Spicy 卡罗来纳州 Style Crock-Pot Pulled Pork

I should preface this one by noting that I’m sick today. Part cold, part sore throat, part achy dopiness. Which is why I kind of screwed up some key parts of this recipe.

If you look below at the recipe, you’ll see it calls for 5lbs of pork shoulder.

On Monday afternoon, when I bought and initially prepared the piece of pork, I didn’t look at the size or weight or cut. I just bought a reasonably sized piece, fit for a household where one person doesn’t really eat meat (me) and the other doesn’t really like pork (Doug). However, I really like the pulled pork sandwich at Boxing Cat Brewery (about 80rmb) and thought it would be worth attempting at home.

This is what I bought.

Not a shoulder and certainly not 5lbs of it.

This is a, um, ‘pork leg butt sk–‘, whatever that is. It is certainly not a shoulder.

This is about a pound, or half a kilo. Not 5 pounds. No.

Did I make a note of that when I prepared the spice rub? No.

Did I even think about it when preparing the marinade and veggies for the crock pot? No.

But you know what? Even though I super-sized the seasoning, it turned out just fine. Better than fine, actually. It was lovely.

Tiny piece of pork rubbed with an amount of spice meant for a very large piece

I’m not very well versed in cooking meat. I have a few dishes that I’ve been working on in the 8 or so years since I gradually stopped being a vegetarian.  Pork never figured in any of them, as I was living in Turkey for most of that time and pork was barely legal there.

To get a few thin slices of rare and pricey prosciutto back in 2005, I used to have to trudge down to the lone Armenian butcher who was licensed to own pigs and to sell piggy things, in his tiny little deli in a rather rough neighbourhood in Istanbul, at the bottom of the Tarlabaşı hill. He was hidden behind a gas station, semi-ironically located not far from the site of the Dolapdere neighbourhood annual Kurban bayramı sheep-killing depot.

Here in Shanghai, pork is the meat of choice. The beef is pretty leathery and often waterlogged. The chicken is meh. I don’t care for duck or pigeon or bull frog.

I thought I’d see what I could do with pork. It just makes sense.

I had no idea how to prepare southern style pulled pork. I’ve done shredded beef and chicken in soups and stews but that isn’t quite the same. I needed that slow cooked, vinegary barbecued effect. I looked up a few recipes online but they all said impractical ridiculous things like ‘add barbecue sauce’ as if I could just go out and buy it.  Ha!

Then I found this one.

Spicy Carolina Style Pulled Pork

Ingredients

    • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons paprika
    • 2 teaspoons sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper [added 2 by accident, and 1 tsp Sichuan numbing peppercorn]
    • 5 lbs pork shoulder [mine was, um, 1lb?]
    • 1 cup red wine vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
    • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper
    • 2 red onions, quartered
    • 2 yellow onions, quartered

Directions

  1. combine the brown sugar, paprika, salt and pepper, and rub the mixture over the roast. wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate a few hours, overnight is best.
  2. in a bowl, combine the vinegar, worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, mustard, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. mix well.
  3. place the quartered onions in the bottom of the crock pot. unwrap the roast, and place on top of onions. drizzle most of the vinegar mix over the roast, reserving some to add to the shredded meat at the end.
  4. cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, or high for 4 to 5 hours.
  5. remove the meat and onions to a cutting board. remove skin and set aside. using two forks (or your fingers, if you have asbestos hands), pull and shred the pork. chop the onions, and mix into the shredded meat. using a fork, remove some of the fat from under the skin, mince, and add to the shredded meat and onions as needed for moisture and flavor.
  6. serve on warm buns or crusty hard rolls, with the remaining vinegar mixture on the side.

 

Let me show you what I did and what I ended up with. It’s well worth a try.

The spice rub that was meant for a hunk o' pig five times bigger

This part I did about a day or so before. I followed their directions, though instead of regular paprika I used a combination of smoked Spanish paprika, cayenne and ground up Sichuan peppercorns (about 3 tsp altogether), mixed with dark brown sugar, salt and ground black pepper. I accidentally doubled the black pepper.

Rub it all in and cover the meat with a plastic bag and let it sit in the fridge for at least a few hours.

Assembling the vinegar stew-bath for the hypothetical huge chunk of meat

I don’t know if you could use Chinese rice or dumpling vinegars in this recipe but I suppose it could work. I managed to find a red wine vinegar so I used it, as this was my first time attempting this. I didn’t want to improvise too much.

In the vinegar marinade, I used grainy mustard not spicy brown mustard. Also, I used cayenne rather than red pepper flakes.

I don't own garlic powder so I added 3 cloves, minced
I lined the bottom of the crock pot with one julienned red bell pepper and 1.5 big yellow onions
This is what pork leg looks like when it has been left to marinate in a hell of a lot of spice for 24 hours in the fridge
Everything gets thrown in the crock pot, with the vinegar marinade poured over top.
We don't actually have room in the kitchen for the crock pot, so it goes in the living room next to the coat rack

I put it on high for the first hour to get it going, then put it down to low for about 5 more hours.

Sometime around noon, around the 4th hour, Doug came home for lunch with a card from the post office that had been left outside the door, telling me to come pick up a package. The pick up address was in hastily scrawled Chinese characters. Thinking it was for the one just up the street, I went out to go get it, assuming I’d be back in maybe 20 minutes.  I was back about an hour and a half later.

I had to ask a number of people along the way, including the lovely Fiona who was buying bananas from a cart parked near the entrance to her home, and popped into a few different Post Office branches along Huai Hai Zhong Lu before I finally found it, across from the Shanghai library.  It was well worth the trek.

Hobnobs and Irish tea! How awesome is that?

Midway through cooking, I went to pick this up. Thank you, Selly!

Anyway, when I got back around 2:30, the pork had melted perfectly into the onions and pepper and the vinegar had evaporated enough to make it all a wonderfully sludgy melange. Even though I’d totally screwed up the proportions, it somehow still worked.

And when I came back, it was done!

I unplugged the crock pot and went off to the kitchen to make myself something bread-like to eat the pork with.

People, I want to introduce you to my new favourite stand-by. The Lady-Noodle chapati. The recipe is from Fiona’s trip to Xinjiang a few weeks ago, and it’s technically a pulled-noodle dough, akin to the Lanzhou lamian dough. And it works quite nicely for noodles, as I’ve already discovered, using my hand-cranked pasta maker.

Lady Noodles in noodle form

However, I discovered a secret use for it!

Chapatis!

 

Yes, those 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of salt and one cup of water make not only Lady Noodles but also Indian flatbreads!

Who knew?

In brief: in bowl, mix the above ingredients together into a rough ball. Turn it out onto a clean counter or cutting board. Knead it for 5-10 minutes until it feels like a cross between plasticine and a baby’s bottom. Do not despair when, for the first few minutes, it seems as if it’s just an uncooperative crumbly dough beast, shedding large flakes of floury dough. Keep shoving the floury dough bits back into the ball and knead it until it submits.

It does get better.

When it feels lovely and elastic and smooth, form it into a neat round ball, rub a little oil on it and let it sit for an hour or so covered in a plastic baggie to rest.  Then, cut it up into smaller dough balls. This recipe gives about 6 rather large chapatis, suitable for wraps or burritos or whatever.

I keep a plastic bag of the raw dough balls in the fridge to haul out whenever I need fresh bread. They last 2 or 3 days, easily, and take just a few minutes to roll out and cook. Like convenience food, ‘cept better.

A chapati dough ball divided cannot stand
One portion of the dough ball
Roll out the dough ball until it's thin and round and a pleasing size. It can be stretched even more by hand, if you want to custom shape it.
Cook in the wok, greased or ungreased, on medium low for about a minute on each side. There will be little bubbles forming under it.
Press down on the flipped chapati and watch the dough puff up under it. Good for making them lighter and less doughy.
Lunch of champions: I ate mine with a blorp of home made yogurt. It was stunning.
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9 Comments

  1. Wendy says:

    Nice! I get my pork either from Meal Boss (pretty much next door to your building), or from the wet market on Fuxing. I’ve done pulled pork a few times before in the slow cooker, and it’s turned out great (and freezes well). It’s usually about 16 or 18RMB/jin, and I do about 3 jin a time. I’ve gotten some really good recipes from budgetbytes.blogspot.com, including a few nice crock pot recipes.

    1. MaryAnne says:

      What, perchance, is the Chinese term for pork shoulder? I had thought about going down to the guys near the flat but I know so little about pork and what it’s supposed to look like that I did City Shop for my first try since at least the labels are bilingual. I definitely want to try this again.

  2. Sally says:

    WANT. WANT. WANT. When are you coming to Wuxi and making me lunch already? (P.S. Bring your crockpot.)
    Sally recently posted..Required Reading: What to Read When You Can’t Read Me (You’re Welcome)My Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Well, um, I’ve just been called up to Dalian this weekend to do speaking tests and next weekend in Hefei… so… um… after that? I definitely owe you cake and cookies and pork!

  3. Myra says:

    What may I ask are Hobnobs? Are they as good as the name?
    Myra recently posted..7 Ways to keep your sanity as a China expatMy Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Hobnobs are British/Irish oatmeal cookies that are frequently dipped in chocolate. They are magnificent with a lovely hot cup of tea.

  4. Tracyann0312 says:

    I’am not eating too much pork. It increases my Blood pressure! But I do love to eat spicy foods,because it is yummy. By the way what is the meaning of Hobnobs?
    Tracyann0312 recently posted..חינוךMy Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Hobnobs are wonderful British oatmeal cookies dipped in chocolate- hard to find in china!

      1. Tracyann0312 says:

        Oh I see! Chocolate is one of my favorite dessert MaryAnne, thanks for giving me the meaning of Hobnobs!
        Tracyann0312 recently posted..נטורופתיהMy Profile

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