Dongbei stew (luan dun) with ribs and winter vegetables

Stew is one of the best hearty and warming winter foods, and North-Eastern Chinese (Dongbei) cuisine is full these. Luan Dun (cooked here with ribs and winter vegetables) literally means messy stew, so as you can imagine, the recipe is far from precise. It also involves ripping as many ingredients apart with your hands as possible (instead of cutting it neatly with your cleaver/kitchen knife), so it’s a great way to relieve stress!

As mentioned, this version of the stew uses ribs. You can also use pork belly for an oiler stew. Traditionally, you’ll include corn, carrots, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and green peppers among the vegetables stewed with the pork. I’ve used baby corn and baby rainbow carrots here (to add some colour), and have missed out green peppers because I really don’t like peppers… If you are using them, then they need to be added at the last stage, when you add the tomatoes. One pepper is plenty for the stew.

This recipe serves 2-3 people, and prep time is roughly 20 minutes (some of which you can do when the stew is cooking). Total stew time is roughly 75 minutes.

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Ingredients
500g of ribs
3 spring or salad onions
2-3 thick slices of ginger
3 star anises
8-10 peppercorns
1 tbsp of bean paste/doubanjiang
1 tbsp of Chinese shaoxing cooking wine (optional)
1 medium/large potato (e.g. Maris Piper)
200-250g of carrots (e.g. rainbow carrots)
200g of green beans
200g of baby corn
3 medium tomatoes

You’ll also need olive oil, water and salt, and will need to cook it in a large stewing pot.

Step 1: run the ribs under the tap to clean it, if needed. If there are any very large pieces, then chop it up with a cleaver. If not, then go straight to…

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Step 2: separate the green and white parts of the spring onions. Chop the white sections into lengths of roughly 1 inch across. Set the green sections aside.

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Step 3: cover the bottom of a large stewing pan with olive oil. Place on high heat and add in the ginger, star anise, peppercorns and the white bits of the spring onions.

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Step 4: while the oil and spices heat up, place the bean paste into a bowl and dilute with water. Mix well. Don’t worry about adding too much water! You’ll need quite a bit anyway.

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Step 5: once the olive oil starts sizzling, add in the ribs to the pan and stir to make sure that they don’t stick to the bottom. If using the rice wine, add this now. Wait for the ribs to appear cooked on the outside (i.e. when you can only see bits of pink).

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Step 6: add the bowl of diluted bean sauce to the pan, then top up with more water until the ribs are covered. Turn onto medium/low heat. No need to cover with a lid. Set to stew for 20 minutes.

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Step 7: while the ribs stew, peel and cut up the potatoes into large chunks. Run them through water to get rid of any extra starch. Add to the stew once the meat has cooked for 20 minutes, then set the meat and potato mix to cook on medium/low heat for further 25 minutes.

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Step 8: in the meantime, chop the carrots into large chunks and set them aside.

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Step 9: it’s time to relieve stress! If you are going with the traditional method, then it’s time to rip the baby corn into smaller pieces with your hands. Breaking each across 3 times is plenty.

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Step 10: rip the ends off the washed green beans, then rip them into smaller lengths. Breaking each across around 4 times is plenty.

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Step 11: once the meat and potato mix has cooked for a further 25 minutes, add in the carrots and beans, and sprinkle with salt. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.

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Step 12: nearly there! Add in the corn and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add more salt to taste if necessary.

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Step 13: quarter the tomatoes and chop the green parts of the spring onions. Add these to the stew and cook for a final 5 minutes. Then the stew is ready to serve.

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You can choose to dump all the veg in at the same time, but the tomatoes will disintegrate if cooked for too long, and the green beans and carrots will still feel too crunchy.

The end result is a really hearty all-in-one stew, and will really warm you up on a cold evening.

You can also add bell peppers to the stew, and if you choose to do that, do so in the last 5 minutes. They don’t need to cook for long either. Let me know how you get on if you want to give that a go!

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