Steamed Pork Loaf with Salted Duck Eggs

This dish is well known to many Chinese-Americans, and it should become a favourite of all Americans, hyphenated or not. I am sure the recipe was first put together a long time ago in the kitchen of a southern Chinese peasant family and was the centrepiece of a celebratory feast. Meat loaf may be common on American tables, but in China both pork and duck eggs are rather expensive special treats, hardly the ordinary fare of even wealthy peasants.

Unlike the familiar meat loaf, this pork loaf is not baked but steamed with an array of exciting seasonings. In this recipe I follow my mother’s customary use of salted duck eggs, which can be found at Chinese grocers. Preserved in brine, the egg yolks harden, and tempting flavours suffuse the whole egg. The eggs thus add much to the already zestful blend of robust pork and spices. The result is a pleasantly rich and aromatic dish that is a true centrepiece for any special meal. One needs only plain rice and a vegetable to make a complete, balanced, nutritious dinner.

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Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) fatty minced pork
  • 450 g (1 lb) fresh water chestnuts, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 salted duck eggs

Method

In a food processor, mix the pork with the water chestnuts until they are finely chopped. Scrape this mixture into a large stainless steel bowl and toss in the spring onions, then pour in the soy sauce and rice wine. Toss in the salt, sugar, cornflour, sesame oil and pepper. With your hands, mix well, then turn the meat onto a deep, heatproof plate and shape it into a flat loaf. Crack open the duck eggs, discard the whites and cut the yolks in half. Distribute the yolks over the top of the meat, pressing them into the loaf.

Set up a steamer by putting a rack inside a wok or deep pan. Fill it with about 5 cm (2 in) of water. Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Gently set the platter with the loaf in the steamer, cover and steam vigorously for 20 minutes, or until the pork is done. Serve immediately.

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