A Taste of Spring

12 Mar

Gyms in New York City has been insanely packed since the beginning of January. The City’s fashion savvy people has been trying to get rid of the holiday/winter weight for more than 2 months and it’s about time to take off the thick jacket and show off what they have accomplished. With all that said, a new spring is around the corner.

Spring used to mean the coming back of fresh vegetables, which may still be what’s being told in the textbook for school children. But greenhouses have destroyed the culinary implication of spring entirely–almost everything becomes available all year round. The excitement about spring foods has been largely diminished. I had been struggling to come up with a recipe to welcome the most comfortable season of the City.

Finally I realized I still have a bag of Chinese baby bamboo shoots in the freezer. Those bamboo shoots could only be picked up in certain mountainous areas in southwest China during the early spring. One of such areas was Chengdu, where I went to elementary school. I remembered every spring mom would be super excited if she got the super fresh baby bamboo shoots from the local farmer. She would cook the bamboo shoots with pork belly and make a stew dish that would be super rich in flavors, fat and of course, a taste of spring. I was so thrilled when I first got the imported frozen bamboo shoots in a Chinese supermarket in central Jersey.

Yes, the bamboo shoots in my fridge was apparently over a year old but I figured they were truly the ingredients that could remind me of what spring should taste like. Then I decided to make the pork belly stew that mom used to make every spring.

The stew took me over 2 hours to finish but as I always believed, slow cooking brings better food. The stew turned out a big success and even made me a bit emotional–savoring the bamboo shoots in my mouth reminded me of my childhood and all the memories just kept pouring into my brain. I guess we all had the similar experience when we listen to an old song or look at an old picture or watch an old movie. It is just so interesting to justify why a flavor can trigger such strong chemistry. In that sense, cook is indeed so much more than about feeding the hungry but about expressing feelings, tracing memories and making a statement.

Alright, time for dinner!

Pork Belly Stew with Chinese Baby Bamboo Shoots

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2.5 pounds pork belly (half lean meat and half fat, serve 4 people), diced 2-3 square inches
2-3 pounds fresh or frozen Chinese baby bamboo shoots, Julienne cut
4-5 potatoes, peeled, diced
1/2 Chinese rick cooking wine (or regular cooking wine)
1/2 pound white mushroom
4 cups water
2 whole star spice
4 pieces (1/2 inch each) ginger root
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
diced scallion

1. In a big pot, heat up the vegetable oil with low heat, stir ginger, garlic cloves and star spice for 1 minute

2. Add pork belly and mushroom to 1. and stir with brown sugar, soy sauce and wine for 3-4 minutes, high medium heat

3. Add water to the pot and bring to boil. Add bamboo shoots and bring to boil

4. Cover the pot with a lid and stew for 1 hour 15 minutes, low heat

5. Add potato, stew for another 20-25 minutes

6. Add scallion before serving

 

 

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2 Responses to “A Taste of Spring”

  1. Babygirl March 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    This Pork Belly Stew looks amazing. I definitely have to write this recipe down and cook it later on. I really enjoyed reading this post.

    • stevenshie March 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks for your comment! Let me know how it turns out. Glad you enjoy the post.

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