|Taiwanese Meat Sauce on Rice with rice-cooked eggplant, gai laan and soy egg|
I don't know about you, but I'm always on the lookout for easy meals to add to my weeknight repertoire, and I found a new dish to try on a lunch break last week. I'd ducked into Taiwan Cafe on Swanston street for a quick lunch on a very cold day, and I ordered a bowl of that Taiwanese classic, meat sauce on rice (with a soy egg, of course!), and a hot cup of Hong Kong milk tea.
|Taiwanese meat sauce on rice with soy egg and Hong Kong milk tea, at Taiwan Cafe on Swanston Street|
Being a classic recipe, there are as many versions as there are people who cook it, but a common theme is that minced meat is slowly simmered in a mixture of soy sauce and other aromatics, and that it starts with a base of crisp fried shallots. (Most recipes I've seen say to cook the shallots yourself, although I have seen others that suggest starting with a packet of those crisp fried shallots that you can get at Asian grocers).
Pork is classic, but I used beef mince on this occasion, because I happened to have it on hand. Same deal with the red onion - I used that instead of shallots because I always seem to have a few knocking about.
Here are the onions, browning away. Make sure you cook them until really good and brown, as you can really taste it in the finished product.
There is a high ratio of liquid to meat, and the sauce takes about the same amount of time to cook as it does to cook soy eggs, so it makes sense to chuck it all in together. (I love soy eggs, but it always seems wasteful to use so much soy sauce just to simmer a couple of eggs - it felt much less extravagant cooking the eggs and meat together in the sauce!) I only did two eggs as there were two of us eating that night, but the recipe makes enough meat sauce to serve four people, so in my recipe below I've suggested doing four eggs.
|Meat sauce and eggs|
|Eggplant and rice in rice cooker|
And that was it! It's a delicious, low-effort dinner. From start to finish it takes about an hour, but you're only actually working for less than half that time - for most of it the meat sauce is simmering away and the rice is cooking without your intervention. Definitely a contender for weeknight meals!
Here's an alternative idea for presentation, which I did with the leftovers for lunch the next day - mixing the meat sauce through the rice and piling it up on a plate. (I've only ever seen the meat sauce served on rice in restaurants here, but got the idea from Tiny Urban Kitchen).
Taiwanese Meat Sauce on Rice with Soy Eggs
Sarah's version of a classic recipe, adapted mainly from Tiny Urban Kitchen
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
250 grams minced beef or pork
2 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
Optional: 1 baby or Lebanese eggplant, 4 stems of Chinese broccoli
2 spring onions, finely chopped, to garnish
Hardboil the eggs, then peel and set aside.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the finely chopped red onion. Cook over a medium high heat until well browned.
Add the minced meat, stirring well to break it up. Cook until the meat has lost most of its pink colour. Pour in the water, soy sauce, sugar, five-spice and rice wine and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer. Place the hardboiled eggs into the sauce and allow everything to cook, with the pot partially covered, for 45 minutes. Stir every now and then to make sure the eggs turn around evenly in the sauce.
Cook the rice while the meat sauce is simmering. If you'd like to have eggplant, slice the eggplant in half lengthwise and layer it on top of the rice and water before cooking it as usual.
If you'd like to have Chinese broccoli, then cook it just before the rice and meat are ready. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and a teaspoon of salt, then cook the broccoli for 2-3 minutes before draining.
To serve, scoop the rice into four serving bowls and use a slotted spoon or small sieve to scoop out the meat and spoon it over the rice. (There will be a lot of liquid, but that can remain in the saucepan). Arrange the eggs, eggplant and Chinese broccoli over each bowl. Garnish generously with spring onions to serve.