A few weekends ago, after leaving the SF Ferry Plaza Farmers Market I ended up being diverted through Russian Hill. As I navigated the car over the hills I met up with a curiosity--a middle-aged Chinese woman tightening twine off a wooden stick held up between two wooden chairs. From his line hung long 7” to 10” slabs of meat. I double-parked to take a closer look.
The basement level apartment was dark inside excepting for a shadow of movement. I waved and out came a middle-aged woman with a warm face. It turned out to be Chinese bacon air-curing in the dry, winter sunlight. As good a place as any right outside her apartment door on the city sidewalk. What I was able to piece together was that it was Lop Yuk or Chinese bacon. Her mother made a new batch every six weeks or so. “It’s much better and you save monies.” She said grinning. The simple recipe involves the belly cut of the pig treated with Chinese wine (shaoxing) soy sauce, brown sugar, and spices for seven to ten days or until it is hard.
In order to use it in recipes it needs to be soaked for about 6 or 7 hours before being sliced, chopped and fried for use in recipes such as Chinese stir-fried greens or Chinese sticky rice. I’ve also simply sautéed it and added it to scrambled eggs.
Unfortunately the woman I chatted with said that she never made it herself as her mother “only” was the one to make it for the family. She said, “someday! I watch very careful!”
Chinese Stir Fried Greens with Bacon
Adapted from The Bacon Cookbook by James Villas
3 oz. air-cured Chinese bacon, soaked in water at least 6 hours (rind removed), coarsely chopped
1 tblspn peanut oil
1 tblspn sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
2 tspns salt
2 lbs Chinese shredded greens (e.g. bok choy, spinach)
3 tblspns chicken broth
In a large skilled fry the bacon over medium heat until crisps, drain on paper towels, and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Add the two types of oils to the bacon fat, increase the heat to high, and when just smoking, add the garlic and salt and stir fry for 15 seconds. Add the greens and stir-fry until wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Add the broth and bacon and stir-fry until the greens are still slightly crisp, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.