Tuesday, January 24, 2023

SNOW CABBAGE AND PORK SOUP

In the late forties and early fifties Shanghainese bailed out from the mainland for Hong Kong. Shanghai had been taken over by Hunanese peasants, and what had been till then the most cosmopolitan city east of Suez was turned into a cultural wasteland filled with tortured people all forced to dance like happy farmers while building revolutionary pig sties, or something.
Movie people were made to sing songs about soviet workers and the sun in the east.
College professors where shoveling shit in factory dormitories.
Everyone wore baggy blue pants and tunics.
Well, you get the idea.


藍蘋

Imported Russian dance instructors eventually helped the white boned demon create a new form of stage production born from the struggle of the masses against the landlords, in which trim army women in uniform pranced across the stage, pirouetting with rifles to martial music, saving the proletariat from bourgeois recidivism. The entire nation suffered because little blue apple was taking revenge for all of the imagined slights she had suffered in show business. Since the failure of her movie career she became a pissy drama queen of monumental proportions. Oh, and the wife of a communist big wig.


And while China shivered, starved, and sent literate people to the countryside, Hong Kong provided a refuge. North Point became Little Shanghai. Nightclubs, Cafés, theatres, tailors, fashionable shops, and restaurants. Upscale dining. Dishes marked by the generous use of soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine. Sliced eel with noodles, vinegar carp, soused fried fish, lion's head meatballs, red stew pork, tomato borscht.

And a classic: snow cabbage and pork sliver soup (雪菜肉絲湯).

Along with the borscht (long divorced from its Slavic composition due to the unavailability of Russian ingredients, and now gone interestingly native using tomatoes), pork shred snow cabbage soup, potstickers, and porkchop noodles have become transcendantly universal. That last is available on practically every block in Hong Kong and Kowloon, and potstickers can be got even at the local chopsuey shack in Bongo Flats, Arkansas. Borscht is a classic chachanteng offering, and everyone's aunties will make pork shred snow cabbage soup when the kiddies are a little hungry.
Other than senescent European communists, no one watches revolutionary opera movies or whatever crappy flicks the little blue apple starred in anymore. The white boned demon and her ghastly legacy have been consigned to the dustbin. Mercifully.

雪菜肉絲湯
SUET CHOI YIUK SI TONG
For two people (夠兩個人)

Half pound of lean pork (瘦豬肉), slivered.
One cup chicken stock (雞湯).
One cup water (水).
Quarter cup pickled snow cabbage (雪菜).
Handful noodles (麵).
Gailan (芥蘭) or bokchoi (小白菜).
A few slices of ginger (姜).
Clove garlic (大蒜).
One TBS Shaohsing rice wine or sherry (紹興酒).
A dash of sesame oil (麻油).

Marinate the slivered pork for ten to twenty minutes in a little soy sauce and vegetable oil with corn flour and sugar whisked in.
Soak the pickled snow cabbage for about fifteen minutes in cold water, squeeze, rinse, and squeeze again. Chop.
Cook the noodles in boiling water. Rinse in cold, set aside.
Rinse and chop the gailan or bokchoi.

Gild the garlic and ginger briefly at the bottom of a deep pot with scant oil. Then add the water and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Dump the pickled snow cabbage, chopped gailan, and slivered pork into the pot. When it boils, add the noodles and rice wine.

Add a drop or two of sesame oil, divide over four bowls and serve.

Chili flakes or a teaspoon hot oil are optional.


I am quite fond of snow cabbage pork shreds noodle soup. It's one of those dishes you can get at many restaurants, but you should really make at home.



It is, as you would naturally expect from my previous writings, best followed by a pipe filled with aged red Virginia or a similar compound, while taking a walk around the neighborhood because the person with whom I live, though she tolerates my cooking smells (mostly), positively hates the reek of my tobacco. Which is very sad.
But we can't all live in Shanghai or North Point.



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