Vegan Dong Po Rou (素东坡肉)

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Yields: 2 Servings Difficulty: Medium Prep Time: 15 Mins Cook Time: 20 Mins Total Time: 35 Mins

东坡肉 (dong po rou) is like the next level of the ordinary braised pork belly. The dish was named after its creator, Song dynasty literati Su Dongpo. One day, he was so preoccupied with playing Chinese chess that he left his dish to braise for ages. Since then, the signature soft and melty texture of the pork fat stole (and probably clogged) the hearts of many Chinese.

This vegan dong po rou is just as beautiful in texture and much easier on your cholesterol. Aside from its various health benefits, winter melon or wax gourd has a very mild taste and absorbs flavours of whatever it is soaked in. It also falls apart when braised, much like its non-vegan counterpart.

The most complicated part of this dish is making the braised pork belly parcels. When you cut the winter melon into squares, they have to be slightly bigger than the tofu, as the winter melon will shrink on cooking. For typing up the parcels, I used normal sewing thread because that’s what I had on hand. Ideally, kitchen twine is the best choice. A thicker twine will not cut into the soft tofu like my string did.

Be very careful when removing the vegan dong po rou parcels from the pot! It helps to put a flat tablespoon under each parcel before picking it up from the top by the twine.

Despite the good looks of this vegan stack, it does not taste anything like pork, so manage your expectations! The flavour of this dish is much less intense than the non-vegan version, which is how I like it. If you like your flavours to have more punch, add more sugar, soy, or stock powder to your braising stock.

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Ingredients

0/14 Ingredients
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  • Stock Ingredients

Instructions

0/8 Instructions
  • Cut the tofu and winter melon into squares and stack them like this. The winter melon has to be slightly bigger because it will shrink upon cooking. Tie each stack into a neat little parcel with string.
  • Blanket the bottom of the pot with diagonally-cut spring onions, slices of ginger, halved Chinese red dates, pieces of cinnamon bark and star anise.
  • Put the tofu/melon parcels on top.
  • Mix together all the stock ingredients.
  • Put the sauce into the pot, adding water to almost cover, spoons some sauce over the top of the parcels. Bring to boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Do not boil on high heat!
  • Carefully remove the parcels and place on a plate. The flavouring vegetables can be kept aside for later or discarded.
  • Add 1 tbsp of corn starch to 2 tbsp of cool water to make a cornstarch slurry. Add slowly to the remaining sauce and cook until thickened to your preference.
  • Pour the sauce over the top of the tofu parcels. Carefully remove the string before serving.

Tags

#dates  #tofu  #winter melon  

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