David Zhou’s culinary journey began as a when he was just a boy. Raised on Nanjing Road, one of the busiest streets in Shanghai, he would wake up well before dawn lured out the door by the smell of freshly prepared wonton soup. He would tiptoe past his sleeping mother and ride her bike into the heart of Shanghai to visit the street vendors for breakfast. Although David grew up in the city, he regularly traveled to the Chinese countryside with his mother, a renowned opera actress at the time. These trips took him to Zhouzhuang, a 1600-year old heritage water village. David instantly felt at home, enchanted by the humble people and wholesome food.
The David’s menu is an extension of David Zhou. It’s a beautifully personal compilation of his childhood, Shanghainese pride, inherited culinary skills and life travels. Today we’re shining the spotlight on one of the most popular items on the menu at David’s Restaurant; it’s country comfort in a bowl and a dish that our guests never seem to tire of.
The dish down low
David describes this dish as his go-to comfort dish based on his mother’s recipe. Shanghainese people just can’t get enough of this sticky, sweet, savoury melt-in-your-mouth pork belly recipe.
What makes it special?
“The traditional way is to cook it with boiled eggs, but we gave it an Aussie twist and cook it with chat potatoes instead,” says David. “Potatoes are a staple of the Australian diet, but they work really well with the other elements of the dish.”
A connection to culture
According to David, this dish is one of the most beloved dishes in Shanghainese cuisine and culture. You’ll find a version of this dish on dining tables of all Shanghainese families almost daily.
So why put it on the menu?
“Easy. It’s synonymous with Shanghainese cuisine, so as a restaurant celebrating and serving Shanghainese cuisine, the menu wouldn’t be complete without it,” says David.
The tricky bit
“The difficulty in cooking this dish is the careful balance and timing of the light and dark soy sauces in the dish,” says David. “Also, it’s a beautifully thick dish, but we don’t take shortcuts and use corn starch to thicken it. Instead, we let the slow caramelisation of sugar crystals thicken the sauce. This process also adds a pretty special depth of flavour.”
Did you know…
“When we cook this dish, we blanch the pork belly first so that it loses a fair bit of its fat. The result is a beautifully tender and juicy pork without the amount of excess fat you sometimes find with pork belly,” says David.
David’s hot tip
“Use your chopsticks or fork to break the potato up and it will soak up all the sweet and savoury sauce of this flavour-packed Shanghainese stew.”