Tian Laoshi Hong Shao Rou

19 Jan

As much as I love going to a fancy restaurant and fine dining, I’m also just as happy to go and eat at an average, everyday eatery. And I guess Chinese fast food could be classified as average and everyday for many Chinese people, much like I’d say eating at McDonalds or KFC is fairly average. But I’ve found one chain of fast food that I’m particularly hooked on. Tian Laoshi Hong shao rou (Mr Tian’s hong shao rou) is around the corner from my work. It’s always packed when I go in there, with people eating in and getting takeaway. Service is much like any other you’d expect from fast food places – brisk and without too many fancy graces, except they do thank you for dining there when you leave. You order from a girl at the till from the menu on the wall, get your receipt and give it to another girl at a separate counter, where she’ll call your order to the kitchen at the back.

Within a minute, your order is served up on a tray if you’re eating in or into a bag if you’ve chosen to eat back at your desk. I have to admit I haven’t been adventurous with this menu, because: a) I figure if he’s got hongshaorou in his name, it’s got to be good, and b) it is too good to try anything else.

It's so good even the Chinese sometimes use spoons to eat it more quickly

Hong shao rou (red cooked pork) is pork belly cooked in soy sauce, to give it a very dark colour. Star anise and Shaoxing wine can be used, as can sugar, cinnamon, chillies or ginger. The pork must be cooked in a pressure cooker or overnight, because the meat is just so tender, and the fat (of which I must admit, there is a fair bit of as it’s pork belly) so tasty and divine but I do limit myself to it when I come here.

A mound of rice sits in the middle of the plate, with the pork belly pieces on the side, some pork sauce over the top of the rice, half a tea-soaked egg, some flash-fried vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, black fungus mushroom etc (see, you can feel slightly healthy eating this!) and a delicious little seaweed-type pickle on the side. In all, it makes for a perfect lunch.

I’ll often get it with a bowl of babaozhou on the side, which makes me feel even healthier, especially as my colleagues who I eat here with told me about the properties of the congee and how good it is for me.

Apparently hong shao rou was Chairman Mao’s favourite dish. It’s easy to understand why, and I’ve only eaten it from a fast food chain! Although I do think we had something similar in Shanghai at our Christmas Day lunch, a slow-cooked red pork with apple and dates. But that’s for another post!

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