So. I’ve been in a cooking funk for the last couple of weeks.
I am missing my Tokyo supermarket and the quality of the produce but in all honesty I realise now I would still miss it if I had moved back to Melbourne. I hadn’t realised how many times a week I bought fish – fresh filleted mackerel and sardines, tuna & salmon sashimi for a quick dinner, scallops and prawns….Then there was the thinly sliced pork for yakitori, the wagyu beef which would be briefly introduced to a sizzling pan before being sliced and dipped in wasabi salt….
It took me a while to realise what was going on and then I wasn’t sure I wanted to put it out there that I’m struggling a bit with it all. There’s no reason to really. My local wet market is clean, the produce is fresh, the pork man knows me and smiles every time he sees me and the guys at the fish stalls laughingly offer me turtles & bullfrogs.
I’m just going to have to adapt the way I shop and what I cook. It’s no bad thing – in Tokyo things like ricotta, good parmesan, rocket, celery etc were ridiculously expensive and now at the Avocado Lady I can buy it all at reasonable prices. Plus there are parsnips, kale, artichokes, fresh Thai herbs – some things are so much more readily available. Yes there have been disasters – don’t get me started on flour. But there were disasters too in Tokyo at the beginning. Time to suck it up and get on with it.
When we first moved here we stayed in a serviced apartment in Peoples Square and there was a little BBQ pork & duck takeaway cafe just across the road which made for a really easy dinner whilst we were getting our bearings and I was avoiding Carrefour. Char siu is actually dead easy to make once you have all the bottles at hand and I figured it would be a good place to start getting my mojo back – sweet sticky roast pork with egg fried rice for dinner anyone?
I always add loads more ginger to any recipe than is required – it’s good for you, it tenderises the meat and any excuse to use the ginger mincer (I made that name up I’m sure it’s called something else in Japanese!) I jump at. It’s an ingenious bit of equipment and takes seconds to clean. I love it.
I bought a 900g piece of pork – only because I couldn’t bear the disappointment in the pork man’s face one more time when I ask for smaller pieces. This piece cost me 36RMB or $6. He either thinks I am feeding a family of six or I’m an easy touch. Anyway, leftovers are great on a sandwich.
If you’re short on time you can get away with a 3 hour marinade but I like to stick it in the fridge overnight. I cut the pork up into smaller pieces to maximise the marinade and to cut down on cooking time. Everything goes into a large sandwich bag which makes squidging the marinade around so much easier.
Thirty minutes in the oven is all it takes – brush with honey for a nice sticky glaze if you want to but I don’t like it too sweet. The marinade is great for ribs, chicken thighs and drumsticks and perfect for the BBQ.
It’s not rocket science cooking. There’s no fancy tricks.
But the mojo is back. Job done. All I have to do is work out the flour….
Have you ever lost your kitchen mojo? Never had it?!
Char siu pork
- 1 kg pork belly or neck
- 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
- 1/4 cup dark soy
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp minced ginger & juice
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp 5 spice powder
Think about how big you want your char siu slices to be and cut the pork into small pieces. Longer and thinner is best.
Mix all the marinade ingredients together and pour into a large ziplock sandwich bag. Add the pork and massage the marinade in and around the pieces. Seal and put in fridge for 3 hours or ideally overnight.
Bring pork to room temperature and preheat oven to 200C.
Put meat onto a wire rack over a baking dish filled with 4cm water. Roast for 30 minutes (pork belly may take longer).
Slice and serve with rice and steamed vegetables. And a beer.