Fast Food

Meicai Kourou (梅菜扣肉)

A popular item among China’s Hakka people


What is it?

A dish said to come from Meizhou in Guangdong, Meicai Kourou is popular amongst the Hakka people, an ethnic sub-group of the Han Chinese known for their nomadic history. The dish requires only two major ingredients: mustard green sweet pickle (called meicai in Chinese) and pork belly.

The mustard green pickle is first rinsed in water to get rid of some of the salt and sand particles. Meanwhile, pork belly is deep-fried to release some of the fat before simmering with the chopped mustard green pickle on a low heat, along with dark soy sauce and ginger and scallions, until the meat is perfectly tender. The dish is accompanied with plain rice.

What’s the history?

According to popular folklore, during the late Ming Dynasty many people moved south to take refuge from unrest. One day, a fairy appeared in front of a woman of Hakka ancestry. She gave the woman, who had five starving children at home, a bag of seeds, promising that they would sprout quickly and yield beautiful vegetables – enough to feed her entire family. Struck by the generosity, the woman asked the fairy for her name and she simply replied, “Mei”.

The seeds grew quickly. So quick, in fact, that the family could not eat the vegetables fast enough. Not wanting to let the food go to waste, they decided to pickle the excess with salt (to draw out the water) and then left it to dry under the sun. After a while, the preserved vegetable developed a beautiful amber hue and yet remained crunchy when cooked. The family began giving it to all their friends and relatives. When asked for the name of the vegetable, they simply said, “Mei Cai” (cai meaning vegetable).

In addition to Meicai Kourou, another very famous Hakka dish is Lei Cha (see WiC385).

Where to eat it?

Sang Kee in Hong Kong is known for its Meicai Kourou; its salt baked chicken, another traditional Hakka dish, is also a must-try. Address: 1-2/F, Hip Sang Building, 107-115 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Tel: (852) 2575 2239

In Guangzhou, Haoke Zhijia (好客之家) serves one of the most highly rated Meicai Kourou. Address: 333 Fangcun Middle Avenue, 2/F Fangcun Tea Market, Guangzhou. Tel: (86) 20 8156 3508

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