“Our friend is a pescetarian. She only eats seafood, so no chicken, beef, or pork. Especially pork.”
“Ok, so the daikon and ginger soup is ok?”
“No, there are pork bones in it.”
“So, if I take the bones out, then it will be ok? It’s just flavoring.”
I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes trying to explain to my relatives what it means to be pescetarian and the restrictions involved.
“Forget it, yes pork flavoring is ok, but I think tonight is the night I show them the night market instead of dinner at home.”
My parents grew up in a very traditional setting when it comes to food. Both of my parents grew up in the Southern region of Taiwan and both come from large families. In order to have fully flavorful and affordable meals at the table, both my grandmothers utilized meat to season vegetable dishes to ensure all 7 and 8 kids where happy. And to do this, they would buy pork and stretch it over a few dishes. It made sense to have pork as a flavoring agent; unlike chicken, pork has more fat and marbleization to flavor the vegetables. Beef would be too gamey and would compete against the other flavors, as well as being expensive and a waste of a work animal.
So, it’s no wonder why everything I ate growing up had some sort of portion of the pig in it: belly, foot, ear, loin, etc. It’s been sliced, ground, chopped, and cured.
This dish is one of those two-out-of-one-ingredients-money-saver-frugal dishes . It utilizes the stems of the water spinach. If you’re not familiar with water spinach, it’s also known as “morning glory” and “Chinese water spinach”. If you want to make this vegetarian, you can use extra firm tofu. If you can’t find water spinach, I might skip this dish. It’s hard to find a substitute for the water spinach, and you’d be missing the whole point. It’s not for the pork. That’s just seasoning.
1 tbs vegetable oil
½ lb ground pork
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs. fermented black beans, rehydrated (can use jarred sauce)
1 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. Chinese rice wine
2 c water spinach stems, minced
heat oil on high heat in a large saucepan or wok
brown ground pork in oil until the meat is no longer pink
add garlic, black bean, soy sauce, and rice wine to pork and sautee until fragrant, about 2 min.
add stems and stir until cooked through
season to taste and serve with rice