Songjiang delicacy heralds the Dragon Boat Festival

Tan Weiyun
At a time when eels reach their peak succulence, the season is celebrated with Braised eel with pork, the preparation a testament to the culinary heritage of the district.
Tan Weiyun
Songjiang delicacy heralds the Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival ushers in a time when eels reach their peak succulence. It is a season celebrated with a Songjiang delicacy: Braised eel with pork. The preparation is a testament to the culinary heritage of the district, demanding patience and meticulous care.

The process begins with selecting the perfect eel - long, sleek and with a finely tapering tail. Alongside, pork belly is cubed, ready to impart richness. The foundation of flavor comes from aged ginger and green onions, essential for their aromatic contributions.

In a pot warmed with oil over medium heat, the pork is first blanched then sautéed until golden. Ginger slices are added, sizzling as they release their pungent aroma, followed by green onions knotted and splashed with yellow wine. This creates a symphony of flavors, further enhanced by a spoonful of dark soy sauce and two of light, deepening the color and complexity of the dish. The mixture is then drowned in broth, sweetened with rock sugar and left to simmer.

The eel, meticulously cleaned after a swift cut at the neck and a slit along the belly, is prepared for cooking. They are thoroughly washed with salt and flour to remove impurities and then rinsed in a blend of white wine and flour to eliminate any residual earthiness.

As the pork braises to tender perfection, the eel and whole garlic cloves are added to the pot. Covered and simmered gently, the ingredients meld flavors under low heat. After half an hour, when the eel is tender enough to fall apart at a touch, the sauce is thickened on a moderate flame.

The dish, rich and aromatic, is served with a sprinkle of fresh green onions on the top.

The pork, jiggly and tender yet not overly fatty, pairs well with the eel, which disintegrates at the mere touch, leaving only the fine texture of the flesh mingled with its rich fat.

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