Steamed Pork and Rice (Fen Zheng Rou)

Bamboo steamer with steamed pork on rice. (Image: Alpha  via Flickr  CC BY-SA 2.0)
Bamboo steamer with steamed pork on rice. (Image: Alpha via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Fashion is in Europe, living is in America, but eating is in China” is a popular saying among travelers. Traditionally, the Chinese believe that eating good food together brings a family closer. In Chinese society, people also treat others with meals in order to make new acquaintances or enhance relationships. Therefore, food is not only the source of nutrition, but it also plays various roles in people’s beliefs and social lives.

Fen Zheng Rou translates as “powder steamed meat.” Legend has that it was created by traders on their way to the capital Chang’an (today’s Xian) during the Tang Dynasty. It is not a dish that you will often see listed on restaurant menus. Not even in China. It is a homely dish reserved for special occasions like Chinese New Year and other special holidays. If you have an electric rice cooker or bamboo steamer at home, you can easily prepare this dish. The special feature of the dish is its crispy spiced coating with a robust crunchy taste that envelops the silky texture of a steamed pork belly. Here’s how to make a delectable rice and pork dish.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g pork belly, or similar cut with some fat
  • Green onion and fresh red pepper for garnishing, or coriander
  • 2 medium-size potatoes
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 cup of rice
  • 10 whole Sichuan peppercorns

Sauce:

  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-inch root ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp cooking wine, optional
  • 1 tsp chili pepper powder, optional
Rice and pork belly make an awesome combination. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Rice and pork belly make an awesome combination. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Method:

  1. Wash the rice and drain.
  2. Wash the pork belly carefully. Cut into thin slices. The fat of the pork is needed to help enrich the meat and the rice while steaming. A healthier option is pork ribs. They are both delicious. Marinate with seasoning sauces and set aside.
  3. Peel the potatoes. A nice pumpkin would also work well. Rinse, and cut it into pieces roughly the same size as the pork belly pieces, and set aside.
  4. To make the perfect steamed pork, one of the most important steps is to make homemade rice flour. Mix in the washed rice with 10 whole Sichuan peppercorns and 1 star anise.
  5. Stir fry the rice in a pan on medium heat until it slightly browns.
  6. Move to a food processor and pulverize the rice to powder (keep some particles for a crunchier texture).
  7. In a bowl, mix the ground rice with a little water to create a thick paste.
  8. Combine the rice paste with the marinated pork belly, potatoes, and 1 teaspoon light soy sauce.
  9. Transfer the mixture to a bowl (heat-resistant) or casserole dish that fits into a steamer. Remember that the ground rice will expand while steaming, so make sure the dish is big enough.
  10. Prepare your steamer.
  11. Set the dish in the steamer. With high heat, bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and steam the pork and potatoes for 30 minutes.
  12. Transfer out and garnish. Use chopped green onions, red peppers, or coriander.
Add anise to give the dish a spicy flavor. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Add anise to give the dish a spicy flavor. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Serving three people, this might just be the best Sichuan dish you’ve ever tasted!

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