Monday, January 5, 2015

Heavenly deli leftovers

If your idea of a good time is to eat in a Cantonese deli, join the club. I love few things as much as a place with birds and pig parts hanging in the window, and my favorite restaurants include a handful of places that know how to make the perfect roast duck, char siu (sweet Cantonese pork), and siu yuk, or roast pork (called shaorou in Mandarin). The problem is that I always order too much, and so I usually haul lots of leftovers home. 

Roast duck and char siu don’t need much work to make them shine again the next day (just heat them up on a broiler tray in the oven at 350°F), but siu yuk’s skin will soften and the meat will congeal a bit, so I’ve come up with a couple of strategies to enjoy them in whole new ways. 
Taro plus siu yuk

One of them is this, a riff on a traditional Hakka treat that usually calls for fresh pork belly. Since siu yuk is made with the whole side of a pig, it’s a perfect fit, and easy to boot.

Cantonese roast pork with taro
Yùtóu shāoròu 芋頭燒肉
Serves 4 to 6

Taro and pork:
1 pound (more or less) mature taro
1 cup frying oil (used all right if it smells fresh)
8 ounces (or so) siu yuk
Slice the taro

¼ cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, trimmed and chopped
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons mild rice wine
2 cubes fermented bean curd (doufuru; see Tip)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 cup boiling water, divided
Chopped cilantro for garnish, optional

1. If you are allergic to raw taro, wear gloves while working with it. (I do.) Use a potato peeler to remove the skin, trim off any damaged areas, and rinse the taro before patting it very dry with a paper towel. Slice the taro into pieces that are about an inch wide all around. Pour the wok into a wok, set it over high heat, and add about half of the taro to the oil when it starts to shimmer. Reduce the heat to medium and stir the taro occasionally as it fries. When one side is hard and even puffs up a little, turn that piece over. Remove the taro with a Chinese spider and chopsticks, shaking off most of the oil as you go, and place it in a clean work bowl. If your deli has not cut up the siu yuk for you, slice it into pieces around the same size as the taro; large bones can be cut out and reserved for something else (see next week's recipe!). Have a wide, heatproof, rimmed plate ready. Arrange the taro and pork in an overlapping pattern (pork-taro-pork-taro) in the plate, and if you have extra taro, slip it in between some other slices. Place any awkward-looking pieces in the center of the dish and cover them with prettier ones.
Fried taro slices

2. Next, make the sauce: Drain out all but 1 tablespoon of the oil in your wok and place it over high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and green onion to the hot oil and stir-fry them for a few seconds to release their fragrance. Stir in the rice wine, fermented bean curd, sugar, five-spice, and ½ cup boiling water. Mash the bean curd so that it dissolves well and bring the sauce to a boil. Pour this over the pork and taro.

3. Place the pork and taro in a steamer and steam this for 1½ hours, adding more water to the steamer as needed — this dish can be made ahead of time up to this point, cooled, and refrigerated. Pour the extra ½ cup of boiling water into the pork dish and steam it for another 30 minutes. The taro should be soft but not falling apart at this point. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, if you like. Serve hot.
Cantonese-style doufuru


I like to use Cantonese-style doufuru here. It's a bit funkier, not at all sweet, and adds a nice edge to the seasoning. I also prefer it when there are flecks of chili in the sauce, as this adds just a suggestion of heat to this dish. Taiwan's Hwang Ryh Shiang 黃日香 brand is the one I usually get, as it is very creamy and has good balance. It comes from Daxi 大溪, a village that lies not too far from Taipei, and for some reason the doufuru from that place is almost always spectacular.


  1. I'm so excited to try these recipes! I love getting Chinese food, but like you, I always end up taking a lot home as leftovers. I think these reinvented dishes will be really delicious to make from leftovers. I hate wasting food, and you've given me a way to make sure all of my food gets eaten.