What is it?
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 – Dongbo 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.
And the name…
The dish is named after the distinguished scholar and poet Su Shi, who took the pen name Dongbo. 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.
What do you need to know before ordering?
Do not immediately reject Dongpo Rou for health reasons.
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.
And the best place to eat it?
Louwailo in Hangzhou, 30 Gushan Road, Solitary Island (+8657 18796968); or if you happen to travel to Hong Kong, Hong Zhou Restaurant, 178-188 Johnston Road, Wanchai (+852 25911898).
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