The “Dongpo Rou” Story
Dongpo Rou is a very famous dish in Hangzhou City, China (pronounced ‘h’ung joe’). Anyone who has been to Hangzhou must try this dish. When you eat this dish, you will never forget it.
Why is this dish called ‘Dongpo Rou’. There are many fables. Let me tell you the most popular one.
In the Song dynasty there was a very famous poet whose name was Su Dongpo. Su Dongpo did not just write poetry, he was also a calligrapher and a famous painter. Su Dongpo’s poetry is still the best known in China and is included in all the school texts.
Su Dongpo at first worked for the Emperor, advising on how to help the people and let them have good life. However, other advisors around the Emperor hated Su Dongpo and thought he had too much influence. They asked the emperor to demote Su Dongpo to become ‘Ci Shi’ and send him to Hangzhou. 'Ci Shi' was like a city councilor, so it was a big demotion for him. Also, Hangzhou was far away from Beijing.
Hangzhou sat beside a large lake, the Xi Lake. The water was very important to the city and the surrounding rural area. Among other uses, it was vital for irrigation and fishing. When Su Dongpon arrived at Hangxzhou the lake was half filled with bulrushes and sediment. This was having a big effect on farm production and fishing. He organized for the bulrushes to be removed and the sediment dredged. The sediment was then used to form levees. These measures greatly increased the capacity of the lake. Xi lake became very beautiful and the people were able to use the abundant water to irrigate their fields. Soon the saying, ‘Su ti chun xiao’ was being used to describe the lake. It means that on a spring morning Xi lake is just like a fairyland. To this day, people who visit Xi Lake still want experience ‘su ti chun xiao.’ (‘Su’ in honour of Su Dongpo; ‘ti’ is Chinese for levee; ‘chun’ is Chinese for Spring; ‘Xiao’ is Chinese for early morning).
After Su Dongpo had completed the work the Hangzhou people didn’t need to worry about floods or drought. The harvests became more plentiful. The people wanted to say thank you to Su Dongpo. They found out that he loved to eat ‘Hong Shao Rou’, a traditional pork dish. So when the Chinese New Year arrived that year they gave Su Dongpo a lot of pork and wine. Su Dongpo couldn’t eat all the pork, so he asked his family to cook the pork in the wine and take it to the people who had worked on the lake. The people, who were very poor and seldom had enough to eat, were very grateful.
At this time, in Hangzhou, there was a big restaurant. The owner saw that many people liked this new way of cooking, so he made a special dish for the restaurant. He cut the pork into the diamond shapes and cooked it the new way so it became very soft. He called this dish “Dongpo Rou”. The recipe is set out below. After he introduced this dish, his business became stronger. Soon all the restaurants in Hangzhou had introduced ‘Dongpo Rou’ as a main dish.
However, the treacherous court officials who hated Su Dongpo were now afraid that he had become too strong again. So they asked a ‘yu shi’ (a ‘yu shi’ was a higher officer than a ‘ci shi’) to go to Hangzhou. He was to collect a menu from all the restaurants. The menus were taken back to Beijing and given to the Emperor. The court officials said that Su Dongpo had been taking bribes and perverting the law so the Hangzhou people had come to hate Su Dongpo. They showed this by naming a dish after him so they could symbolically eat him. The menus were presented as proof. The Emperor believed the officials and ordered Su Dongpo to go far away to join the army at Hainan.
When Su Dongpo went to Hainan the Hangzhou people missed him a lot. They had grown to love him, so they kept cooking the dish named after him, ‘Dongpo Rou’.
‘Dongpo Rou’ has been a very famous dish in Hangzhou since that time.
How to Cook Dongpo Rou
Ingredients: 1.5 kg of very fatty pork with the skin left on and cut as a slab about 5/6 cm thick.
Seasoning: 100g of spring onions, 100g of sugar, 250g by weight of cooking wine, 50g of ginger, 150g by weight of soy sauce.
Preparation: Chop the pork diagonally so the pieces are shaped like a diamond, see pictures. Tie the spring onions into a bunch using a leaf so they can be removed from the sauce. Crush the ginger.
Cooking: Put enough water in a wok or pan to cover the pork. Bring the water to the boil. Put the pork into the boiling water and boil for five minutes. Take out and wash.
Take a saucepan and put some clean haulm ( dried rice stalks which may be very difficult to find.) on bottom. This is optional if you cannot find any haulm. Otherwise put a small amount of oil to cover the base of the pan. Put the bunch of spring onions and the ginger in. Arrange the pork over the onions and ginger so the skin faces down. Sprinkle the sugar, soy sauce and wine over the ingredients. Cover the pan and seal using soft paper or cloth round the lip of the pan (or you could use a pressure cooker). Place on the hotplate and turn to high until it comes to the boil, then turn the stove to low and cook for 1 and a half hours.
Take out the meat and drain off the oil. Place the pork pieces in a casserole dish (see picture) with skin side up. Take out the spring onion and pour the sauce over the pork. Braise for 30 minutes in a steamer.
Dongpo Pork 东坡肉 - Recipe
The 2nd Video is in Chinese, but it shows clearly how it is done
主料：五花肉辅料：香葱、姜调料：盐、味精、白糖、酱油、绍酒烹制方法： 1、将五花肉整块下锅，煮开后捞出，用清水冲掉杂质，改刀切成大小相同的方块； 2、将砂锅中铺入一块镂空竹片，香葱铺底，码放上姜片，再将肉块皮朝下码放整齐，倒入适量绍酒、酱油、白糖，大火烧开转小火，炖至一小时左右时，将肉块翻面再继续炖制半小时，撇去多余油汤； 3、将炖好的肉块取出放入小砂锅中，浇入肉汤，上锅再蒸半小时即可。特点：色泽红润，肥而不腻。