So I started medical school last month. And it’s…kind of busy. Understatement of the century, I know, but with one month (almost two!) of this stuff under my belt, I feel like I can almost take a breath. The first few weeks were terrifying, really; my mind just felt like cheese (the food analogies will not be stopping there!), kind of holey and not really retaining anything. Certainly nothing like the sponge that eager young minds are supposed to be! But I do feel like now I kind of have my groove, or at least something resembling a groove. Hopefully it won’t be as long between when I can make time for writing, but rest assured that even though I am a busy bee, I am still making time for the important things. Like cooking and eating.
Unfortunately I do have to say that the kitchen in my flat is rather unaesthetically pleasing so…just be prepared for some lime-green backgrounds. The rest of the city is quite lovely though, please observe:
One of the things I love about being back in the UK is the availability of certain cuts of meat, such as pork belly and duck. At home in Canada, these would be considered slightly more in the line of speciality items, whereas here they are standard at most Tescos (even the tiny neighbourhood one across from my building). Given certain constraints (tiny sink, not much storage space, my hatred of doing dishes), I’ve been rather frugal when it came to buying kitchen equipment and only have: one pan, one pot, one baking tray and one baking dish, and I try most weeks to plan my cooking so that it can all be done in one pan or one dish. A few weeks ago, my friend and I went for dim sum and stopped by the Chinese grocer in Chinatown, and this was the perfect opportunity to stock up all the essentials: various sauces and condiments, frozen dumplings, and coconut buns (the best ever). My good friend, originally from Hong Kong, came to visit me over Christmas last year, and my family cajoled/forced him into making dinner for us, and can you guess what he pulled out of his hat? Char siu pork! It was so so impressive, he barely escaped with only making the one dinner! Anyway, his method is so easy that it’s become a staple in our dinner routine. Although I deviated somewhat from his specifications (since I didn’t have any of his actual specifications), this turned out closely resembling a very delicious char siu pork. I served this with brown rice and some stir fried bokchoy with garlic (gai lan would also be perfect). If you can’t find pork belly, we’ve used this same method with pork loin with excellent results.
Ivan Pork (aka Char Siu Pork)
- 3/4 cup honey, divided
- 1 tbsp five spice powder
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 1/4 cup hoi sin
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine (I used rice wine vinegar)
- optional: chilli oil/sauce, sesame oil
- 2 packages pork belly (or 4 small pork loins)
- The night before you are ready to cook: combine 1/2 cup honey and the next 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl, whisking to make sure that all of the honey is incorporated. Add chilli oil or hot sauce to your liking: I added about a tablespoon of the chilli oil mixed with peanuts, as well as about 1.5-2 tsps of sesame oil. Sesame oil is a very strong flavour so add to your taste.
- Make sure to taste the marinade! It should be equally balanced, with sweet, sharp, and umami notes. Make sure that you can taste the five spice powder, and add a little bit more if you can’t.
- Put the pork in the marinade and submerge, tossing to coat with your fingers and massaging it into the meat (probably you don’t need to massage it but it was kind of fun). Cover with saran wrap and leave in the fridge to marinate overnight or for as long as you have before cooking.
- When you are ready to cook: preheat the oven to 425. Cover a baking tray with foil and put the marinated pork on the tray. You can pour any excess marinade into a pot and reduce it to serve as a dipping sauce (make sure to boil for several minutes before serving).
- Drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup of honey over the pork, and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 375, and cook for a further 20 minutes.
- Serve with rice, drizzled with the reduced marinade and sprinkled with some fresh green onions, if you’d like to be fancy! (who doesn’t want to be fancy though is my question…).