Sliced Pork Belly with Pickled Napa Cabbage is a famous northeastern Chinese dish. Pickled cabbage (Suan Cai) is a popular ingredient in many Chinese dishes, because it balances out the grease of fatty pork belly. The result is an appetizing dish that can instantly warm you up in cold weather conditions.
The unique weather conditions in Northeast China naturally shape the local eating habits. The winter is long, harsh, and bitterly cold. The growing season is also very short. Short of fresh vegetables, Manchurians store up vegetables by pickling them. They pickle nearly everything: from cucumbers and potatoes to chives and cabbages, hence the creation of so many dishes featuring pickled ingredients. In winter time, in nearly every household, you will see a deep crock, storing several hundred pounds of pickled vegetables, which sustains the household during the cold winter and spring months.
Pickling preserves nearly all the nutrients in cabbage, while making it flavorful. Vitamins notably are preserved to a quality of 90 percent. The authentic Northeastern pickled cabbage is tangy, crunchy, with a translucent golden color. It is popular for nearly every cooking method—stir fry, stew, hot pot or making various fillings.
- Pork belly
- Pickled napa cabbage (Suan Cai)
- Start with cold water and boil the pork belly, reserve the water for making soup base.
- Cut off the stem of pickled napa cabbage, then slice through the thick part of each leaf. Slice across the leaves to create thin, even shreds.
- Simmer garlic slices with oil on low heat in the wok. Fill the wok slowly with pork soup base (reserved from earlier), then add the shredded pieces of napa cabbage to the mixture. Turn up the heat to medium.
- Cut pork belly against the grain into 3mm thin slices.
- Season the napa cabbage soup base with salt and more fresh garlic. Add the pork belly slices to the wok, stir, and serve.
Rinse or soak pickled cabbage, drain before cooking.
Pickled cabbage is often paired with meat, as it neutralizes the grease. Although tastes sour, it is actually alkaline and therefore great for people who often have stomach issues from too much acid.