Saturday, August 27, 2011

糖醋排骨 TangCu PaiGu


"AAAH, issa swee- an sowah pohk!!"
Name that quote! Well, I let this instance of all-out stereotyping slide because Matt Stone and Trey Parker are equal opportunity stereotypers, usually in a very evidently self-aware way.

But indeed, this is sweet and sour pork. Cool! Or more accurately translated, Sugar-Vinegar Pork. What? It looks different than what you usually consider "sweet and sour pork" in Americanized Chinese restaurants? Well, that's because it's a different dish! I'm actually just realizing this myself, looking at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook (whence this recipe came). I've known of the two sweet/sour flavored pork dishes, but the one with small, deep fried chunks of pork is actually called 咕咾肉 gu lao rou. Er, the literal translation doesn't really make sense (mutter noise meat) and I don't know anything about the etymology. Interestingly enough, Patricia Tanumihardja (author of Asian Grandmothers) translates "gu lao rou" as "sweet and sour pork" (which I suppose isn't really wrong) and just calls "tang cu pai gu" "1-2-3-4-5 Sticky Spareribs" (based on the proportions in her recipe), maybe because otherwise she'd have to come up with a name for gu lao rou or use the awkward literal translation.

I've definitely seen tang cu pai gu much much more commonly than gu lao rou. Hmm. Actually I can't remember the last time I saw gu lao rou in a Chinese restaurant...I'll have to try to keep an eye out for it in the future. In any case, tang cu pai gu isn't deep fried. What? It still looks different than the tang cu pai gu you have in Chinese restaurants? Yeah, huh, the pros' dish is generally more deeply and darkly colored than how mine turned out. Probably recipe differences. I also definitely used the wrong cut for this dish (pork loin instead of ribs or some kind of more fatty, bone-in cut, but the manner of cutting isn't available in Western grocery chains). What's wrong with pork loin? Well, it's a lean cut and so cooks through faster (especially the thin cut loins that are commonly available), but the sauce takes a long time to reduce to the thick, concentrated consistency you want. So the meat in mine ended up a little dry, but it was still delicious. I'm not picky like that (though I do clearly very much appreciate it the better food is done). I suppose it's because the sauce has a very strong role in the dish, too.

Next time I'll try using the "country style ribs". Generally sold boneless, but the meat's fattier. Hmm, I wonder if the bonelessness affects things in this dish (in a soup/stew it certainly would). Actually, you know what, I don't know--the shape of the cut for tang cu pai gu looks like loin but with bone on the side. Maybe it's just a thick-cut bone-in pork chop. In any case, a thicker, fattier cut would handle the longer cooking better.

Wow, this post really ballooned on me. Interesting stuff, though!

[--update--]
See my revision and recipe here!

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