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Kitchen Knowledge about Roast Pork

by Irving Beilin Chang


Fall Volume: 1995 Issue: 2(3) page(s): 8

In the Chinese diet, pork is the most popular animal protein. This is because it is very nutritious and not a strong flavored meat. In addition, pigs are easy to raise and require little space to roam. The majority of the Chinese (those that are Han) prefer pork to beef or mutton. However, the main minority populations are Muslim and they shun pork because of their religion.

In Chinese, the character 'home' is composed of a roof with a pig underneath it. Like the American cattlemen who calculate their wealth in the number of cattle and horses they own, Chinese pig farmer's wealth is calculated in the number of pigs that they raise and sell. To them, pigs are their financial security, there is always demand for them.

There are many recipes in Chinese cuisine detailing how pork can be prepared. If you want to see visible ones, pay a visit to a Chinese grocer or butcher where cooked meat is for sale. They are hanging in the window on hooks. Beside the roast ducks and chickens, one usually can see at least two kinds of pork. One of the most popular of these is the red colored strips of pork loin called cha shu. Another, a golden colored crispy roasted carcass of a pig. Cha shu is the Cantonese way of barbecuing pork loin, whereas the Golden Crispy-skin Roast Pork is popular all over China and not identified with any one region.

A slightly different version of the Golden Crispy-skin Roast Pork is Roast Suckling Pig. Not an every day food, this is reserved for special occasions such as weddings, important birthdays, the christening of a new house for Feng Shui (good luck), or the birth of a child.

A restauranteur I know, John Lin of Lin's Place in Morristown New Jersey, said that when he was drafted into the Republic of China's Army, he visited the local temple and asked the Gods for their blessings. He promised them that if he returned safely and was successful in his ventures, he would come back to thank them. Fifteen years later, he went back for a visit and planned a big celebration. First, he visited the temple and thanked the Gods and the monks for their blessings. Of course, he lavished money on them for his safe return, good health, and good luck. Then he arranged for a big banquet and invited his relatives and close friends. The feast started with a Golden Roast Suckling Pig with a golden orange in its mouth. The crispy skin was cut and served first with steamed buns and scallions. Then the meat was served followed by another fifteen or twenty other dishes, all different. The last dish was a whole fish. Fish is the homonym with surplus (prosperity). The Golden Suckling Roast Pig and the fish were to reinforce his good luck so that he would continue to be successful, always have surplus, and never go hungry.

Wishing you good luck and happiness, and that you taste good foods always, I offer you a Cha Shu Cantonese Roast Pork recipe from Wonona's Kitchen collection and hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

Cha Shu or Roast Pork
2 pounds pork loin
2 scallions
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
4 Tablespoons Chinese Barbecue Sauce
1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce
8 slices of ginger root, minced
1/2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Barbecue Seasoning powder (NOH of Hawaii)
1. Cut pork into six one and a half by five inch strips and slash each of them three to four times on each side, about a quarter of an inch deep.
2. Cut scallions into one inch pieces.
3. Mix all ingredients except the pork in a large glass container, put the pork into this and marinate for four hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
4. Place pork strips on a cake rack set on an aluminum foil-lined baking container with sides, such as a roasting pan. Pour one to two cups hot water in the pan. The meat should be at least one inch above the water.
5. Roast in a 375 degree F oven for half an hour, then turn the pork over and roast for another half hour.
Note: Cha shu can be served hot or cold. It is often diced and put into steamed or baked bread, called baotze, or used in combination with one or more vegetables in a stir-fried or steamed dish.

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