Sweet and sour pork is a popular Chinese preparation. This is a completely Japanese version that is not too sweet, starchy, or greasy. This is not a quick to make recipe: the meat and vegetables are marinated, deep-fried, and finally braised. The frying provides a pleasant crust to preserve the shape and flavor each piece of food in the sauce. The technique of frying the meat and/or vegetables, then braising in a seasoned sauce is similar to Japanese-style stewed beef. You can make this early in the day (or a day ahead) and it only becomes more delicious.
Sweet-and-Sour Braised Pork with Pickled Plums
Buta no Ama-umeni
- 1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons sake
- 1 egg white beaten
- 1 Tablespoon potato starch
Put the pork into a bowl and rub with salt and pepper. Toss with the sake, then egg white, then potato starch. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- 1 large Japanese sweet potato, or regular sweet potato
- 1 medium onion
Cut the sweet potato into 1-inch pieces, rangiri style. Soak it in a bowl of salted water for 20 minutes. Cut the onion into thin wedges. Drain the sweet potatoes and dry with a paper towel.
Rangiri is a cutting technique usually applied to cylindrical vegetables.
Rangiri means “disordered cuts.” Hold the knife diagonally to the vegetable,
and keeping it at a constant angle, make a cut, rotate the vegetable 90°,
make a cut, rotate…
Vegetables cut this way ensure a large even surface area
which facilitates quicker even cooking in simmered dishes.
Heat a wok and add the vegetable oil. Heat to 350°F. Shake the excess marinade off the pork cubes and drop into the oil. Cook the pork cubes in small batches, over medium heat, until all sides are golden.
The meat will drop to the bottom of the oil and seem to stick there. Don’t worry: after a few minutes, you should be able to push the cubes free. I tried to force the first few pieces off the bottom of the wok and they just tore away, but when later batches were just left to cook they released easily. Drain the pork on a rack lined with paper towels and set aside. Cook the sweet potato pieces in the hot oil until golden.
Not being an experienced deep-fry cook, I did these a few at a time using chopsticks to place and remove pieces one by one. This was quite time-consuming and perhaps I was too cautious. Next time I’ll attempt the “advanced technique” of using a wire skimmer to dump a bunch of vegetables into the oil and use it again to remove them all at once.
- 1/2 cup dashi
- 2 Tablespoons sake
- 3 Tablespoons sugar (original recipe calls for 5)
- 1/2 ounce umeboshi, pitted and mashed
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons shoyu
- 1 Tablespoons komezu (rice vinegar)
- 6 shiso leaves, minced
In a medium pot, add the dashi, sake, and 2 Tablespoons sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the pork, onion, and sweet potatoes. Cook over low heat covered with a drop lid for 5 minutes.
Add the pickled plum and shoyu, and cook, covered for 15 minutes, stirring gently several times. Taste and add more sugar, shoyu, or komezu. Serve garnished with shiso and accompanied by plain rice.
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