Qianzhangrou (Thousand Paper Thin Slices of Pork)


(Thousand Paper Thin Slices of Pork)

Duan Wenchang, prime minister to Tang Emperor Muzong (on the throne from 821 to 825), was known not only for his achievements in managing state affairs, but also for his self-compiled five-volume recipe book and invention of the famous dish, qianzhangrou.

The story goes that one year Duan returned to visit his hometown of Linzi, now Zibo City in Shandong Province. The local county magistrate threw a banquet in Duan’s honor. Eager for Duan to enjoy the banquet, the magistrate asked the chef to cook his signature dish, shuzirou. However, this dish was made up of thick slices of pork fat and few diners touched it.

Duan felt sorry that the food would go to waste. After dinner, he went to the kitchen to find the chef. Duan instructed him to use streaky pork instead of fat, replace the fried pepper with black bean sauce and added ginger and scallion for flavor, personally demonstrating the whole preparation and cooking process. The chef didn’t have a clue that Duan was the prime minister, taking him as a new chef hired by the magistrate.

A few days later, Duan was leaving his hometown, and invited local officials, relatives and friends to his home for a dinner. At his instruction his chef presented a new version of shuzirou, which featured 80 thin slices of pork istead of the traditional 20 thick slices.

The guests were taken aback by the creativity of this new dish. With its golden color and soft texture, it tasted simply delectable, and wasn’t in the slightest bit greasy. Once served, it quickly disappeared.

When the magistrate, who had been invited to the farewell dinner, asked for the name of the diner, Duan glanced at the dish and its copious slices of pork as thin as paper, spontaneously replied “Thousand Paper Thin Slices of Pork.” Today, the dish is cooked in households and restaurants across the country.

Ingrediants: Fresh streaky pork from the rib part of the pig, soy paste, sesame oil, red preserved beancurd, soy sauce stir-fried with brown sugar, salt, soy, scallion slices, pepper, ginger slices and black bean sauce.

First boil the streaky pork for half an hour in an oven with the heat on maximum. Coat the boiled pork with soy paste. In a separate pot, heat some sesame oil in the oven, and then add the pork. When it turns golden, remove the pork and wait for it to cool. Slice it into thin pieces.

Put pepper, pieces of scallion and slices of ginger at the bottom of a big bowl, and arrange the thin pork slices on top. Then pour the soy sauce and preserved beancurd sauce over the pork slices and add some black bean sauce. Place the bowl in a steamer on full heat for four hours. Then remove and let it cool. Before eating, reheat the dish in a steamer before transfering it onto a serving plate, removing the pepper, scallion and ginger and add fresh scallion. The resulting dish will have a glistening red color, and its paper-thin pork slices will be tender and have a subtle taste.