Braised rice cakes with Napa cabbage, shiitake and pork

By Sonia Wong
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A traditional Chinese dish filled with flavour! 

SERVES
4
 TO
5

Ingredients

Rice Cakes

  • 6-8 shiitake mushrooms (reconstituted if dehydrated)
  • 1 package (~700g) rice cake slices, frozen or dried vacuum packed
  • 4-5 lbs Napa cabbage
  • Salt, to taste
  • Tamari or soy sauce, to taste
  • Neutral oil, for cookiing

Pork

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin or pork shoulder (can substitute 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Serve

  • Additional soy sauce or Chinese chilli oil

Directions

Rice Cakes 

  1. If using dehydrated shiitake mushrooms, snap off stems (keep for making broth) and place them in a bowl. Add enough hot water to fully cover and allow them to reconstitute at least one to two hours, or until centers are fully hydrated and no longer opaque when cut. Since dried shiitake mushrooms can range significantly in size, it could take several hours for really larger ones. Using hot water rather than cool water speeds up the process. But ideally, you can also soak them in room temperature water overnight.
  2. Place rice cakes in a large bowl and fill with enough tap water to cover. Soak at room temperature for several hours (or a minimum of 30 minutes). Soaked rice cakes cook more evenly and quickly.

Pork 

  1. (Skip if using ground pork): Cut pork tenderloin or shoulder into "strips". Do this by first cutting thin slices about quarter-inch thick, and then cut each slice lengthwise into several strips also about quarter-inch thick. Depending on how bulky your piece of pork is (such as a piece of pork shoulder might be), you may have to first cut it down into thinner "logs" (one and a half-inch thick) before beginning. Do this lengthwise along the natural grain of the muscle if you can. Place pork in a bowl and combine with marinade ingredients. Set it aside at room temperature.

Braising Rice Cakes 

  1. Cut Napa cabbage crosswise into strips - the leafy parts about two inches thick and the firm white stems about one inch thick. If your napa is particularly massive, you may want to cut it lengthwise down the middle into halves or quarters first. Soak in water for five to 10 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly. Keep it in a large colander to drain off excess water while you proceed.
  2. Heat a large Dutch oven (five and a half quarts) or heavy-bottomed pot or wok over medium to medium-high heat. The pot must be large enough to hold everything eventually, keeping in mind the napa cabbage will cook down significantly.
  3. Slice the fresh or reconstituted (per step one above) shiitake mushrooms thinly.
  4. When the pot is thoroughly heated, add one tablespoon of oil and sauté the marinated pork until just browned. (If using ground pork, sauté the ground pork first then season with the “marinade” ingredients just before scooping them out). Remove browned pork and set aside.
  5. Add a drizzle of more oil and sauté the napa cabbage, starting with the stem pieces first. This recipe uses a lot of napa cabbage so you may need to add them in batches, each time letting some cook down enough to make room before adding another. Make sure to season with salt with every addition to ensuring cabbage is not bland. No need to add more oil between batches. Adjust heat (down) as needed.
  6. Once all of the cabbage is in, you can put the lid on to speed up the cooking so as to wilt them down a little until it’s more manageable for stirring. Push some of the cabbage up the side of the pot to create a little “wall” all the way around – this will prevent rice cakes from sticking to the sides later. 
  7. Add back the pork and sliced shiitake mushrooms. Sprinkle a little salt over the mushroom layer. 
  8. Drain the rice cakes and pile them on top, just inside your cabbage “wall”. Do NOT mix. We don't want the rice cakes touching the bottom or sides of the pot, or else they will stick during braising. 
  9. Season the rice cakes with salt, moving them around a little to ensure they’re all well-seasoned. Cover and reduce heat to a steady simmer and braise for 20 to 25 minutes or until rice cakes are cooked through. They should be soft all the way through, but still chewy. If required, put the lid back on (without stirring) and braise a little longer. Avoid overcooking the rice cakes which can become mushy. Once done, stir well to distribute evenly. There should be a nice viscous "sauce" created by the starch from the rice cakes and the cabbage liquid.  

Serve 

  1. Season with salt, soy sauce and/or Bragg’s liquid soy seasoning. Serve immediately, preferably with Chinese chilli oil. Enjoy! 
  2. TIP: This dish gets a bit mushier and less saucy as the liquid gets absorbed by the rice cakes. It’s at its peak deliciousness when enjoyed immediately but to reheat, it is best done in the microwave.

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