Taiwanese Cuisine — Lu Rou Fan, Stir-Fried Pork Over Rice

Lu rou fan (recipe follows) is a popular pork dish in Taiwan, both at home and served from the stalls of the night markets.  It’s briny, rich savoriness comes from dried shrimp and mushrooms and from a healthy dollop of Japanese miso, a lingering influence from the Japanese Empire’s rule over the island.

Lu Rou Fan

adapted from Saveur’s feature “Taipei Family Style,” March 2010

SERVES 2

  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/3 lb ground pork
  • 1 whole shallot, diced
  • 2 Tbs small dried shrimp
  • 6 small shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 Tbs miso
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • rice for serving

First, we needed to soak the mushrooms and shrimp in hot water for at least an hour.  Saveur recommends doing this in separate vessels, but we decided we would simplify the process by doing it in one.  After all, everything would be getting mixed together in the later steps anyway:

mushroomsshrimpsoaking

After an hour’s time, the ingredients had changed dramatically, the mushrooms darkening and plumping considerably and the shrimp softening:

mushroomsshrimpsoaked

The shiitake mushrooms and shrimp were removed from the soaking water and the liquid was discarded.  The mushrooms were then minced and the shrimp were minced very finely (to avoid too big a piece of shrimp in any one bite; they have a strong flavor), and the rest of our ingredients arranged on the counter, ready to stir-fry:

ingredientsready

The first step in cooking was to put the oil in one of our trusty cast iron skillets over just below high heat until the oil started to smoke:

pansmoking
Not pictured: copious amounts of smoke. We weren’t worried about burning though; as soon as the cool food touches the pan, the pan begins to cool somewhat.

First into the pan was the ground pork:

meatinpan
Our apologies for these blurry photos. Stir-frying does not allow for multiple shots to get the image just right. It doesn’t really even allow for one, to be honest.

The pork was stirred constantly and broken up into smaller pieces with a metal spatula while cooking until it was browned all over and no pink remained, about two minutes.  We weren’t kidding about not having time to perfect the photos.  Once the meat was browned:

meatbrowned

…in went the mushrooms, shrimp, and shallots:

mushroomsadded

…which were cooked together for another two minutes or so until the fragrance from the mushrooms and shrimp started to fill the kitchen.  The last addition was the miso and the sugar:

misoadded

Which were stirred into the rest of the ingredients until thoroughly combined and evenly distributed, maybe another minute or so.  The finished lu rou fan had a deep brown color and an aroma that evenly combined aspects of all its fragrant ingredients:

luraofandone

Served atop steamed white rice and alongside our bok choy with mushrooms, our lu rou fan rounded out a tasty and filling Taiwanese dinner:

taiwanmealserved

The miso, mushrooms, and shrimp all contribute to an intense umami flavor, the Japanese concept of savoriness.  It is readily apparent why lu rou fan is such a popular late-night meal for Taiwanese bar hoppers and partygoers, its salty richness serving as a perfect nightcap.

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