Recipe: Twice Cooked Pork
If you’re looking to create a dish that engages the senses and shares all the best in Chinese flavors, then twice-cooked pork should be right at the top of the list. It is both culturally important and completely delicious, and you can begin making it at home for the next great celebration with friends and family.
When you’re ready to begin cooking up your own twice cooked pork at home, Fly By Jing is here to help. In addition to our classic ingredients, we also want to share our favorite recipes and their culture and history. Chinese cuisine is an evolving art, and there are many ways to make dishes like twice cooked pork your own at home. Get started by following our recipe and exploring the cultural contexts of some of our favorite dishes.
What Is Twice-Cooked Pork?
Twice-cooked pork is inspired by Sichuan flavors and originally comes from the Sichuan region of China, which is why it’s so spicy. The Sichuan region is known for being humid and lush, an environment that produces many hot peppers and chilis, including the tribute pepper, Sichuan pepper, and Erjingtiao chili. These peppers are said to be hot enough to numb the lips and tongue, so you can continue to eat more of them.
As the name would indicate, twice-cooked pork is a pork dish that undergoes two unique cooking processes: simmering and then stir-frying. The Chinese name Huí Guō Ròu roughly translates to “meat returned to dish.” In addition to the pork, the flavors from twice-cooked pork come from vegetables like cabbage, peppers, and onions and ingredients like bean paste, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and ginger.
Twice-cooked pork also has a spiritual and celebratory place in Chinese culture. It is often shared at the start and mid-point of lunar months in the Sichuan region and represents an offering to the ancestors. The rich and flavorful taste is meant to remind them of their lives, and after the ceremony is observed, the food is then consumed by the diners in attendance.
History of Twice-Cooked Pork
Like many Chinese food dishes, there is a great amount of speculation surrounding the origin of twice-cooked pork. The bold and spicy flavors indicate that it originated in the Sichuan region of China, and one of the most common stories behind the unique method of preparation is related to its role as an offering for the gods or ancestors.
Families of wealth would make sacrifices of meat to the gods, but those with fewer resources would not be able to make the same sacrifice. Instead, they would use cheaper cuts of meat and boil them until to fit. After they have been used as a sacrifice, the cheaper meat, which was usually pork, was then cooked again, along with spices and vegetables, and served to those in the household.
Since then, many variations of this dish have evolved, and it continues to be a favorite dish both in China and to those lucky enough to try it around the world—and you can begin making it in your own kitchen today.
Make Twice-Cooked Pork at Home
When you’re ready to begin making twice-cooked pork at home, Fly By Jing has you covered with the ingredients you’ll need and recipes that you’re sure to enjoy from the very first bite. Here’s what you’ll want to know about cooking twice-cooked pork for your next celebration with friends and family.
The ingredients you use in this dish can play a large role in how hot it tastes and which flavors stand out most. Here are the essential ingredients for your home-cooked twice-cooked pork.
For the Mea
1 Pound Slab of Pork Belly: For this classic Sichuan dish, the star of the show is pork belly. You want a nice fatty whole slab, about 60% meat and 40% fat.
Sliced Ginger: Many Chinese food dishes employ the use of ginger to boost and balance the other flavors. Have a few slices of ginger on hand and adjust accordingly.
2-3 Scallions: Separate your scallion whites from your greens and set aside. Long pieces are fine.
1 Medium Leek: Cut leek into thin strips about 2 inches long and set aside.
For the Sauce
1 Tablespoon Doubanjiang: Doubanjiang is a fermented bean paste from the Sichuan region. It is traditionally fermented for three years and adds a savory and umami flavor to every dish. It is often referred to as the “soul” of Sichuan cooking.
1 Tablespoon Sichuan Chili Crisp: Sichuan chili crisp is one of those essential ingredients that any Chinese food home cook will want to have close at hand. It’s derived from Sichuan peppers and is said to be spicy enough to numb the tongue so you can continue eating more.
1 Tablespoon Tianmianjiang (Sweet Bean Paste): If doubanjiang offers up savory and umami flavors, tianmianjiang adds a touch of sweetness you won’t be able to resist, though it does have hints of salt and umami flavoring as well. Though the name might indicate otherwise, the primary ingredient in sweet bean paste is actually wheat, so adjust your dish to account for any gluten allergies.
1 Tablespoon Light Soy Sauce: Light soy sauce is used in many Chinese food dishes, and it also serves as a drizzle or sauce for dipping. It differs from dark soy sauce, so be sure you have the right ingredient on hand.
1 Tablespoon Sugar or Honey: Twice-cooked pork does have a sweet flavor profile, and you can adjust it to fit your preferred sweetness level. Use a touch of honey or sugar to help achieve that signature sweetness.
1 Tablespoon Fermented Black Beans: Fermented black beans are also called douchi. Unlike some of the other bean ingredients, they don’t form a paste. Instead, they are individual beans with a slight coating of salt that adds a savory and rich umami flavor to your dish.
Twice-cooked pork takes time and cannot be done in a hurry, so set aside the hours you need to ensure it goes through each part of the cooking process properly. Prepare the pork by boiling and cooling it a few hours beforehand.
Step One: Bring a pot of water to boil and add the slab of pork belly with ginger and scallion whites. Simmer until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the pork and discard the rest.
Step Two: Let the pork cool and then rest in the refrigerator until the meat is thoroughly cooled and firm (at least a couple of hours.) This step is important because it will make the meat easier to slice.
Step Three: When ready, use a sharp knife or cleaver and cut the pork belly into slices as thin as you can, starting from the skin side down. Pat dry and set aside until ready to fry.
Step Four: Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok until very hot. Add pork belly slices and fry until they start to take on a little bit of color. Push the pork up to the side of the wok or pan.
Step Five: Still on high heat, add doubanjiang and Sichuan Chili Crisp to the pan, fry until fragrant.
Step Six: Add the rest of the sauce components and mix the pork belly back in, making sure the meat is well-coated. Add leek segments in last and fry until they are softened but still green in color.
Step Seven: Serve Immediately over white rice.
Twice-cooked pork may be a slightly more challenging and time-consuming dish to put together than some of the other stir-fries in Chinese home cooking, but it’s always worth it. Not only does it have a rich and important cultural history, but it’s also cooked with some of the most delicious, bold, and filling flavors and ingredients that you’ll find at a Chinese restaurant or in your own home.
The method of cooking twice allows the meat to take on even more spicy Sichuan flavors and to balance them with a touch of sweetness and umami that makes every bite something special. When cooking twice-cooked pork at home, you’ll also get the chance to experiment with other exciting flavors and ingredients, like bean pastes and chili crisps, all of which come together for a dish that is truly worthy of celebration.
When you’re ready to begin cooking twice-cooked pork and many other exciting Chinese food dishes, from dumplings to noodles to scallion pancakes, Fly By Jing has the ingredients and recipes you need to get the flavors you love and to explore what makes these plates so special. Begin trying out your own version of twice-cooked pork today.