Every so often I pick up a gem of a recipe from my ever expanding collection of food magazines and cookbooks. This one is for a Slow-Cooker Five-Spice Pork with Snap Peas (by Julissa Roberts from Fine Cooking). I had picked up a copy of Fine Cooking Magazine (the Winter Classics edition) while waiting in the departure lounge of Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans. If I am honest it wasn’t my only purchase, in actuality I walked out of the shop with three magazines and two cookbooks. I only went in for a bottle of water. Originally I picked up this issue as it had an excellent article on Macaroni cheese which at some point I will be using and will share the results with you.
I digress, after I got home I read the magazine fully and spotted what looked like the best and easiest one pot slow cooking recipe that I could make and that I could also pass off as one of those meals that I surely must have slaved away at the stove to treat my guests with. So the plan. Stick stuff in a pot, Go out for the day, Come back and cook some rice, and Then claim the praise and plaudits from my table companions for my day’s hard effort in the kitchen
Sounds too easy? Well let me show you
This is the original picture from the magazine that tempted us into trying the dish out. I have lots of slow cooker recipes for stews and braises, even the odd curry, but nothing in the Chinese sector. All the Chinese dishes I make are quick last minute efforts, this one will prove to be quick to make, but a long wait to taste.
The magazine describes making the dish ‘Though this sweet and spicy pork stew takes hours to cook, the prep work for the dish is super quick’ and ‘Simply start it earlier in the day to enjoy a dinner that requires no work later’. I think I can live with that timeline.
So what goes in the pot?
First you add 1/2 cup of Chinese Rice Wine (I used the Shaoxing bottle with the red label), 1/2 cup of light soy sauce, 1/4 cup of brown sugar (yes that does sound a lot, doesn’t it?), then a tablespoon of Sriracha Chilli sauce (ah that’s why we needed so much sugar to balance the heat out with some sweetness), a couple of cloves of finely chopped garlic, and about a teaspoon of grated ginger (I used about a thumb sized piece), a teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice Powder, and a 1/2 cup of water.
Second you add a couple of pounds of chopped up boneless pork shoulder into the pot and mix it all together. I seasoned my pork first with ground black pepper as well.
That is it, all you do then is turn the slow cooker on and head off to the shops or down the pub for the day. The recipe recommends to cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 6-7 hours. We made it at about 10am and then ate it at about 6pm in the evening.
When we got back in it was just a case of cooking some rice and throwing in the sugar snap peas for 10 minutes. Long enough to cook them a bit without losing the crunch.
Was it worth it? Oh yes this is a seriously good dish. It tastes like you must have spent ages on it, but in reality all the work is done at the beginning. The pork is tender from being cooked slowly, it is coated in a thin sauce that is both spicy and sweet at the same time, but not too sweet and not too spicy. There is real depth to the broth, everything that you could hope from a slow braised Chinese stew, the five spice in the dish is supposed to bring the combination the five main flavours of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent. I couldn’t pick anyone of the ingredients out as being dominant so I think that the balance of the dish must have been just about spot on the mark
This is a dish that for once I did faithfully follow the recipe, and it all worked, I am not sure what I would change if I cooked it again. I might just be tempted to use much better quality of pork, that is about all I could add to the plate. Give it a try you will be very happy with the result and all for very little effort at the prep station or at the stove top.