Living in Asia opened our minds and eyes to a different world. For me, I was this young woman from a very small community in New Brunswick whose international travel consisted of Florida and as much as there were slight differences between the two countries, nothing would have prepared me for the journey to the other side of the world! We landed in Hong Kong in August and while waiting for a taxi we were greeted by a blast of intense heat and humidity – this was my first eye opener.
To truly appreciate and understand the sights and sounds of this crowded island, one really has to be there. Getting used to 7 million people, noise pollution and wet markets was a huge assault on my senses! That said, I was curious about everything and watched how people conducted themselves. The wet markets were the biggest eye opener and my memories of them are still vivid to this day. A wet market refers to types of year-round outdoor markets not necessarily selling live animals (although some do), but those selling fresh vegetables, meat and fish out in the open and the concrete passageways are hosed down regularly with water. Vendors opened at the crack of dawn, shouting out in Cantonese their specials for those who passed by. Many chefs would come here to do their food shopping. At first I found shopping in these wet markets intimidating mostly because I didn’t understand the signs nor what the vendors were saying. Eventually I shed my shyness and found my way around buying from various vendors in these markets. I practiced using a few words in Cantonese and even with my limited knowledge of the language, I could tell the vendor the price was too high or it was a good price. Each time they would respond with a huge smile then go off at a thousand words a minute as if I were fluent in the language. Sadly, though, these wet markets in Hong Kong are slowly disappearing to the redevelopment of old districts.
Pork is China’s favorite meat and in 2012 the country produced 50m tonnes – more than half the world’s total. There are many ways to cook pork. Some of the more familiar dishes would be reddish-looking barbecued pork (char siu), crispy roasted pork belly, braised spareribs, fried pork and so on. Steamed pork ribs might look bland but don’t let the looks fool you. This recipe delivers intensely flavored ribs!
Serves 4 as part of a banquet
adapted from Kylie Kwong
450g pork ribs, cut into pieces
1/2 cup shaohsing (shaoxing) wine (available in the International section of your grocery store)
1 tablespoon white sugar
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons salted black beans (optional)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 red chili, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1. In a large bowl, combine marinade ingredients. Add pork and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Place pork and marinade in a shallow heatproof bowl that will fit inside your steamer basket. Place bowl inside steamer over boiling water and steam, covered, 15 minutes or until pork is cooked. There should be the slightest hint of light pink and the meat should be tender, not chewy.
3. Remove bowl from steamer and transfer pork into a serving bowl. Drizzle with the juices.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: I wasn’t able to find salted black beans and had to leave it out. Also, I used Japanese mirin as a substitute for shaohsing rice wine. Other acceptable substitutes would be sherry or gin. Your kitchen is going to smell amazing. Enjoy!