Showing posts with label pork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pork. Show all posts

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bak Kwa or Grilled Chili Pork Jerky

Ground pork, seasoned with soy sauce, brown sugar and Shaoxing wine, and grilled over charcoal is a traditional favorite in Singapore and Malaysia. It’s popular all year round but demand increases during the Chinese New Year celebrations. 

I was a young slip of a girl of 18 when I first traveled to Asia. My father moved to Jakarta, Indonesia from Venezuela right after my graduation from high school. Back in the days before long-range airplanes, any trip from Houston to Jakarta meant at least two stopovers so, before the final plane ride, I took a rest stop in a hotel in Singapore and I knew that I had found my people: Those who eat fried rice and spicy noodles and congi and curry for breakfast. And grilled chili pork as a snack.

I was wandering up Orchard Road window-shopping when the most tantalizing aroma overtook me. It was sweet and smoky and meaty. Farther along, I found the source in a row of traditional Peranakan houses where a smiling grill man of uncertain mental acuity was standing just inside the open window, turning squares of flat meat over a large charcoal fire. Despite his white singlet, he was red-faced from the heat and glistening. He moved the pieces about the grill, turning each until it was the perfect blend of succulently cooked pork and crispy, scorched fatty bits, finally depositing them in a large metal tray, while constantly adding new pork squares to the grill. This bak kwa or chili pork was sold by the kilo, wrapped first in waxed paper then sealed in a plastic bag.

I dare say that over the years I have eaten my weight in chili pork, returning time and time again to my scantily clad friend on Orchard Road, until the developers in Singapore decided to “renovate” Peranakan Place and the original bak kwa shop was closed to make way first for a cultural center and later for more tourist friendly restaurants. I mourned until I found another source. Now the shops are almost everywhere, even in Changi, the award-winning Singapore airport. And the old Peranakan building now boasts a clean, modern bak kwa store where you can’t watch them grill the pork but you can buy it for take away. Sadly, bak kwa hasn’t made its way to Dubai, so here, I have to make my own. It’s not exactly the same because the pork in Singapore is much fattier that what we can buy, but, you know what? That’ll do, pig, That’ll do.

This week Sunday Supper’s theme is Summer Chillin’ – food that can be served cold. Bak kwa is not refrigerated in the shops despite being made without preservatives, additives or colorants. Just eat it within a few days of making it though, if it lasts that long. Many thanks to our wonderful host, Alaiyo from Pescetarian Journal for hosting this great theme.

My bak kwa was adapted from these two posts on Just As Delish and No-frills Recipe. Shannon and Cheah are food bloggers from Malaysia and kindred spirits in my spicy food loving world.

While researching recipes, I came across this taste test and thought I’d include the link for anyone traveling to or living in Singapore. So many types of bak kwa now!

1/3 cup, packed and well-rounded, or 75g dark brown sugar
5 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing or Chinese cooking wine
4 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 lbs or 670g ground or minced pork (The fattier, the better!)

Preheat your oven to 265°F or 130°C.

Put all of your ingredients up to but excluding the pork in a food processor and mix well.

Add in half the pork and mix again.

Add in the rest of the pork and process one last time.

Line a large baking tray with heavy duty foil.

Spread the pork mixture out in the pan as evenly as you can.

Cover with a piece of cling film and try to smooth it out even more with your hands.

Remove the cling film and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 - 40 minutes or until fully cooked and kind of rubbery looking.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Pour off any juice that may have accumulated in the foil. Take the whole thing out of the pan and put it on a cutting board. Loosen the meat from the foil and cut into squares.

Sometimes it’s hard to get the meat evenly thin so feel free to slice any thicker pieces in half with a sharp knife. (If you are not ready to grill immediately, wrap the bak kwa in cling film and refrigerate until grilling time.)

Grill over hot coals, moving the pork squares around and turning them frequently until they are charred and crispy in places and soft and chewy in others. This is very quick, taking only a couple of minutes on each side.

Serve with an ice cold glass of Tiger beer, if you can get your hands on some.

This is a great starter or snack to serve your guests before the rest of the barbecue. I mean, as long as you are firing up the grill, right? Or bring it along to a picnic, no refrigeration necessary.


Are you looking to beat the heat? Check out all the cool drinks, dishes and desserts the Sunday Supper crowd has got for you this week!

Brisk Beverages
Chilled Starters
Snappy Salads and Sides
Refreshing Main Dishes
Cool Confections

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stuffed Whole Baby Savoy Cabbages

Savoy cabbage is milder tasting than its green or red counterparts and baby ones are milder still, compared to their grownups. If you are serving folks who aren’t crazy about cabbage, but do like greens, give Savoy cabbage a try. The baby ones are also adorable. 

Our elder daughter is dating a delightful young man that is not only a talented type designer but, bonus, he cooks and bakes beautifully. Every weekday he creates lunch for his office mates as part of his contribution to the team. It’s a brilliant arrangement, by which, as I understand it, he gets a discount on his share of the office rent and everyone gets a healthy, freshly prepared, delicious meal every day. So smart, these young people! I’ve been wanting to try one of his specialties (from an original recipe by Jacques Pépin) a whole stuffed cabbage that is cooked then cut into wedges for serving. But when I came across baby Savoy cabbages in my local grocery store and I couldn’t resist them. Some day I'll make the big guy.

The week’s Sunday Supper theme is Stuffed, Rolled and Wrapped so the individual stuffed cabbages are perfect! They may seem a little fiddly to make but I assure you that the baby Savoys are fairly hearty little cabbages and you can stuff your filling in with confidence. The stuffing and the simple tomato sauce they cook in is what my mother made whenever she made cabbage rolls as I was growing up.

4 small Savoy cabbages – about 2+ oz or 55-60g each

For the filling:
12 oz or 340g ground beef
4 oz or 115g ground pork
1 medium onion (about 2 1/2 oz or 70g
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup or 45g raw rice
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 can ( oz or 400g) whole tomatoes – buy the best quality you can afford. I like the Italian ones for best flavor.
2 cloves garlic
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme plus extra for garnish, if desired

Mince your onion very finely and then mix it together thoroughly with the rest of the filling ingredients.

Divide your filling into reasonably equal portions.

Gently open your little cabbages and start filling from the middle, closing up the leaves over the filling until you have used all the filling allotted to that baby cabbage. Repeat until all four are filled.

Separate all the leaves and start stuffing in the middle.

When the area is full, close the leaves around the filling.

Keep adding stuffing and closing the leaves.

When you get to the outer leaves, put some stuffing on them and squeeze them up against the inside.

Finally, put the last of the stuffing right in the top and close up.

So cute, right?! 

Cut four pieces of foil and wrap them around the cabbages so that they hold their shape, leaving a hole at the top of the foil.

Puree your canned tomatoes with a hand or regular blender, along with the garlic, salt and sugar. Use the tomato can as a measuring device and add a full can of water to the mixture and stir to combine.

Put the four stuffed cabbages in a pan that has a tight fitting lid, hole side down and pour the tomato garlic sauce in the pan with the foil-wrapped cabbages.

Bring the sauce to a boil and then put your lid on the pan and simmer for about an hour or until the internal temperature of the stuffed cabbages reaches 160°F or 71°C.  (While the “safely cooked” temperatures have been reduced for cuts of pork, they haven’t changed for ground meats.)

Meanwhile, pull the leaves off of your fresh thyme sprigs and mince them.

When the cabbages are cooked, remove them from the pan, unwrap your little foil bundles and arrange them on your serving dish.

Add the minced thyme to the sauce and check seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, if necessary. Cook the sauce down until it thickens slightly.

Pour the sauce on and around your stuffed baby cabbages. Garnish with some extra thyme, if desired.


How they look on the inside.

Do you like your food stuffed, wrapped and rolled? Check out the 54 links below to everything from appetizers to desserts!

Starters and Snacks
Entrees and Mains
All Things Sweet

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Smothered Cabbage with Pork

Pork pan-fried until the edges are crunchy and caramelized, smothered with plenty of onions and cabbage, seasoned with chilies and freshly ground black pepper is home cooking at its Louisiana best.

In southern Louisiana, we like to smother things. My mother says that growing up, she never had a crunchy vegetable. Green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, okra, eggplant, you name it, it was cooked till soft and mushy. Now when she’s making maque choux, she cuts the fresh corn off the cob and barely introduces it to the heat and calls it done. I’m really not sure what my grandmother would think. We all think it’s very tasty.

My maternal grandmother has been mentioned on these “pages” before. She was a woman who had it all, before we even knew what that looked like. She ran her own business with my grandfather, raised three girls, kept a tidy house and cooked a full meal for dinner (what she called the midday meal) every day of the week, with an extra full menu on Sunday. Their major appliance store was on Center St. in a small town and their house was right behind it. She’d nip away to get dinner started and leave a pot roast or round steak, smothered with onions, simmering on the stove while she attended to customers and answered the phones. She and my grandfather would close the store for dinner and open again after they had eaten and they had watched their stories, which is what they called the soap operas. The characters on The Guiding Light  and As the World Turns were part of daily life and their adventures were discussed as if they were neighbors. They had been watching those characters live their lives for almost 20 years so by the mid-1970s, when I started eavesdropping, the conversations were candid and, frankly, a little bit alarming. John Dixon’s wife Kim wants to divorce him! He forced himself on her. Is it rape since he’s still her husband? This was pretty radical stuff for daytime television. Even my grandfather was hooked.  If I sat quietly on the periphery, the grownups never even noticed me there, with my wide eyes and bigger ears.

Anyway, the point of all this is that dishes that could simmer, covered, were easy favorites for a woman trying to run a store, cook a meal, and keep up with her stories, and this cabbage with pork was no exception. It’s still one of our favorite dishes so, when I make it, I make a BIG pot. We can eat this for days!

This week’s Sunday Supper theme is Eat Your Greens in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Our host with the most is DB from Crazy Foodie Stunts and we have a great round up of green dishes and drinks for you.  Make sure to scroll on down for the link list.

Ingredients - for six to eight servings
4 thick pork chops, bone in (Approximate weight 2 lb 10 oz or 1200g)
White vinegar (just a few tablespoons)
Sea salt flakes
Black pepper
Monosodium glutamate (optional) – my grandmother used something called Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer. But I use MSG since none of us have a sensitivity to it.
2 heads cabbage – I used one normal cabbage and one Savoy – total weight 7 3/4 bs or 3500g
1- 3 small red chilies – This is my addition. My grandmother would have seasoned this dish with cayenne and black pepper so if I don’t have fresh hot chilies, I do that instead.
2 large onions (Approximate weight 1 lb or 500g)
11 1/4 oz or 320g smoked slab bacon
Olive oil

Cut the bone off the pork chops, leaving a little meat for those who like to chew the bones, by which I mean me.  Cut the meat into small chunks and sprinkle the bones and chunks with some plain white vinegar. (I keep one bottle with a lid that has holes cut into it for easy sprinkling.)

The vinegar helps tenderize the meat as it marinates.
Season the meat liberally with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne and, if desired, MSG.

Put the pork into a bowl and toss it around so that all the pieces are well seasoned. Cover with cling film and set aside to marinate.

Cut the bacon into similarly sized chunks.

Core your cabbage and then slice it into thin pieces. Set aside a couple of handfuls of the very greenest pieces for adding to the pot right at the end. Smothered cabbage may taste delicious but it’s not the prettiest dish. Adding some bright green at the end helps with this.

Peel and slice your onions thinly. Split the red chilies down the middle then mince them finely.

In a big pot, big enough to hold all your ingredients, and that has a tightly fitting lid, heat a good drizzle of olive oil and start to pan fry the pork, including the bacon, a few pieces at a time.

As they brown, remove them to a plate and keep pan frying until all the pork is wonderfully browned and caramelized. Add a little more olive oil along the way, if necessary.

Once all the pork is browned, you should have some lovely sticky stuff left in the bottom of the pot too. Add another drizzle of olive oil then the sliced onions and chilies.

Pop the lid on and let the onions sweat for a few minutes.  Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape all the delicious brown bits off the pot.

When the onions are translucent, add the pork back into the pot, making sure to scrape in any juice that pooled in the bottom of your plate.

Right here I need to tell that my grandmother would have cut the cabbage into larger pieces and put it all in at once and cooked till it was smothered down and completely soft. So feel free to use her method if that appeals to you. I add mine in a bit at a time so that when the pork is cooked and tender, there is cabbage of varying degrees of doneness in the one pot, all the way from melted into almost nothing to still just a bit crunchy.

So here it goes, my way. Add about one third of the cabbage to the pot and put the lid back on. No need to stir yet. Simmer over a medium low heat until the cabbage is wilted and soft, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove the lid and give the whole thing a good stir.  Add in another third of the cabbage and put the lid back on. Simmer for another 20-25 minutes before removing the lid and stirring the pot. The second batch of cabbage should be wilted now too.

Finally, add in all but the couple of handfuls of the greenest cabbage leaves and put the lid back on again. Simmer, covered, for another 20-25 minutes.

Stir the pot and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Finally, add in the last green handfuls of cabbage and stir. Cook for just a few more minutes until those greens are slightly wilted but still a little crunchy.

These were the outer leaves of the Savoy cabbage. I saved them because they are a much brighter green than the normal cabbage. 


Eat Your Greens this week! Now you have no excuse not to!

Green Light Appetizers and Sides
Getting Greens Through Salads
Entreés That Will Leave You Green With Envy
Desserts and Beverages That Will Make Others Turn Green

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Favorite Meatloaf by Heather

My favorite meatloaf is comfort food, especially with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. My mother-in-law's recipe is one of the best I've ever tasted! 

Food Lust People Love: My favorite meatloaf is comfort food, especially with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. My mother-in-law's recipe is one of the best I've ever tasted!

Meatloaf gets a bad rap.  Always has and I don’t know why!  It’s like a big hamburger patty in a pan and everyone loves a juicy hamburger, right?  Personally, I prefer the meatloaf because I am not a huge fan of hamburger buns.  And I can take a bite of mashed potatoes with every bite of meatloaf.  Try that with a burger.  

My best meatloaf recipe comes from my mother-in-law and, like her, it will never do you wrong. I don’t know where she got the recipe, but my copy is splattered from years of use, in my recipe binder, in her handwriting. A true treasure.

This year has been a difficult one for my mother-in-law as she cares at home for my father-in-law who has become almost completely bedridden. For a while hospice was coming in three days a week, such was his state of ill health, but hospice will only continue coming if the patient continues to decline. So the very good news is that he has stabilized. And the bad news is that he is no longer entitled to the care they give. 

So lately, she has had to hire nurses to help her a couple of times a week. She’ll turn 79 in a little more than a month, so all of this is hard on her alone and she does much that would exhaust even a younger person.

I am so proud of her and the good grace she demonstrates.  My mother-in-law has always called me daughter, not daughter-in-law, and that makes a world of difference. Another thing I can say about her is that she is an adventurous cook and eater.  She regularly cuts recipes out of her local newspaper or magazines and gives them a try, just for something new.  She claims not to be a good cook, but she produces some amazing meals.  Like this meatloaf.  She is also beautiful and funny and loving.  I want to be her when I grow up.

My Favorite Meatloaf

I made and photographed this when we had just moved and I didn’t have a loaf pan, so you will see how I improvised. By all means, use a normal loaf pan if you have one.

 2 slices white bread (I use brown sandwich bread when we have no white, which is most of time.)
1/4 cup or 60ml milk
1 small onion
2 eggs
1 1/2 lbs or 680g ground beef
1/2 lb or 230g ground pork
2 tablespoons horseradish (Or omit if you can’t find any and increase the mustard powder to 2 teaspoons – story of my life)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup or 60ml ketchup
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder (like Coleman’s)

Preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.

Rip the bread into rough pieces and, in a small bowl, pour the milk over it, pushing the pieces down into the milk.  Soak until all the milk is absorbed.

Chop your onion finely.

Mash the soggy bread with a fork and then add to a large bowl with all of the other ingredients.  Mix well.

Tip the lot into a loaf pan or into a piece of foil that you will form into the shape of a loaf pan, inside a larger pan.

Bake for about an hour or until the meatloaf is browned nicely.

Serve along with some rich mashed potatoes, gravy and the vegetable of your choice.   I am telling you what, this meatloaf is GOOD!

Food Lust People Love: My favorite meatloaf is comfort food, especially with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. My mother-in-law's recipe is one of the best I've ever tasted!