Steamed minced pork with preserved vegetables is a no-frills typical Cantonese dish. All you need is minced pork, preserved vegetables, and some basic seasonings.
It is a homecooked dish regularly served during my childhood, but I have never had it after leaving home for further studies. Recently, my wife suggested making it again to rekindle the love of this long-forgotten flavor.
Once steamed, the minced meat will exude an abundance of gravy flavored by the preserved vegetables. Kids often like to mix the gravy with plain rice, while adults enjoy the steamed pork.
I use Tianjin preserved vegetables, which are available at most Chinese grocery stores. It may be loose or pre-packed in plastic bags. If you are unsure, you can show the image below to the storekeeper, which will help get the correct preserved vegetables.
This is because different types of preserved vegetables popular in Chinese cuisine all taste differently.
The words 天津冬菜 on the packaging means Tianjin preserved vegetables. Besides that, it is also called Tianjin winter vegetables, ‘tung tsai 冬菜, or Tianjin preserved cabbage. It is a type of pickled Chinese cabbage originating in Tianjin, China. It is also suitable for stir-fries, stewed dishes, and topping to flavor soups.
How to prepare minced pork with preserved vegetables
1. Minced the pork
I use minced pork from the butcher to prepare this dish. Some butchers are willing to grind the meat you choose on the spot for you, which gives you the flexibility to choose which cut of pork and the amount of fat it.
I prefer to use 80% lean meat and 20% pork fat for all steamed pork dishes, dim sum, and meatballs. Although lean meat alone is healthier, lean pork alone is too dry and generally not recommended.
You can buy the pork and fat separately to mince it at home if you are meticulous about the quality. Alternatively, get the shoulder butt which usually has a fair share of fat. This way allows you to control the ratio of lean to fat and the fineness of the minced pork. In my opinion, the best is to cut the pork into brunoise (finest dice) rather than finely minced. It is timing-consuming, but it gives you the chewing mouthfeel, which differs from manually mincing it with the meat grinder.
2. Soak the preserved vegetables
Tianjin preserved vegetables are salty. It may also contain some sand, and therefore you should wash it before use. Here is my method to prepare it for cooking:
- Measure the amount of preserved vegetables (dong cai) required. The amount can vary depending on your preference. For your reference, I use 50g of dong cai for 350g of pork in this recipe. (The ratio is 1:6).
- Since it is salty, you need to soak it in water to reduce the saltiness. Otherwise, the minced pork with Tianjin preserved vegetables will be too salty to season with light soy sauce.
- After soaking for ten minutes, remove it from the water and discard those sink to the bottom as it might contain some sand.
- Squeeze out the water, then give it a few rough chops.
3. Combine the traditional seasonings with the pork
I add a small amount of light soy sauce, which will not cause it to be too salty since the preserved vegetables have been soaked in water. Other seasonings I use are all readily available in the kitchen pantry. These are sesame oil, ground white pepper, and some Chinese wine. I left out oyster sauce since the preserved vegetables have a powerful savory flavor.
Besides the preserved vegetables, you also need some cornstarch and water for the pork Cornstarch makes the pork feel silkier in the mouth and helps bind the liquid seasonings to the pork. The addition of water lets it form some gravy after steaming, as the taste is excellent when mixing it with plain rice.
Lastly, I also include some small dice of the white section of the scallion to the minced meat. The purpose is to make the meat patty less dense and more tender after steaming. Apart from the scallion, you can also use small onion dice or water chestnut to get the same texture for the meat patty.
There is no need to marinate the minced meat.
Once you combine all the ingredients, transfer it to a plate and level it to form a meat patty. I prefer using stainless steel plate, which is used by most Cantonese families the steamed dishes. You can use a ceramic plate but may need to steam slightly longer.
4. Steam the pork
Most of the traditional Chinese families use the wok to double up as the streaming station. However, the water in the wok during steaming can ruin the patina formed on the wok’s surface, causing the wok to lose its non-stick property.
Therefore, I suggest using a separate wok to perform all the steaming and reserve your valuable, well-seasoned cast iron or carbon steel wok for stir-frying. Of course, you can purchase a dedicated steamer for the same reason.
Here are the steps:
- Place a trivet in the wok, then add some water until the level is right below the trivet.
- Cover and bring the water to a boil.
- Hold the plate of meat patty with a plate gripper and put it on the trivet.
- Cover and steam for ten minutes over medium heat. (The exact duration depends on the thickness of the patty and heat from the stove.) The pork is cooked when the color changed and forms an abundance of gravy on the plate.
Lastly, sprinkle some thinly sliced green section of the scallion on top as garnish. Add a teaspoon of light soy sauce to it and serve.
Try other recipes with preserved vegetables
Here are my picks of some other Chinese recipes prepared with preserved vegetables.
Hot and sour soup is a traditional northern Chinese favorite packed with the acidity of Zhenjiang vinegar, the spiciness of the white pepper, and the nuttiness of sesame oil. One of the unique ingredients is the zha cai, a preserved vegetable use in the soup. It does taste different from the Tianjian preserved vegetable I use for the steamed pork.
This Chinese tofu is served with a topping consist of mushrooms, minced meat, and preserved vegetables. You can use either dong cai or zha cai for this recipe. It is my interpretation of a popular dish served in a restaurant near me.
- 350g minced pork*
- 50g of Tianjin preserved vegetables, soaked and give it a few rough chops
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tsp Shaoxing wine
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 large tbsp scallion, white section, dice
- 1 large tbsp scallion, green section, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- Cut two stalks of scallion into two sections- the white and the green section. Cut both into thin slices.
- Soak the Tianjin preserved vegetables in water for ten minutes. Remove and discard any small pieces that sink to the bottom.
- Squeeze out the water, then give it a few rough chops.
- Mix all the ingredients in A thoroughly.
- Place the meat paste in a stainless steel plate, then level it to form a meat patty.
- Set up the steaming station. Bring the water to a boil, then steam the minced meat over medium heat for ten minutes.
- Sprinkle some thinly sliced green section of the scallion on top as garnish. Add a teaspoon of light sauce to it and serve.
The best minced pork for steaming should be 80% of lean meat and 20% of fat.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 447Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 154mgSodium: 534mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 47g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 8/26/2021