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Vegan Dongpo Rou

Priceless pork belly, minus the pork.
Vegan dongpo rou
We didn't want to leave out vegetarian, vegan and otherwise pork-abstaining fans of the "Meat-shaped stone." This recipe combines the succulent texture of winter melon with the meaty bite of green jackfruit for a dongpo rou that might fool even the most discerning Qing dynasty emperor.

Vegan dongpo rou
Serves 6

1 pound winter melon
1 can green jackfruit (in water or brine)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
1 bunch of green onions, cut in half
2 star anise
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2/3 cup Shaoxing wine
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons rock sugar
1-1 1/2 cups + 2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon cornstarch

  1. Remove the rind and seeds from the winter melon and cut into 2-inch chunks; drain and rinse the jackfruit. Pat both dry with a towel.
  2. Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat; add winter melon and jackfruit. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until just starting to brown.
  3. Add onions, ginger, anise, cinnamon and peppercorns; stir until fragrant, approximately 1 minute.
  4. Add the wine, soy sauce and sugar, plus enough water to come to the top of the ingredients. Bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover wok with lid. Simmer for approximately 45 minutes until winter melon and jackfruit are very tender.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to remove the winter melon and jackfruit; place in serving bowl. Remove and discard onions, ginger and spices.
  7. Increase heat to medium-high for about 5 minutes until sauce has reduced by about a third. Combine the cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of water; stir mixture into the remaining sauce in the wok. Heat for 2 minutes until thickened and glossy; salt to taste.
  8. Pour sauce over winter melon and jackfruit and serve immediately with rice.
Bonus Step: For the ultimate #pricelessporkbelly experience, layer pieces of winter melon and jackfruit into individual servings that mimic the original "Meat-shaped stone."

Adapted from Chen Leilei's Braised Winter Melon and Carolyn Phillips' Vegetarian roast pork belly.