There are so many names for this recipe…
I knew it as rou zao fan growing up, but when I went to Taiwan, everyone called it lu rou fan. At one hotel we stayed at, they kept it in a slow cooker in the buffet line. Pork seems to taste better in Taiwan..
Rou Zao Fan is definitely a street snack you would find at a Taiwanese vendor, like this (though this isn’t where I got mine):
From my trip in 2011:
You can’t tell the size of it here, but for 30-35 yuan (~1 USD), it is more of a light dinner portion (at least for me). BTW, that’s pickled radish- a nice addition to offset the fattiness/richness of it. I guess you can eat however much of it as you want, but I decided to add some “healthier” components and make a meal out of it.
I made this back in college, with diced shiitake mushrooms, and a side of shanghainese bok choy, during my Cafe 1010 days!
Taiwanese Minced Meat Rice
lu rou fan / rou zao fan
-1 lb of ground pork, OR 1/2 lb ground pork and 1/2 lb pork belly, sliced into chubby matchsticks*, or you can decide whatever ratio you want. All pork belly makes for a VERY oily dish.
-1 cup of sliced fresh shallots + 1/4 cup canola oil (or neutral oil), OR 1/2 cup of fried shallots – make sure you get fried shallots, and not fried onions!
-2 Tbsp Shaoxing or rice wine
-1.5 tsp brown or white sugar
-1/4 tsp white pepper
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-pinches of salt (optional)
-3 cups of water +/- some
-5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in room temp water for 15 min if possible (optional)
-2-3 medium boiled eggs, peeled (boiled enough just so that you can peel them without the white collapsing on you) (optional)
1. Cook the meat, then add the shallots, then the rice wine. Keep stirring, then add sugar, white pepper, soy sauce, and mushrooms.
2. Add 3 cups of water, or enough to barely cover mushrooms and meat. If you didn’t have time to soak your mushrooms, then add 1/2 cup of water more. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 30-35 minutes, or longer, depending on the cut of meat. The meat should be very tender. If the sauce has evaporated too much, add some more water.
3. Check the flavor- it should be a tinge of sweet, but mostly soy saucey and shallotey taste. Some soy sauces are saltier than others…mine is more mild, so I added a pinch of salt and a little more soy sauce.
4. When the meat is tender, add the eggs and cook for 5 minutes. If you like your eggs with more flavor, add them in during the simmer. I added them in later to avoid the infamous green ring
5. Serve with rice!
*it is much more luscious and buttery with the pork belly, obviously, but also more expensive and labor intensive because cutting of meat (gasp!) is required.
-If you are using fresh shallots, fry them in 1/4 cup canola oil first, until they are a deep golden brown. Drain and save the oil for some other use.
-A good accompaniment is any green vegetable stir fried in garlic and a little bit of salt.
-Should you have leftovers that you don’t know what to do with or don’t want to freeze, this tastes excellent over blanched vegetables, preferably leafy and flat so the leaves can soak up the sauce: (Chinese A 菜 or romaine lettuce come to mind)
-Don’t like hardboiled eggs? Want to avoid the extra step of boiling and peeling? Top the rice with a fried egg (I saw this offered on the menu in Taiwan…it seems like everything can be topped with a fried egg these days)
-The proper sweetener (at least what my mom always used) for this dish is actually rock sugar, comes in large chunks in a box. I don’t always have rock sugar on hand, and I’m not always willing to take the time to break the large chunks into more manageable pieces. But, if you really want to use rock sugar, use a chunk the size of half a ping pong ball.
-If you want to stretch your rou zao, consider adding some firm tofu or pork chops during the braise time. They soak up the sauce, too!