chinese roast pork

(I thought the earlier picture was anemic looking, so the next time I made this roast pork, I took another picture!) This is the home version of the traditional red roast pork found in Chinese restaurants all over the world. I like it with a stronger anise flavor so I’ve added a clove of star anise and Sichuan peppercorns to the marinade.  In Chinatown, specialty shops sell barbecued duck, crackling pork, and, red roast pork. Their wares hang in the shop windows, shiny with grease and stippled with fat. No words need convey the deliciousness of these barbecued and roasted meats. A pound of this red roast pork costs $9.00 in New York’s Chinatown. My homemade version: $5.00.

Chinese roast pork (adapted from: The Gourmet Chinese Regional Cookbook)

1 lb pork tenderloin, excess fat and the silver removed

2 T brown bean sauce, mashed
2 t minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 Tablespoon dry sherry
1 clove star anise
1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red food coloring, optional

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat ingredients until sugar is just melted. Cool slightly. Put pork in a pan and pour marinade over pork. Refrigerate overnight. On baking day, let stand 3-6 hours at room temperature, turning occasionally. Remove from marinade and discard the marinade. Bake at 350˚ for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and tent with foil. Let the meat rest 10 minutes. Slice thinly and serve with rice or noodles.

Cook’s Note: I’ve upped the food coloring to make it a deeper red and made it optional because not everyone likes to color their food. It depends on if you want traditional or not!

thai beef soup with buckwheat noodles

I was walking through the courtyard earlier this week, taking a shortcut through the basement, when I smelled star anise and cinnamon. I thought instantly of Thai beef soup or kao lao. I knew I had to make it this week, even though it’s been years since I last tried. From my years living in Thailand, I know that when it is served with noodles then it’s called kway tieow. I decided to cook it, kway tieow style with Japanese soba or buckwheat noodles, which are higher in fiber and protein, iron and calcium than the traditional rice noodles. Soba like rice noodles is gluten free.  There is  a nutrition comparison of soba and rice noodles on If you’re simply watching the calories, as I am, then it’s important to consider that a half cup soba has twice as many calories as rice noodles.

Thai Beef Soup (Kao Lao) with Buckwheat Noodles (Soba)

Makes 4 servings

For Cooking

7 cups water
1 lb stewing beef, boneless, trimmed of visible fat, and cut into chunks
1 whole star anise or 4 cloves star anise
2 whole sticks cinnamon
3-4 whole peeled large garlic cloves
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons molasses or thick dark soy sauce

For Serving

1 cup fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and picked over
2 cups buckwheat noodles, cooked al dente
Fish sauce
Sambal or chili paste
1 lime, quartered
2 scallions, finely sliced on the diagonal
1/3-1/2 cup cilantro, minced

Combine the beef, star anise, cinnamon, and garlic in 7 cups water. Cover loosely. Put two wooden chopsticks across the top of the pot and rest the lid on top of the chopsticks. Bring to a simmer on the stove. After 1 hour, stir the soup and skim the broth of large floating particles. You want a clear broth with tiny particles suspended in the soup when it is stirred. Remove the chopsticks and cover the pot. Once covered, the pot will boil vigorously and some water will boil out. Continue cooking on low heat for 1/2 hour.

Add the fish sauce, salt, sugar, soy sauce, and molasses. Taste. It should be slightly salty and sweet. Adjust seasonings, if you wish. Continue cooking on low heat to develop the flavors, until beef is tender and falls apart easily with a fork, about 2 hours. Discard the cinnamon sticks, garlic, and star anise.  Serve.

To serve, divide bean sprouts and noodles among 4 large bowls. Ladle beef soup over. Serve with little saucers of fish sauce, sugar, sambal, lime, scallions, and cilantro at the table, to season each individual bowl according to taste.