One of my neighbors knows how I love to experiment in the kitchen. It is obvious when I stop by with cookies, scones, jars of jam or candy. They are always gracious and let me know what they think; and very often they stop by with plates of goodies for my husband and me. Actually, I find it kind of fun. I have learned that the father of my neighbor is a culinary instructor in Malaysia. I hope that sounds as impressive to you as it does to me. I mean, how often do you randomly meet culinary instructors? And top that off with living in Malaysia? I would tend to think your chances are slim. But because of this I value their input even more.
The other day my neighbor stopped by with a package of an Asian Five Spice Mix for us. His father sent him a package of goodies from “home” and apparently this particular Five Spice Mix is his favorite. We were so appreciative of the generosity of such a rare item. I have cooked with Five Spice Mixes before, but they were heavier in Star Anise and Cinnamon. Most commonly the Five Spice Mixes will contain Sichuan Pepper, Fennel Seed, Chinese Cinnamon, Star Anise, and Clove; but they can also include other spices like: Ginger, Turmeric, Black Pepper, or Mandarin Orange Peel. I cannot pinpoint the exact mix in this one, but it has a lovely aroma and warmth to its taste without being spicy. It is as though it is perfectly balanced. I could not wait to hack into a new experiment.
I did not want to use the Five Spice Mix on chicken for my first attempt – that would be too obvious. I settled on braising some pork with it for an Asian inspired pulled pork sandwich topped with a cabbage and carrot slaw. It does take a while to cook, but as always- good things come to those who wait! It made our apartment warm form the oven braising the pork for two and a half hours. Not to mention that it made our place smell fantastic. Brian dove right into his sandwich and loved every bite. I brought some of it by for our neighbor who after eating it told me that I achieved a nice subtlely of the spice flavors, explaining that they were pronounced without being overwhelming. (I hope you can see why I value their opinion.) No matter what type of Five Spice Mix you can get your hands on you should try it yourself, I am sure you will be diving into the way everyone here was.
Five Spice Pulled Pork with Asian Slaw (Feeds 4 -6)
Five Spice Pulled Pork
4 – 5 lbs of pork shoulder
4 tbsp plus 1 tsp of Five Spice Powder
Kosher Salt to taste
3 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 large onion; trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/8
2 cloves of garlic, trimmed
2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped small
2 oranges, washed with one cut into 1/8 (peel on)
1 ½ quarts of chicken stock
Cilantro and Sliced Radishes for garnish
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. With your pork shoulder at room temperature sprinkle it liberally with the kosher salt and 4 tbsp of Five Spice Powder. Place a large roasting pan or Dutch oven with a lid on a burner over medium heat. When your pan is heated through add in the oil. When oil is heated gently place the seasoned pork into the pan, letting it sear about 3-5 minutes per side (It should pull away easily from the pan; that is when you know your searing is done.)
Next; when your pork is done searing add the onion, garlic, ginger, and your cut orange to your pan and then pore your stock over it all. Sprinkle your remainder 1 tsp of Five Spice Powder over it all. Place a lid over it and carefully place it in the center of your oven. Let it all braise together about an hour before checking on it. If you feel the top of your pork shoulder is looking too dry you can flip it; but be sure to replace the lid and place it back in the oven for another hour – hour and a half (depending on how tender it appears).
Then, remove your pan from the oven. Carefully remove your pork shoulder from the pan and place on a platter to rest. Take the remaining liquid from your pan along with everything else you braised it with and place in a pot over medium heat. You are looking for the liquid to reduce by ½. When done, remove the orange peel (reserving the pulp if still intact); placing everything in the base of a food processor and pureeing it all. And set aside. At this time you can shred your pork. I personally use two forks to do so, but shred at your own liking for what works best for you. Remove all extra fatty pieces and bones as necessary, working in batches until all is shredded.
Finally, place your shredded pork in a bowl with the braising liquid puree and squeeze the juice from your remaining orange over it all. Toss everything together well and it is ready to serve. If you are eating at a later time you can place in a foil covered baking dish in a low temperature oven (no more than 30 minutes) to keep warm. You can eat it as is, with rice if you like. Personally we liked it on butter toasted rolls and topped with an Asian Slaw (recipe to follow).
1 medium head of green cabbage; cut into ¼ with the core removed
4 green onions, trimmed and chopped small
2 medium carrots, peeled and trimmed
¼ cup of sesame seeds (toasted)
¼ cup of vegetable oil
1 tbsp of sesame oil
2 tbsp of brown sugar
2 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
2 tsp of soy sauce
1 tbsp of Sriracha Sauce
First; in a bowl whisk together your oils, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and Sriracha. Set aside until your slaw is ready.
Next, with a box grater or in a food processor grate your cabbage and carrot.
Finally, place your grated veggies in a large bowl and add the green onion. Pour your dressing over it all and toss well. Sprinkle it all with your sesame seeds and toss again. (Best when made at least ten minutes before eating so your flavors can mingle together.)