Salted fish is a common ingredient used in chinese cooking, usually to add depth of flavour and saltiness to a dish, pretty much like how anchovies work. It can be used with chicken, fried rice, pork, vegetables, soup or curries, and the one I've prepared here is typically cooked in a claypot, but since I don't have a claypot at home, it works just as well stir-fried in a hot wok. I first tried this dish when my mum cooked it a few years ago. Her preferred method of cooking it was to steam the pork first until tender before slicing it thinly and stir-frying it with the sauce ingredients. And so, I adopted the same method as I wanted the pork to be tender enough for the kids to chew on.
I suppose for somebody who has never tried salted fish, it may be an acquired taste, just like how I don't really fancy anchovies (unless it's been finely chopped and mashed up in my caesar salad, in small quantities of course). But combined with the pork belly and dried chillies, it has an almost smoky salty flavour that makes you want to finish up that whole bowl of rice, and go for seconds. The sweetness from the onions is nicely balanced with the saltiness of the sauce, and the moist and juicy fat from the pork adds some of that "lardy" flavour to the dish.
Here is the recipe. Try to use a good quality salted fish if you can as it is the key ingredient in this dish.
Twice-cooked Pork Belly with Salted Fish
400g pork belly
60g salted fish, sliced
1 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
1/4 cup dried red chillies, cut in half
1 tsp thick caramel (thick black soy)
1 stalk spring onion, cut into 4cm lengths
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp thick caramel (thick black soy)
1 tbsp chinese cooking wine
1/2 tsp sugar (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp cornflour
- Place 1 cup water in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Place the pork skin-side down in the water, cover and simmer for 1 1/4 hours until tender. Remove the pork and let it cool on a plate. Cut into thin slices, about 5mm. You can choose to leave the rind on or remove it completely.
- Heat up 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok. Fry the salted fish until fragrant, then add the sliced pork and sear on high heat. Push aside, leaving a little oil on the base of the wok, and add ginger, garlic, onion and chillies. Add more oil if necessary. Stir fry until onion starts to soften. Drizzle the thick caramel over the pork and toss to coat evenly.
- Push everything aside and add sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer and toss it through the meat. Add spring onion and sesame oil and toss briefly to mix. Dish out and serve with steamed jasmine rice.