Sunday, January 20, 2008

Chinese Meatloaf and the Pig Story

When my DH was still working - this has been more than 10+ years ago now - Fay was one of the women who worked in the office (DH sold computer chips for Intel). She lived on the outskirts of our county on a small ranch. Her children were young teens then, and the family was active in 4-H. The H's stand for Head, Heart, Hand, and Health. It's a youth organization, centered mostly around farming or ranching families, along the lines of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, except the kids learn skills for raising livestock (like cows, sheep, chickens, etc.). They do service projects just like scouting does, but still the day to day work is all about farm projects.

Fay had a son who wanted to raise a pig. And usually, the deal is that the kids raise the animals, knowing from the beginning that they'll be sold at the County Fair. Or at a livestock auction. So Fay offhandedly mentioned to DH that her boys were going to be selling a pig - their pig - at the Fair that summer. She also told us that we'd be paying a fairly premium price for the pig, but would we be interested in buying a half or a whole pig? She explained that the pig was mostly hand raised, and that part of the price is tax deductible somehow. Her son would be caring for it from day one on their ranch, the best feed, exercised well, pens cleaned out, etc. We talked it over, and Cherrie and I agreed to buy a half a pig. Fay would buy the other half. We signed up to buy it in the Fall when the pig was a little piglet. Months and months went by, and I'd forgotten all about this until one day Fay phoned to tell us that the pig was going to the Fair the next day. Oops. And that we would need to pay up in full right away. That's when we learned how BIG the pig was. Something like 400+ pounds. Somehow I'd pictured a sweet little, demure thing, maybe 100 pounds or so. Ah well. Live and learn. Pigs are not hogs, but they're gosh darned BIG.

The next day Fay phoned with the price and Cherrie and I mailed our checks immediately. Meanwhile, we needed to decide how we'd like to have the pig butchered - well, not how exactly, but what kind of cuts. We were faxed a page from the butchering firm, and we looked it over carefully to decide on chops, ribs, roasts, breakfast sausage, Italian seasoned sausage, plain ground pork, even hams smoked or raw, and bacon. We needed to specify how much of each. Of course, some things we didn't know - like how many pounds of baby backs there are in a half a pig. It was quite perplexing figuring that out. We faxed back the page, and they told us to come pick it up a few days hence, depending on the smoke house schedule. The 4-H group used a company almost in Northwest Riverside (that's about 50 miles away), out in the boonies, to do the butchering.

THEN, we got a note from Fay's son, including the tax deduction information, and he thanked us for buying PETUNIA. Oh my. Petunia. When we heard her name was Petunia, we wanted to back out. To say no, you can't have butchered Petunia! How could we possible buy a slaughtered pig with the name of Petunia? Sounds inhuman. Like you're destroying a famous cartoon character. But we had to - after all, we'd agreed to do this and we'd already paid for it. It was too late, of course.

For several years we bought an animal from Fay's son and one of us had to drive out to this butcher, with the car filled with ice chests. It was always summertime, so we needed to keep the stuff cold. They did freeze all the meat for us - that is a nice service - and it was all labeled well. Cherrie and I figured out which was which - hers and mine - and we began enjoying the pig. PETUNIA. <very big, sad faces here> I think Petunia was the very best tasting pig we had. For a couple more years we shared another pig. Cherrie bought a half by herself one year. His name was Tootsie Roll. Fay's sons also raised lambs a couple of times too. Generally, with whatever kind of meat, we used the nice cuts first, seemed like. The chops, the roasts. Even the Italian sausage. Unless we used the ham prior, for a special occasion, it usually waited until Easter to be served. Some years it was too salty for me, so in subsequent years I asked for less smoking, less salt, which the butcher was kind enough to accommodate.

So all of this story is leading up to how this recipe came to be. Cherrie had somehow, one year, ordered a LOT of ground pork. I mean a lot. We learned over the years what we preferred - the chops, roasts, even the ribs, not so much the hams or the numerous packages of seasoned sausage. We could order the ground pork in whatever sized package we wanted - I always ordered in one-pound ones. But they often got rolled to the back of the shelves (the freezer) and began to accumulate. There are only so many recipes you can use with pounds and pounds of ground pork. Unseasoned, fairly lean, but still, it's ground pork. The only constant was meatloaf. But usually that's a mixture of beef, veal and pork, or some semblance of such. Veal is not very accessible these days and way too pricey anyway, so basically you're down to ground beef and ground pork (or you could add ground turkey or chicken too). So, really, how much pork can you use up in ONE meatloaf. Two pounds maybe. When you have perhaps 25 pounds of ground pork in the freezer, that's a heck of a lot of meatloaf.

So, Cherrie raved about this recipe for Chinese Meatloaf, and she was delighted because the single recipe used a full pound of ground pork. She'd found the recipe in the Los Angeles Times (this has been years and years ago, now, and it's not available online). She's changed it just a bit, but mostly it's the original recipe: ground beef, pork, a lot of Napa cabbage, cilantro, fresh ginger, Asian seasonings, and some Hoisin sauce on top. I'd gone online to see if I could find the recipe, and did, but mostly found recipes for a meatloaf using lots of cream soup cans and bean sprouts. Yuck. This version is ever so much more authentic and tasty.

Cook's Notes: Cherrie has added another cup of Napa cabbage to her version (the one below), and she likes to put a bit of Hoisin on the top of the meatloaf when it first goes in the oven. Not much, but about 2 tablespoons. You'll want to use a large baking dish, like an oval or round Pyrex. Mold the meatloaf into the dish so it has space around the sides to exude the juice. The meatloaf generates a lot of liquid, so make sure it's high enough sided that it doesn't spill over. Halfway through the baking, you'll want to pour off the fat. I suspect a lot of the liquid is juice from all the cabbage, but still, you'd like it removed since the fat is swimming in that water anyway. Then when the meatloaf is done, smear the top with a bunch more Hoisin sauce, because that's the part you crave (like the ketchup part on a traditional American meatloaf). The meatloaf makes a somewhat soft texture (from all the cabbage), so let it cool for a bit before slicing and serving. She serves it with basmati or jasmine rice in which she's shaved some carrots, and a green salad to which she adds some kind of citrus, like Mandarin oranges from the can, or some wedges of fresh orange or tangerine. Thanks Cherrie, for sharing your great recipe.

Chinese Meatloaf
Recipe: adapted from my friend Cherrie S.
Servings: 8
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
5 cups Napa Cabbage -- chopped
1/2 cup cilantro -- minced
1/4 cup ginger root -- minced
1/2 cup green onion -- minced
1 tablespoon salt [next time I'll use less, probably 2 t.]
2 tablespoons hot chili sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 large eggs -- beaten [I might use 3]
4 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine beef, pork, cabbage, cilantro, ginger, green onions, salt, chile sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce and eggs in bowl and mix well. Press into a large baking dish (with sides). Spread about 2 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce on the top of the meatloaf.
3. Bake for 1 hour or up to 90 minutes, removing halfway through to drain off the fat.
4. Remove from oven and brush top and sides with additional Hoisin sauce. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.
NOTES : The Napa cabbage seems like a lot, and it does generate a lot of liquid, but it adds a wonderful lightness to the meatloaf. Don't omit it.
Serving Ideas : Serve with rice (white or brown) with some grated carrot in it. Also with a green salad with some citrus in it.
Per Serving: 392 Calories; 29g Fat (67.0% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 137mg Cholesterol; 1581mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 4 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Printer-friendly recipe, click title at top.


Anonymous said...

I was searching for a Chinese style meatloaf, and found your recipe. It sounds a lot like my dad's recipe for dumplings (a.k.a. shui jiao, jiao zi, potstickers, chinese ravioli, etc.) only without the wrappers (obviously) or the hoisin and egg. He salts the chopped cabbage, lets it drain for about 20 minutes, and then rinses well, before using it in the pork mixture. This step draws out the water, so you probably won't have to drain off so much liquid halfway through baking.

Carolyn T at said...

Hi Anonymous - thanks for the great tip - I'll try that next time I make this. Recently I found one of these meatloaves in the freezer, one I'd made about 2 years ago, and it had a lot less cabbage than this more recent one, so maybe I just added too much cabbage altogether. Thanks for stopping by my blog. . . . I've moved the blog over to in case you return.