Hi all! I know this is a super lazy blog post being a recipe again; but I’ve been super busy lately and really feel like writing down my cooking adventures 🙂 I often modify recipes that I find on the internet or combine several different good recipes into one ‘ultimate’ best one, and I never write down what I actually did. Bad habit! I usually write recipes onto my company’s blog (as I need to post up recipes on it on a schedule), but this one is a pretty unhealthy recipe that I can’t really put up there haha.
Slightly off-topic but I was watching the premiere of Singapore’s version of Masterchef. The Top 18 contestants were quite below the standard of what I’ve come to expect from the Australian Masterchefs I’m used to. I can either be nice and say it’s because Singapore’s population is a lot smaller than the entire Australia, or a bit more harsh and that the cooking standards of Singaporeans are kind of dismal. I’m sure that many of them were good cooks, but some of the cooks who made it to Top 18.. made me think that I probably could have made it to Top 18 too haha (and no, I don’t think I’m that fantastic at cooking!). Yes, this is despite knowing that this year’s Aussie “Masterchef” is actually Singapore-born Sashi! Also, watching Singapore’s Masterchef made me realise that people here tend to be a bit more one-dimensional and not as interesting as Aussie characters. Although perhaps it’s unfair of me to judge, since Singapore is only 50km in land size from east to west, unlike Australia’s 4000km. Alrighty.. I hope the SG government doesn’t read this blog otherwise I might get deported. 😛
Anyway, back to lu rou fan! This dish is one of those quintessential Taiwanese dishes. I’m sure anybody who’s been to Sunnybank would have fond memories of eating this cheap but moreish meal. When I went to Taiwan with my boyfie last year, I discovered it was his favourite dish in Taiwan. I made it a mission to cook it for him so he could enjoy it anywhere in the world.
I ate an amazing version of it (minced pork and meatball, not chopped pork belly as most recipes or places in Taiwan serve it) at a famous Lan’s Minced Pork shop in Taichung market. My boyfriend and I just wanted to eat lu rou fan and happened to come across a shop with quite a few locals in line for it. I didn’t even know it was famous until retrospectively searching for it on Google. The amazing thing about food is that it brings back so many nostalgic memories; and eating that food again helps you re-live that memory of the food you ate.
I’ve searched high and low for the recipe (or something that seems ‘similar’!) of that specific shop, searching not just for ‘lu rou fan’ but also ‘minced pork rice’ and the Chinese characters肉燥丸子饭; of course I can’t find it as it must be a family secret! Countless food blogs and asking my Taiwanese friends, but they’re not sure what the ingredients are done differently in this stall’s. Maybe I’m also limited because I wasn’t really looking at the recipes written in Chinese. The lu rou fan in the stall was very different from the other lu rou fan I had in Taiwan: not only was it with minced pork, it was less ‘dark’ and saucy (less soy sauce), more ?oily and drier, more umami (?MSG), and a bit more sweet. It tasted almost like the delicious seasoning packet I’d find from the HK “Fuku superior soup” instant noodle.
Anyway, I settled for combining two recipes I found online. I added a fair bit more sugar to make it taste nicer (without it, I felt it was too overpowering in the soy sauce department). It would definitely taste better with a fattier mince, but I was being a bit healthier and just settled for regular minced pork. My boyfriend was really addicted to it and ate lots of it, so at least he enjoyed it, even if it wasn’t quite the same as the Taichung one! I also served it with ramen egg (because I hate plain hard-boiled egg!), and it was even yummier. It’s also my mistake for not having spring onion on top, which would make it even nicer (I thought it was in my boyfriend’s fridge but alas no. So I settled with coriander only).
As for the Taichung minced pork rice? If anybody here (hedging my bets as quite a few of you are from Taiwan!) knows a recipe that is close to the Lan’s minced pork rice, please please let me know!
Lu Rou Fan: Taiwanese Braised Pork Rice
Serves: 4 people
- 450g minced pork (or if you want to do as the rest of the Taiwan do: skin-on pork belly, cut into 1cm pieces)
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 5 tsp sugar
- 5 bulbs of shallots, finely chopped or sliced thinly
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 8 shiitake mushrooms, cut into 1cm pieces (you will see here that I actually cut them into 1/2.. lol. Silly Imperial system of the recipe made me misread 1/2″!)
- 3 baby king oysters, chopped
- 1/2 cup Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 star anise (8 full points)
- 3/4 tsp five spice powder
- 2 slices fresh ginger
- 2 slices dried tangerine peel
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 cups water
- Spring onion and coriander, to garnish
- 4 ramen eggs, halved (optional)
- Cooked sushi rice, to serve
- Add 3 tablespoons peanut oil into a wok over medium heat. Gently fry shallots for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently and lowering the heat to control the browning process. When the shallot becomes a golden brown and crispy, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a paper towel to cool and crisp.
- Return the heat to medium, add the garlic, ginger, five spice powder, bay leaves and star anise and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from wok, reserving oil inside.
- Add sugar to wok and heat until it melts. Add mushroom and coat with the browned sugar.
- Add the pork, mashing it to small pieces. When it’s browned, add the fried spices and fried shallot. Stir-fry until well blended, about 1 minute.
- Pour in the rice wine, soy sauces, and water. Lower the heat to medium-low or low, cover, and gently simmer for 1-1.5 hours.
- If you want the sauce to be thicker, turn up the heat to medium-high, stirring occasionally, for around 5 minutes. Make sure there is still plenty of sauce for your rice!
- One recipe says that you can let it sit in room temperature for 15 minutes to let the flavours develop. Heck, I don’t have the patience for that 😛
- To serve, scoop the pork mince over a bowl of sushi rice, add some sauce, and garnish with ramen eggs and spring onion and coriander.