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes.
- Remove the pork from the liquid, wrap it in foil and then place it in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. This solidify's the fat making it easy to slice. You can skim the liquid and use it as a soup base for another dish, or just pour it out.
- Once the pork is chilled use a sharp knife to slice it into 1/8" (3mm) thick slices.
- In a small bowl, combine the Tianmianjiang, Shaoxing, soy sauce and sugar.
- Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat until very hot. Add the oil, then add the sliced pork belly. Stir-fry until the pork has started to crisp around the edges.
- Drain off the excess oil and then push the pork to the edges of the pan. Add the ginger and doubanjiang. Fry until the chili sauce is fragrant (10-15 seconds).
- Add the garlic sprouts and stir-fry with the pork until the garlic sprouts are cooked through.
- Add the bowl of sauce along with the scallions and stir-fry until all the liquid has evaporated.