Mei Cai Gou Rou, also known as pork belly with preserved vegetables, is a classic Chinese dish. Gou Rou, also referred as Kou Rou, is pork, while Mei Cai is a vegetable that has been marinated for a long time. The combination of these two ingredients creates a harmony that is greater than the sum of its parts, resulting in a truly delicious dish.
It used to take our ancestors 9 hours to make Mei Cai Gou Rou, but with modern cooking techniques, it is now quicker to make this dish. It is definitely worth every hour it takes to make this amazing dish.
If you’d like to take on the challenge of making this tasty treat, simply download our easy-to-follow recipe and get cooking!
The History of Mei Cai Gou Rou
The Hakka people, hailing from the mountainous regions in southern China, experience difficulty growing food due to limited arable land. This leads to a life of hard labor and little meat consumption. In response, they created Mei Cai Gou Rou – an inventive dish that helps make up for their dietary deficiency!
Pork is rich in high-quality protein and essential fatty acids, which can help to supplement physical strength. Mei Cai, a traditional pickled vegetable of the Hakka people, helps cut the grease from the pork.
Additionally, because there is an abundance of wood available in the mountains, the Hakka people have developed the habit of being generous with using their firewood. They believe that the longer the dish is cooked over a fire, the more delicious it will be. This is why the dish Mei Cai Gou Rou requires a long cooking time.
The last step in making this dish is to place the meat upside down on the pickled vegetables. This is where it gets its name Gou Rou, which translates to “put the meat upside down.” Although braised meat can be greasy on its own, when you pair it with plum vegetables, the taste is nicely balanced and neutralized.
Although pork with pickled vegetables is now a delicacy, it’s rarely included in home-cooked meals because of the extended cooking time. Rather, this dish is usually served at Chinese banquets like weddings and funerals.
How to choose pickled vegetables
The main ingredients for Mei Cai Gou Rou are preserved vegetables and pork belly. Here are some tips for selecting these materials:
- Color: When selecting dried plums, make sure to inspect the color. High-quality fruits should be a vibrant yellow-black hue and glossy in appearance. In contrast, inferior products will appear dull or even have signs of mildew present; these items should be avoided altogether for optimal results.
- Shape and size: high-quality dried plum vegetables should look neat and symmetrical, with no stems that are too tough or long roots. Make sure there is no additional debris either.
- Aroma: When selecting dried plums, check for a strong aroma of the fruit and a pure fragrance. Avoid buying any that have an off-putting scent or moldy smell; this may indicate poor quality from added substances. To ensure you’re getting top-notch product, be sure to inspect your dried plums carefully before purchasing!
- Softness: When selecting high-quality dried plum veggies, simply hold them in your hand – if they make a soft impression then you know that they are properly dried and of excellent quality. On the other hand, if when you let go they form a ball shape this may be an indication of too much moisture present, hence signifying poor quality.
Choice of pork
Pork belly is the preferred cut of pork for Mei Cai Gou Rou because it has the perfect amount of fat and lean meat. You can buy this at most supermarkets, grocery stores, and it’s also available on Amazon.
To make Mei Cai Gou Rou, follow these steps:
Mei Cai Gou Rou
- 1 Pressure Cooker
- Preserved vegetables
- Pork belly
- Soy sauce
- Light soy sauce
- White pepper
- Cooking wine
- Wash the plum-dried Mei Cai several times and then soak it in water.
- Put the pork belly in a cooking pot and add just enough water to cover the pork.
- Add cooking wine, scallions, ginger slices, and dried chili- cook for about 20 minutes until the pork is just cooked.
- Remove the pork and wipe off the moisture on the surface of the pork skin and apply soy sauce for coloring. Then dry the surface.
- In a bowl, mix together the remaining dark soy sauce (not used for coloring the pork skin), sugar, light soy sauce, white pepper, and salt.
- Add oil to a pot and lightly coat the surface of the pork (not too much). Place the pork skin facing side down in the pot. At this point, the oil in the pot may splash around, so it is best to cover the pot directly to prevent oil spills.
- Fry until the surface of the pork skin is browned, then remove it from the pot.
- Cut the pork belly into thick slices of about 0.5 cm.
- Then place the pork in a container and coat each piece with the seasoning sauce made in step 4.
- Place the pork skin side down in a bowl, one piece at a time.
- Add some ginger and sauté. Then add the dried prunes and stir-fry until fragrant. Pour in the remaining seasoning sauce and stir-fry until everything is evenly coated.
- Taste and add salt as needed (it should be slightly saltier for the best flavor).
- Then combine the dried plums and sliced meat in a large bowl and fill well.
- Place the mixture in a pressure cooker, cover it, and cook on low heat for 40 minutes.
- After steaming, remove the pork from the pressure cooker and place it upside down on a plate.
Mei Cai contains 5.7% sugar, 5.6% protein, and a variety of vitamins, 17 amino acids, and 7 trace elements that are essential for the human body, such as zinc, magnesium, and potassium. It has been recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration as a “natural health food.”
Q: How long does it take to steam pickled pork with pickled vegetables?
A: The steaming time for Mei Cai Gou Rou should be around 40 minutes to an hour. If you steam the Mei Cai Gou Rou for too long, the meat will be overcooked and it will not look as good. If you do not steam it for long enough, the dish may not be cooked all the way through.
Q: Can other vegetables be used to replace plum vegetables?
A: Yes, you can choose to substitute some other dried vegetables, such as dried beans or dried bamboo shoots.
Q: Do I need to add salt to pork with Mei Cai Gou Rou?
A: Salt is always added when making Mei Cai Gou Rou. If no salt is added, the dish may not be as flavorful, and the taste may be relatively light. It is best to add a little salt to enhance the flavor of the dish.