Even before starting my job at the Law School, I would frequent a Chinese restaurant on campus known as China Garden. As generic as the name sounds, and as most Chinese buffet restaurants sound, China Garden was actually pretty good. For under seven dollars, you had your choice of the common items like egg drop soup, crab rangoons, sweet and sour chicken, lo mein, pepper steak, beef and broccoli, fried rice, egg rolls, and char siu, or what I always called “Pink Pork”.
For years our technology group would dine in at the China Garden to get our fill on. It was a place where we always had a great laugh, and almost, if not, in tears from laughter, probably due to the fact that one of our coworkers, Steve, would always spill something on his dress shirt. Beyond the laughter, the food was pretty darn good, as I for one, will never go back to a place if the food was not good. For the seven dollars I spent, my plate was always filled with char siu; the pink pork that was just really good. I would go there just for that. You would not see lo mein on my plate, nor the gravy dishes with beef, but it was always char siu, with crab rangoon.
After missing the pork dish, I attempted to make it on a couple of occasions, but did not get the flavors right, although I made a really killer barbecue pork with fish sauce that rocked my socks off, it was not pink pork. This past weekend led me to perfect pink pork, and as I had everything down, I was forgetting one thing, a dash of the infamous Chinese Five Spice, oh, and food coloring!
- Pork shoulder, cut into about 2 inch strips
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 4 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
- 1/2 tbsp red food coloring
Begin by cutting down your pork shoulder. To a bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and mix well. Add the pork to a gallon sized ziplock bag, adding the sauce. Give the pork a nice massage, making sure you incorporate the sauce onto the pork. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible, then tuck it away in the refrigerator for the night.
The following day when you are ready to make the pork, remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you are going to place it in the oven. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and remove the pork strips from the marinade, making sure to let the sauce drain off of each piece before you place it on the baking sheet. Reserving the marinade is optional, but I used mine as a second part of the cooking process which is also optional. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Now, what I like to do is preheat my grill as well, and finish with just a slight sear, basting a bit more of the marinade to build a nice gloss before serving. Only cook for a couple of minutes on the grill. Serve immediately, or at room temperature.
The China Garden closed shop over a year ago, only to be replaced by a book store, but it is one restaurant that will be missed, however now that I have my pink pork, I am less saddened.