Sichuan Folk, just off Brick Lane and opposite the Old Truman Brewery which hosts the sundayupmarket (mainly food stalls representing different countries’ cuisines) every Sunday, is a Sichuan restaurant worth visiting for their double-cooked pork dish (you can also find a good version of it over at Chilli Cool).
Twice-cooked pork, also known as double-cooked pork, and in Chinese as huí guō ròu (回锅肉), which literally means “meat returned to the pot,” is a dish with – *drumroll* – pork as its star ingredient, which is (as the name conveniently reveals) cooked twice: first boiled, then “returned” to a cooking receptacle (in this case a wok) and stir-fried. This first boiling step is to render out some of the fat and prime it for high-heat cooking, turning it tender and crisp at the same time.
Traditionally, Sichuanese cooks would choose a cut of thigh as their preferred part of pork, as it is split evenly between lean and fat, with a layer of skin over the top. However, since this cut of pork can be hard to come by outside of China, pork belly, with its similar characteristics, is a very common and popular substitute. Further essential ingredients included in the dish, which are likely to come straight from Sichuan, are a fiery chilli broad bean paste (dòubàn jìang 豆瓣酱), a sweet and nutty wheat paste (tíanmìan jìang 甜面酱), and, optionally, some fermented black beans (dòuchǐ 豆豉) to gild the belly. The beauty of the now more tenderized pork is that it sops up all of these wonderfully earthy flavours.
Customarily, garlic shoots/sprouts (suàn miáo 蒜苗) will be the main supplementary ingredient to round out the spicy pungent taste coming from the sauce, but since these are not readily available everywhere and at all times, they may be substituted by baby leeks or spring onions(UK)/scallions(US). Often, for additional colour and flavour, a small amount of red and green pepper will also be included, as is the case at Sichuan Folk.
Sometimes, rather than having hui guo rou with steamed rice, Chinese people will insert the pork into gūo kuī (锅盔), which is a type of baked Chinese bread, and eat it that way. Perhaps it is this which inspired the chef at Sichuan Folk to serve the dish with steamed buns, indeed a very unconventional combination, but a welcome addition nonetheless (in particular for bun-lovers). Hui guo rou at Sichuan Folk is tender and crisp and packs in all the flavour. Give it a try yourself and see what you think.
Area: East London (off Brick Lane)
Closest tube: Aldgate East (Hammersmith & City and District line); Shoreditch High Street (Overground); Aldgate (Metropolitan and Circle line); Whitechapel (Hammersmith & City and District line); Liverpool Street (Central, Circle, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City line)
Address: Sichuan Folk
32 Hanbury St
London E1 6QR
To return = 回 (huí)
Meat = 肉 (ròu)
Pot = 锅 (guō)
Pork = 猪肉 (zhūròu)
Paste = 酱 (jiang)
Bean = 豆 (dòu)
Garlic = 大蒜 (dàsuàn)
Bun = 包子 (bāozi)
To boil = 烧开 (shāo kāi)
To fry = 炸 (zhà)