Steamed Minced Pork (蒸猪肉) with Dong Cai / Mei Cai / Water Chestnut / Salted Fish: Learn to cook this well-loved traditional home-cooked dish in 4 different styles with just one easy recipe! Your ‘go-to’ recipe to satisfy the different tastebuds in your family!
Steamed minced meat 蒸猪肉饼 is an evergreen recipe that has passed down from our great-grandmothers to the present time. There are many variations on this dish, but today I will teach you the four most common styles when it comes to cooking this perennial home-cooked favourite:
- Dong Cai Steamed Minced Pork 冬菜蒸猪肉饼, also known as Tianjin preserved vegetable or Tung Choy，this is the original favourite in many Chinese homes since my grandmother’s time
- Mei Cai Steamed Minced Pork 梅菜蒸猪肉饼, also known preserved Chinese mustard, you can choose to use either sweet (left) or salted (right) versions of the Mei Cai for a different flavour
- Water Chestnut Steamed Minced Pork 马蹄蒸猪肉饼 – crunchy with a hint of sweetness
- Salted Fish Steamed Minced Pork 咸鱼蒸猪肉饼 – I like them all but if I had to choose, this would be my favourite!
This simple, healthy but deeply satisfying dish of Steamed Minced Pork certainly brings back lots of fond memories of my children. During those times, whenever one of the siblings had fallen sick and have lost our appetite completely, an appetising dish of Steamed Minced Pork with Dong Cai, or sometimes with Mei Cai, and a bowl of watery porridge will often find their way to our bedside.
The savouryness of the Dong Cai and Mei Cai makes it difficult to resist slurping up the whole meal with relish, even though your tastebuds are numb and most other foods seem bland and tasteless. It is also quick to prepare (takes only 30 minutes if you are doing just one style; 40 minutes if you are doing all 4 styles!) and can be eaten with just a bowl of rice or porridge.
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During our stay in England many year ago, my family often took short trips around other parts of the UK during my husband’s term break. As we travelled on a shoe-string budget, I would often lug along a rice cooker, a stainless plate, some sauces and a packet of rice.
I would buy minced pork from the supermarket, marinate it and steam it on top of the rice in the rice cooker at the B&B where we were staying, before setting off to our next destination. My husband would drive us to a nearby park or to the beach, there we would lay out the mat, sit down and have a simple but fulfilling meal together with my 2 young daughters. Those were the days, we thought it would never end. Now, so many years later, this dish still brings back all the fond memories of the adventures of our younger days.
Do you also have a story to share about this dish? I can’t wait to hear it, so drop me a comment below to tell us with your own story!
Learn to cook this well-loved traditional home-cooked dish in 4 different styles, with just one easy recipe! Make this your 'go-to' recipe to satisfy the different tastebuds in your family!
- 1 kg Minced Meat To be divided into 4 portions
- 6 tsp Corn Flour To be divided into 4 portions
- 4 tsp Light Soy Sauce To be divided into 4 portions
- 4 TBsp Oil To be divided into 4 portions
- 2 tsp Sesame Oil To be divided into 4 portions
- 280 ml Water To be divided into 4 portions
- A pinch Salt For each of the 4 meat
- A dash Pepper For each of the 4 meat.
- 3-4 slices Ginger For the Salted Fish Version only
- 100 gm Mei Cai 梅菜 (Preserved Chinese Mustard Green)
- 100 gm Dong Cai 冬菜 (Pickled Chinese Cabbage)
- 8-10 Water Chestnut
- 50 gm Salted Fish
Wash the pork and mince it but not too finely. Divide the pork into 4 equal portions and place them in 4 bowls.
Dong Cai Version: Wash the Dong Cai a few times to get rid of the sands if any. Squeeze it dry and chop coarsely, then add the Dong Cai to the first bowl of minced pork.
Mei Cai Version: Wash the Mei Cai thoroughly and spreading the leaves out to make sure to remove any sands and salt particles. Soak it for about 15mins. Squeeze out the excess water and chop it roughly. Then add the Mei Cai to the second bowl.
Water Chestnut Version: Use a brush to remove the mud of the water chestnuts. Cut off the top and the bottom of the chestnuts, and use a peeler to remove the skin. Wash and cut the water chestnuts into small squares, then add them into the third bowl
Salted Fish Version: Rinse the salted fish and remove the bones if any and pat dry and set aside. Then remove the skin of the ginger and shred it thinly. (Do not add this to the fourth bowl, as we will be laying it on top later.)
For each of the 4 bowls, add in 1 1/2 tsp of cornflour, 1 tsp light soya sauce, 1 TBsp oil, 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 70 ml of water, a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. Stir the meat mixture vigorously with chopsticks or with your hands until well incorporated and until the meat becomes sticky and dense.
Transfer the 4 bowls of meat mixture into 4 separate steaming plates. Press the meat mixture firmly on the plate and level it evenly with the back of a spoon.
For the 4th plate (Salted Fish Version), place the salted fish on top and add some shredded ginger over it.
Let the meat mixture stand in the plates for about 30 mins before steaming so that the meat will be more solid and firm.
In a wok, add in water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, place the plate on the steaming rack and cover the wok and steam for 15 mins over high heat. If you have a multilevel steamer, you can steam them all at one go, otherwise you have to do it one at a time.
After steaming, the meat will shrink leaving a plate of gravy which goes very well with a bowl of hot steaming white rice. Best served hot.
- Ensure that you mix the meat mixture until it becomes dense and sticky. You can also pick up the meat with your hand and slam it back into the bowl a few times so that the meat will bind better.
- After mixing all the ingredients into the minced pork, it is good to set it aside for about 30 mins to firm up the meat, so the steamed meat will be in one solid piece and won't break up easily after steaming.
- If only lean meat is used, the texture of the steamed meat will turn out tough and dry. For better and a smoother and juicer patty, it is best to use Wu Hua Rou 五花肉 (pork neck) or Bu Jian Tian 不见天 (pork armpit). These are the same cuts of pork used to make Char Siew (Chinese BBQ Pork) as they contain just the right amount of fats to make the dish tender but not too greasy.
- If you are health conscious, you can use lean meat but add a little more oil to the meat before steaming.
- You need to moderate the saltiness accordingly as some salted fish is extremely salty and you will need to reduce the amount of salt and light soya sauce. As for the water chestnut meat mixture, a little more salt can be added to it.
- For the Cantonese, they like to buy the 'Mui Heong' salted fish as the aroma from this type of fish really 'opens up your appetite' or as we say in Chinese 很开胃. It has very soft texture and the fish is usually salted threadfin ( 'Ma Yau Yu' ) or salted mackerel ( 'Ma Kau Yu' ). For more info on the local names for different fish, read my article Every Foodie's MUST-HAVE Guide to 10 Common Local Fish
- There are 2 types of Mei Cai :- Sweet Mei Cai and Salty Mei Cai. Both need to be soaked before chopping. The Salty Mei Chai needs longer soaking time. I personally prefer the salty one as I generally prefer not to mix sweet with savoury flavours together. Be careful not to oversoak the Mei Chai otherwise it will lose its pickled flavouring.
- You can get Dong Cai and Mei Cai at the dry provisions shop in the wet markets, or in the supermarkets.
- Do not smash the water chestnuts. Just cut it into small cubes otherwise it will lose its crunchiness.
- The spread of the meat mixture should not be too thin otherwise it will fall apart easily and there is no substance when you sink your teeth into it. It should be a least 2 cm thick when place firmly on the plate (Do not use an oversized plate)
- For the salted fish dish, you need to add ginger to mask the fishy smell. A little Chinese wine can be added to the meat before steaming if you prefer.
- You can also steam the minced meat with dried cuttlefish. Firstly, you need to blanch cuttlefish with hot water, remove the backbone, the mouth and the eyes of the cuttlefish. Wash it and cut it into small pieces and soak it with some hot water and 1 TBsp of Hua Diao Jiu for half an hour before adding it to the minced meat and mix well. It is very flavorful and umami in taste.
Suggested Modifications for Special Diets
- Baby/Toddler-Friendly: Serve the minced meat plain without salt. For younger weaned babies, mash the minced meat into tiny pieces before serving.
- Child-Friendly: You may want to reduce sodium as well.
- Confinement: Add a little sliced ginger to the dish before steaming.
- Egg-Free: No modifications needed.
- Fish-Free: Don’t use the salted fish version
- Gluten-Free: Check to ensure your sauces are gluten free
- Nut-Free: No modifications needed.
- Shellfish-Free: No modifications needed.