Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DG's Recycle & Reuse Program: Steamed Roast Pork With Shrimp Paste

In Cantonese, we use the word hahk-hei to describe when someone is being polite. But it's not the common-courtesy-kind-of-polite; rather, it's the I-need-to-be-polite-to-save-face-kind-of-polite.

Ever been out to eat with a bunch of Chinese people and experience a literal fight over the check?

"Mm-ho hahk hei, lar!" we'll say to each other as we're literally lunging over the table trying to grab the check from one another's hands. It's our way of saying, "Hey, don't be so polite, yo. Let me pay!" To which the response is always a never ending back and forth tirade of "No, no, no, let me pay!"

OK yes, we do like to be generous to our friends and loved ones. But the thing is that we don't put up a fight for that reason alone; we put up a fight because we don't want to look like we didn't. It's all about saving face.

The same situation applies to leftover food at said gatherings. No one wants to look like the greedy one who snatched all that food for themselves. "Mm-ho hahk hei, lar...you take it!"

Except when it comes to leftovers, I have no qualms about taking the shit.

Because the reality of it is, I am poor. I got a mortgage and bills to pay and a family to feed and I need anything I can get after either a) paying for your dinner to save face or b) giving away a benjamin or two inside a red envelope to a newly married couple or new baby or whatever.

Now if you're really, really poor, or really, really cheap, or perhaps a combination of both, harm ha jzing jee yook--steamed roast pork with shrimp paste--is the perfect dish for you. It reuses every bit of your leftovers, so it costs next to nothing to make, and a little goes a long, long way.

First thing you do is make sure you are not hahk hei--if there is leftover roast pork at whatever Chinese party/dinner you're attending, take it. If there are no Chinese dinner leftovers involved, that's OK. Drive yourself to the nearest Chinese BBQ shop like Sam Woo BBQ and buy yourself a pound of roast pork for under 10 bucks.

Next, add a little bit of shaoxing cooking wine, a swig of vegetable oil, a dusting of cornstarch, a dollop of shrimp paste (like the one pictured below which you can find at Asian grocery stores) and a teeny bit of water to the pork and mix it all up.

Put it in a shallow dish and steam for about 20-30 minutes. Serve with lots of hot steamed rice.

The result is juicy morsels of pork that have been both roasted and steamed and that have taken on this savory, pungent, funky-in-a-good-way flavor. My favorite part is that once-crispy pig skin that's now taken on a chewy texture after having been steamed but still retains a hint of that smoky flavor it got by roasting.

Like I said earlier, a little really goes a long way. All you need are a few pieces of the pork and maybe some of the juices to liven up an entire bowl of rice. In fact, if you use too much, your meal often becomes too salty. Rationed properly, this dish could potentially last you several days, partially offsetting the original cost of your dinner bill or gifts.


Gastronomer said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe, Pam. The next time I get my paws on some bbq'd pork, it's getting a shrimp paste dousing.

yutjangsah said...

Yum. It looks so comforting. Im a cheap bastard but i cant cook so no can do. I eat frozen burritos when im on budget watch 2010. Pork in shrimp paste sauce seems way better.

Diana said...

Brilliant! You are so polite to share. :) Now.... um... shrimp paste? I take it I can't find that at Whole Foods...

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm, I love shrimp paste! It's really good with regular fatty pork, too! And it's even better with eggplants. You have to try harm ha chao ai gua!

Foodfortwoo said...

OMG, this is the first time I've heard of this other than from hubs. He's a huge fan of this dish as his grandmother used to make it.

SinoSoul said...

Will begin to live/eat all forms of left overs (and ground pork + duck egg) starting... next Tuesday. I almost picked off the left overs from the other table at Little Sheep on Tuesday.

At least your car is newer than mine. Baller. ('96 Mazda with 135K mi & no radio)

Marie said...

This is my kind of meal! Leftovers are the best! I welcome even mediocre food leftovers because I am in major economic living mode right now. Thanks for the penny pinching post! :)

KirkK said...

Harm Ha Pork!!! I love the stuff.....

Bianca @southbay rants n raves said...

It's always the best recipes that use left overs, in my book at least. I have no shame taking left overs at a party either. Heck at filipino parties it's almost a requirement....but I'm not complaining!

Daily Gluttony said...


Shrimp paste makes anything taste better!


Maybe shrimp paste on the frozen burrito? haha


Umm, yeah, I don't think I've ever seen this stuff at Whole Foods. And if they did carry it, it'd prolly cost $10 a jar. At the Asian market it's only about $2!


Oooh, never tried it with eggplant before. Do you steam it or stir fry it?


Yeah, it's not something you'd usually find in a restaurant...this is straight up ghetto Chinese home cooking! :)


The fact that I am a baller & drive a mo better car is one of the reasons I am so poor.

BTW, all us West SGV-ites should have a ghetto asian food potluck. Bring the cheapest thing you can!


Anytime, anytime! :)


Harm Ha rules!!!


Yeah for us Chinese it's a requirement too...no food is to be wasted! But we will still go back & forth about "you take it home. no YOU take it home!"

danny chan said...

Try adding Ginger and a touch of sesame oil. I grew up on the stuff. now that I can afford to eat anything I want I still make it pretty often

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