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Dongpo Rou (Braised Pork Belly 东坡肉)

What is it?
Dongpo rou is pork belly, with a lot of fat. This Hangzhou classic is not for those watching their cholesterol. Despite the deceptively simple ingredients – pork belly, soy sauce, sherry, and spices – Dongpo rou can take four hours to prepare. It is simmered twice, braised, sauteed and steamed. After this lengthy cooking process, the meat should be so tender that you can easily take it apart with chopsticks.

Why is it famous?
The dish is named after the distinguished scholar and poet Su Shi, who took the pen name Dongpo. Su was an upright official serving in the Court of Emperor Shen Zong during the Song Dynasty.

As a conservative, Su did not get along with the reformists in court and was banished to Huangzhou (not to be mistaken with Hangzhou) where he had little to do bar enjoy the scenery, compose poetry, and cook.

According to popular folklore, one day while Su was cooking pork, a friend dropped by. Switching the fire to gentle heat, he left the kitchen to play chess with his visitor. He was so engrossed with the game he forgot about his dish. Only at the end of the game did he remember and rush back to the kitchen. After the additional hours of simmering, the pork had released a wonderful fragrance, while the meat was tender and flavourful.

The dish became so popular that it spread to Hangzhou and has become one of its famous dishes.

Although frowned upon by local diners, you can choose to scrape off the layers of fat. Anyway, much of the fat has already been rendered out by the long cooking process.

Where to eat it?
Louwailou in Hangzhou, 30 Gushan Road, Solitary Island; Tel: 86-57-1879-6968); or if you happen to be in Hong Kong, Hong Zhou Restaurant, 178-188 Johnston Road, Wanchai; Tel: 852-2591-1898). It also serves authentic Hangzhou cuisine.


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