By: Executive Chef Chen Kentaro, Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro
Szechwan twice-cooked pork was often prepared by Chef Chen Kentaro’s grandfather which quickly became one of Shisen Hanten’s best-loved dishes in Japan. Cooking this cherished Szechwan dish endears Kentaro to his late Chinese grandfather, regarded as the “Father of Szechwan Cuisine”.
Sharing this recipe from his cookbook – A Dash of Szechwan – heirloom recipes from his grandfather Chen Kenmin and father, Chen Kenichi of Iron Chef fame, Kentaro seeks to see Szechwan food served in every kitchen the world over.
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves: 3-4 persons
A: Pork and Vegetables
150 g pork belly, washed
140 g green cabbage, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
100 g green capsicum, cored and cut into strips
50 g Japanese leek, white part only, sliced diagonally into 5mm pieces
50 g Japanese spring onion, cut into 3cm lengths
3 tablespoons cooking oil
B: 1st Seasoning
1 teaspoon fermented black beans (douchi), minced
½ teaspoon grated garlic
½ tablespoon Chinese fermented rice (jiuniang)
2 teaspoons chilli bean paste (doubanjiang)
C: 2nd Seasoning
2 teaspoons sweet bean paste (tianmianjiang)
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
½ tablespoon Japanese soy sauce
Dash of ground white pepper
D: For Drizzling
1 tablespoon chilli oil
1. Bring 1 litre water to a rolling boil over medium heat in a wok or medium saucepan. Add pork and cook for about 10 minutes, until juices run clear when a skewer is inserted into it. Allow meat to cool down slightly, then cut pork into 2-mm slices. Set it aside.
2. Prepare vegetables under A as directed.
3. Heat up oil in a wok or saucepan over medium heat. Add cabbage and sauté lightly. Transfer cabbage to a plate. Panfry pork into wok or saucepan slice by slice spread out in the wok or saucepan. Avoid overlapping them. Allow meat to brown on both sides. Transfer pork to a plate. Wash wok or saucepan before the next step.
4. Heat up remaining oil in wok or saucepan over medium heat. Toss in capsicum and Japanese leek. Sauté vegetables for 2-3 minutes.
5. Mix seasoning under B in a small bowl. Pour it in and cook until fragrant — when sautéed well, the combined aromas of meat and vegetables will waft in the air. Return cabbage to the wok, then add spring onion. As green cabbage (similar to Beijing cabbage) sold in Singapore tends to have a firmer texture than the Japanese variety, cook it a few minutes longer until tender.
6. Add seasoning C (premixed in a small bowl) and stir well to combine. Reduce to low heat. Simmer for 1 minute to allow the different flavours to blend well.
7. Drizzle in chilli oil and give the ingredients a quick stir. Serve immediately.
NOTE: Japanese leek is preferred for its milder onion flavours as compared with the
pungent Chinese variety whereas the Australian leek with thicker stalks is more suitable for stewing rather than stir-frying.
TIP: Choose pork belly with at least 20% fat for flavour from the lard.
TECHNIQUE: As the name of this dish suggests, ingredients are cooked twice. Avoid overcooking pork, otherwise, the meat will toughen. For perfectly cooked pork, undercook it in the first round, then finish up cooking when meat is returned to the wok the second time.
Japanese Chef Chen Kentaro learned the ropes of Szechwan cooking from his Chinese grandfather and picked up Mandarin while growing up. In 2005, he sojourned to China and spent four years to master Szechwan cooking techniques to deepen his foundation in the cuisine. Szechwan food is typically pungent and spicy from the generous use of chilli and garlic. Dishes usually encapsulate 7 diverse flavours – sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic and salty.
Michelin-starred Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro restaurant is located at Level 35, Orchard Wing, Mandarin Orchard Singapore.
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