Eye of the Chicken
A journal of Harbin, China

Adventures in pork
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Well, I decided to try to make guo bao rou, a Northeast China favorite dish that's essentially deep-fried pork tenderloin medallions, with a few quirks. One of my friends told me that in Harbin, they judge the quality of a restaurant on the quality of its guo bao rou, so I'm determined to learn how to make it. Aside from that, it's a crowd-pleaser; more than one restauranteur in Harbin offered it to us because "Westerners like guo bao rou."

The first oddity about the dish is that the pork should be pretty thin. I sliced mine with my sharp knife and then mashed on the pieces a little bit . . . but it was probably still too thick. I was reminded of my mother trying to get veal for wiener schnitzel, and not being able to get it cut thin enough.

The really quirky part, though, is that the pork is coated in a paste of potato flour and water. I've never worked with potato flour before, and it is just bizarre. You mix it with water, and the mixture gets hot, like plaster of paris or something.


In fact, that's what it reminded me of, especially when I tried to squish it. Like plaster of paris (and most unlike wheat flour), when you poke the dough, it hardens under your finger (and then springs back when you remove the pressure.

And it doesn't exactly coat the meat slices.


When you put the meat slices in, it's like they've sunk into quicksand, and you're likely to pull all the coating off of them if you try to remove them too forcibly from the bowl.

Obviously, there's some technique to this process.

The final result was passable.


It tasted pretty light for deep-fried food, and the flavor of the pork was good (although the dish in total was bland). Guo bao rou is served with a sweet/sour sauce, and I completely bolloxed that up (you can see it on the plate; that's not oil from the pan or anything), so I'm trying to get some help with it from my Chinese friends. Stay tuned . . . I'm definitely trying this one again.

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