Six. That’s how many phone calls it took to extract this recipe from my parents.
Five-spice pork over rice (or Lu Rou Fan) is a classic and popular Taiwanese dish. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve learned the Lu Rou Fan I’ve always known is actually pretty unique to our family. I like to say that it’s ‘fully-loaded’. On this cold winter’s night, I’m attempting to re-create this warm and savory dish with the help of my parents who are just a quick phone call away. Of course one quick phone call quickly spiraled into many as I tried to make sense of their piece-meal instructions:
“All you need is pork, mushroom, egg and soy sauce. And five spice.”
An hour later after returning from the store…
“Do you have tofu?”
“Shoot, I didn’t get tofu. Going back to the store. Bye!”
10 minutes later at the store…
“Which kind of tofu should I get? I just texted you a picture – should I buy the one on the left or the right?”
“How come my iPad isn’t getting messages?”
30 minutes later while cooking…
“How much soy sauce should I put in?”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“Well it depends. I’m not sure what kind you are using. Maybe you put some in and add more later if you need it.”
“What’s ‘some’? A cup?”
“No way, that’s too much.”
…and so on and so forth, with the phone being passed from mom to dad and back again.
It’s not that my parents are bad communicators (okay, so they’re not great), but it’s more that these recipes are engrained in them and having to explain them step by step is against the nature of how they’ve always cooked.
Against all odds, I did manage to make a decent dish, even if I had to guess at some of the ingredients and quantities. Below, the recipe:
Jeng Family Five-Spice Pork over Rice
- 1 pound ground pork (the less lean, the better)
- ~6 eggs (one per serving)
- 1 pkg fried tofu, pre-cut into 1-inch chunks
- 3-4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 of a shallot, minced
- 1 tsp ginger, minced
- 1 tsp five-spice powder
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
- 1 -1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp sugar
- Sesame oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water and let it soak for 15-20 minutes, then slice into thin pieces.
- Place eggs in a pot, cover with water and boil for 10 minutes. When eggs are done, remove them from hot water, let cool, then peel.
- Boil the tofu in water 2-3 minutes.
- In a large frying pan, sautée the shallots in sesame oil until caramelized. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add ground pork to the frying pan and cook until browned.
- Combine all prepared ingredients into a large pot. Make sure there is enough liquid to just cover the ingredients. If not, add a bit more water and/or soy sauce.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 1.5-2 hours. In the meantime, prepare rice in your rice cooker.
- Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy over rice!