After finishing off my cook book and breaking up from University for the summer I’ve suddenly had some spare time (shock!) which I’m really happy about. I’ve been running this blog since the end of 2009 and I have so many great memories from this blog. From all the great people I’ve met through my blog and all the great feedback it’s been a great experience sharing my recipes. Of course there are some smart-arses who like to make snide comments but they really are an absolute minority so, with great joy, I’m now back cooking for this blog and my first recipe is one of my husband‘s all time favourite dishes called Fen Jen Ro.
Fen Jen Ro (粉蒸肉 in Chinese) or probably easiest translated as “Steamed Pork Belly in Rice Powder with Sweet Potato” is a commonly served dish in Chinese and Taiwanese households. This is also one of my grandfather’s favourite dishes so I’m very familiar with this dish. In Taiwan, we use rice cookers to steam most dishes and for Taiwanese people or even people who have spent some time in Taiwan will know, rice cookers in Taiwan and possibly Chinese are used for a lot more than just cooking rice. Taiwanese people will use rice cookers to steam cakes, make soups, make Chinese buns, make rice of course(!) and many more uses.
For the first few years I lived in Edinburgh and the UK I just used a really cheap rice cooker solely for cooking rice and even though I have now bought a more expensive one that can steam, make soup etc, I haven’t gotten round to messing around with the functions so I still use a very traditional method of steaming my food. The way I steam food is to place a steam rack in the middle of a wok, pour some water inside (measurements below) and steam.
There are a few different origins and stories about this dish. One of my favourite stories is about a couple who ran a small restaurant that had poor business. The husband also had a terrible gambling habit and when his wife one day gave him some money to buy some plates, bowls and food from the market he squandered it on gambling. Upon returning home his wife was really angry and they had a big fight. After the fight they were both really hungry but they thought they had no food to eat. The husband then suddenly remembered he had some pork so he marinaded the pork with some soy sauce and he picked some lotus leave to hold the food (they were so poor they didn’t even have bowls or plates). The wife steamed the pork and when they unwrapped it they discovered the pork was really tender.
Even though the pork was really tender it lacked some flavour so they combined it with jenrofen powder which is basically a glutinous rice powder, steamed it some more and it was absolutely delicious. They then served this dish in their restaurant and people came from afar to eat this dish which is still immensely popular to this day and the husband also managed to quit his gambling habit. Here is my favourite recipe for Fen Jen Ro.
Fen Jen Ro
- 800 g pork belly
- 250 g sweet potato peeled and sliced 1cm thick
- 150 g jenrofen powder only this kind of powder
- 1 tsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp chili bean sauce
- 1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder
- 2 tsp sugar
- 70 ml light soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp rice wine
- 1/2 tsp ginger finely chopped
- 1 tbsp spring onion finely chopped
Slice pork belly into 5cm wide and 1cm thick sections. Marinade with all the seasonings for at least 1 hour
Coat the pork belly with jenrofen powder/rice powder and leave it aside
Prepare a 21.5cm wide bamboo steamer or similar size heat proof bowl and line it with baking paper
Place a layer of sweet potato on the bottom of the bamboo steamer then layer the rest of the bamboo steamer with the pork belly. Sprinkle some extra jenrofen powder on top and cover with the bamboo steamer lid
Place a steam rack into the wok and pour 1 litre of water into the wok. Boil the water first then put step 4 on the rack and cover everything with the wok lid. Turn the gas power to medium and steam it for 2 hours. Check occasionally but make sure there’s always water in the bottom of the wok