Mr. ABC Chef jokes that it’s Me(i)-Gan cai, and it has easily become one of his favorite things to eat, braised with pork. What IS mei gan cai ( 梅乾菜）? Before, I only knew that mei gan cai was some vegetable that was salted and then dried, but didn’t know much else, so I decided to do a little research..
So, this is what I learned- mustard greens are salted, (xue cai or xue li hong), fermented, (fu cai), then dried (mei gan cai). All these products are made from the humble mustard green and some salt..AMAZING. Check out some videos of the process- this and this were what I found.
Last year in Hualien, Mr. ABC Chef shook his head when I let a lady at the wet market convince me to buy two packages of mei gan cai. (this was before he tried eating it ;D) Turns out it was one of the best purchases of that trip! This year, my grandma bought a bunch of dark mei gan cai in Taiwan on our recent trip-my mom and grandma said they don’t make mei gan cai like they used to, meaning that few producers of mei gan cai go through the process long enough to make it very dark. I guess the longer the fermentation/drying process, the darker in color (and richer in flavor the mei gan cai). Mine is not nearly as dark as the ones my Puopuo got, but they are tasty enough for Tim and me.
Mei gan cai smells earthy, herby, tea-y, salty, and really delicious. If you haven’t tried it before, get some and make this dish.
Mei Gan Cai Shao Rou
1-2 Tbsp of some neutral-flavor oil, like canola or vegetable
1 lb fattier cut of pork- pork shoulder/butt or belly, boneless, cut into 2-3 bite sized chunks
2-3 teaspoons sugar (see note)
1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 ounces meigan cai (or less if you are rationing it), cleaned, then roughly chopped
1/2 inch slice of ginger
2 cups water (see note)
0) You have been warned: Wash the mei gan cai with room temperature / cold water very very thoroughly to remove dirt and sand. I did about 7-8 rinses until there was no sand in the water. Add plenty of water, and swish mei gan cai vigorously to displace dirt/sand. Each rinse, make sure to pull the mei gan cai out of the water, then dump the water, for best efficiency. Do several iterations until the water is clear of debris before continuing.
1) Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over the stove, and add oil once the pot is hot (hover your hand over the surface to test for warmth)
2) Add the meat and sautee on as high as you can go without burning, until the meat has changed color.
3) Add sugar and let the sugar melt and caramelize to a nice brown, turning the heat lower if you need to, to avoid burning.
4) Add wine and mix around until it is evaporated.
5) Add soy sauce, mei gan cai, ginger, and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the meat is easily poked. If the water dries out before the meat is tender, add some more water. Halfway through simmering, taste- it should be primarily mei-gan-cai-herby, then mostly salty with some subtle sweetness. Sugar will balance out any tinges of acidity. If your soy sauce is on the saltier side, this would be another reason to possibly add some more sugar to mellow it out.
6) Eat with rice or noodles, or even better, have a stack of man tou (steamed bread) ready for dipping the luscious sauce!
-I think this is generally made with fattier meat like pork belly in chunks or thinly sliced, but I what I had- pork shoulder.
-Use rock sugar instead of white sugar if you can! (Sorry Mama, I used white sugar, not rock sugar like you always used (much easier to measure and take small portions of) 🙁 )
-Use enough water to just cover everything. For my pot, 2 cups was right.
-The ingredients are very similar to those used in hong shao rou , but the mei gan cai is the rockstar here! Woo!