Crystal-boiled pork

This is a famous recipe from Shanghai, traditionally served cold. Like the Cantonese white-cut chicken, it is very easy to make.

2-2 1/2 lb (900 – 1. 1 kg) leg of pork, boned but not skinned

For the sauce

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seed oil
1 tsp chilli sauce(optional)


As a starter or as part of a buffet-style meal, this dish will serve at least 10-12 people; so if you are cooking for a smaller number of people, then just serve the appropriate amount (remember to reduce the quantities for the sauce accordingly). The unused pork, wrapped so it is airtight, will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. For best flavour and to preserve the moist texture, do not cut the meat until just before required. Besides being served cold either on its own or as a part of an assorted hors d’oeuvre, any leftovers can be used for a number of recipes which call for ready-cooked meat, such as twice-cooked pork.

Place the pork, tied together in one piece with lengths of string, in a large pot; add cold water to cover, and bring it to a rolling boil. Skim off the scum and simmer gently under cover for about 1 hour, turning it over once or twice during cooking. Then take it off the heat and let the pork stay in the liquid for at least 3-4 hours before removing it to cool, under cover with the skin side up, for a further 4-6 hours.

Just before serving, cut off the skin and any excess fat, leaving only a very thin layer of fat on top like a ham joint. Then cut the meat into small thin slices across the grain – you will find it is much easier to do this if you chill the meat in the refrigerator (but not in the freezer) for a few hours to harden it slightly. Put any uneven bits and pieces in the centre of a plate, arrange the well-cut slices in two neat rows, one on each side of the pile, then carefully arrange a third row on top of the pile so that it resembles an arched bridge.

Either pour the sauce evenly all over the pork and serve, or mix the sauce in little saucers as a dip.

© Deh-Ta Hsiung and reproduced with his kind permission.