Cherry Pork (Ying Tao Rou) – A Cherished Classic in Suzhou

cherry pork

Cherry Pork (樱桃肉), originating from the culinary traditions of Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, is a cherished classic among the region’s traditional dishes. With its roots tracing back to the Qing Dynasty during the Qianlong era, this delectable dish gained royal recognition and found its way into the imperial kitchen. Notably, the Shanyao Jiu Yingtou Rou, a cherry pork dish made with yam and cherry, was documented in the Qing imperial archives titled “Imperial Tea and Meal Records” (《御茶膳房档》).

The hallmark of Cherry Pork lies in its vibrant cherry-red hue, an enticing visual feast that promises a delightful culinary experience. Its texture is characterized by tenderness, succulence, and a lustrous appearance. The dish showcases round, bite-sized pieces of pork that resemble cherries, arranged in an orderly fashion. The color is reminiscent of the bright and alluring red of cherries, creating an appetizing visual appeal.

To create this culinary masterpiece, the essential ingredient is pork belly, specifically the fatty portion. The meat is meticulously prepared, with each slice cut to mimic the size and shape of cherries, ensuring a uniform and visually appealing presentation. The ingredients also include green leafy vegetables, adding a fresh and nutritious element to the dish.

The cooking process involves parboiling the pork in boiling water until partially cooked, removing impurities and retaining the meat broth for later use. The pork is then sliced into cherry-sized pieces and placed, skin side down, in a pan with ginger and green onions. A flavorful concoction of Shaoxing wine, sugar, soy sauce, and seasonings is added, and the mixture is brought to a boil. The dish is simmered over low heat, allowing the pork to absorb the rich flavors. Red yeast rice powder is introduced to give the pork its distinctive deep red color. Afterward, the pork is steamed until tender.

In a separate pan, green vegetables are stir-fried with seasoning until fully cooked. The steamed cherry pork is carefully arranged on a serving plate, surrounded by the vibrant green vegetables. The remaining broth is reduced to a thick sauce, which is then drizzled over the succulent pork, enhancing its flavor.

Cherry Pork, with its harmonious blend of sweet, savory, and umami flavors, exemplifies the artistry and culinary finesse of Suzhou cuisine. This traditional dish not only tantalizes the taste buds but also captivates the eyes, making it a true gem in the rich tapestry of Chinese gastronomy.

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