Today we are making a classic dish from Northeastern Chinese cuisine – 猪肉白菜炖粉条. The name pretty much explains everything: Zhurou (猪肉) means pork, Baicai (白菜) is daikon cabbage, and Fentiao (粉条) means vermicelli noodles. Dun (炖) is a cooking method like braising or simmering, which is the ubiquitous cooking technique used in the Northeast of China because the winter there is cold and harsh. A pot of warm and hearty and homey stew is perfect. So, let’s get started.
Braised Pork Belly with Vermicelli Noodles & Napa Cabbage (猪肉白菜炖粉条)
- 780 grams 1.7 lb of pork belly
- 6 slices of ginger
- a drizzle of Chinese cooking wine
- 1 leek
- 2 tbsp of oil
- 1.5 tbsp of sugar
- 6-8 cloves of garlic
- 1-2 inches of ginger crush and roughly diced it.
- 3-5 pieces of red dried chilies
- 2 star anises
- 1/2 tbsp of Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tbsp of soy sauce
- 2.5 tbsp of soybean paste
- 4-5 cups of water
- 1 tbsp of salt
- 200 grams 4.4 oz of sweet potato noodles
- 937 grams 2 lb of daikon cabbage
- diced scallion and chili as a garnish
- Cut the pork belly into 1 inch thick cubes. If you don't like pork belly because it is fatty, you can use short ribs, or change it to beef and chicken.
- Fill a pot with cold water. Add the pork belly in along with 6 slices of ginger, the root, and the green part of the leek. Drizzle in some Chinese cooking wine. Turn the heat to high and bring the pot to a boil. Skim the scum out by using a fine sieve and discard the aromatics. Take out the pork and let it drain completely. Set the pork belly aside.
- Slice the white part of the leek into 1/2 inch thick pieces with a 45 degree angle.
- Crush, and roughly dice 1-2 inches of ginger.
- Crush and peel 6-8 cloves of garlic.
- Cut open 3-5 pieces of dried red chilies to release the flavor.
- Besides that, you will also need 2 pieces of star anise, 1/2 tbsp of Sichuan peppercorns.
- Add 2 tbsp of oil and 1.5 tbsp of sugar to the wok. Turn the heat to low and stir constantly to caramelize the sugar. Once you see that the sugar changes to a red or brown color, you can quickly toss in the well-drained pork belly cubes and turn the heat to medium. Keep stirring for 3-5 minutes to char the pork.
- Toss in the leek, garlic, ginger, dried red chilies, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns. Continue to stir for a couple of minutes or until fragrant. Add 2 tbsp of soy sauce and 2.5 tbsp of soybean paste. Keep mixing until all the seasoning is well combined. Add 4-5 cups of boiling hot water and transfer everything into a clay pot or a Dutch oven. Simmer the pork for 1.5 hours or until tender.
- While the pork is braising on low heat, soak the vermicelli noodles in room temperature water for 1 hour. Separate the stem and the leafy part of the napa cabbage. Slice the stems into 1/2 of inch thick pieces. For the leafy part, you just run your knife over roughly.
- Once the pork belly is tender, check the liquid amount to make sure you have enough water to cook the noodles and cabbage. If you don't have enough, you can add a little more water. If you have too much, you can always crank up the heat to reduce it a little bit.
- Add in the soaked but well-drained sweet potato noodles and the cabbage stems. Stir it to mix. The temperature will drop down a little bit. You just wait for it to come back to a simmer or until the noodles are cooked through. Give it a taste to adjust the salt. I add a little bit more than 1 tbsp of salt here.
- Toss in the leafy part of the cabbage. Stir to cook for a minute and you are done.
- Garnish it with some diced scallion and dried red chilies. Enjoy!