My Kind of Asian Junk Food
February 8, 2011 18 Comments
College is a time to eat lots of things you could never get away with eating several times a week when home. Whether it’s pizza, hot dogs, and grilled cheese sandwiches at the dining hall or a gigantic bowl of ice cream and hot chocolate to accompany some late night studying, it’s so easy to succumb to the innate desire to eat what tastes sinfully delicious and is ridiculously convenient. Leftover steamed rice with rousong (肉鬆) and a healthy sprinkle of furikake is the way to go for me.
I know it looks like weird brown moss and shiny green confetti have taken over my bowl of rice here, but the symphony of fluffy, moist rice, salty, cottony pork, oceanic, crispy seaweed, and subtle, nutty, sesame is incredible.
For those unfamiliar, Wikipedia describes rousong as…
Rousong, also called meat wool, meat floss, pork floss, pork sung, is a dried meat product that has a light and fluffy texture similar to coarse cotton. Rousong is used as a topping for many foods such as congee, tofu, and savory soy milk. It is also used as filling for various buns and pastries, and as a snack food on its own. Rousong is a very popular food item in Chinese culture, and evident in its ubiquitous use in Chinese cuisine.
Rousong is made by stewing cuts of pork in a sweetened soy sauce mixture until individual muscle fibres can be easily teased apart with a fork. This usually happens when the collagen and elastin that normally hold the fibres have been cooked out of the meat. The teased-apart meat is then strained and dried in the oven. After a light drying, the meat is mashed and beaten while being dry cooked in a large wok until it is completely dry. Additional flavourings are usually added while the mixture is being dry fried.
It’s widely available in large, clear jars in your typical Asian grocery store. Ranch 99 would be a great resource.
Inexpensive, delicious, and as easy as Nutella, rousong reminds me of both home and the mouth-watering Chinese food my parents cook for me as well as the chilling wrath of my mother if she knew how much rousong I have actually consumed this quarter.
Now, what’s furikake?
Furikake is a dry Japanese condiment meant to be sprinkled on top of rice. It typically consists of a mixture of dried and ground fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt, and monosodium glutamate. Other flavorful ingredients such as katsuobushi (sometimes indicated on the package as bonito), or okaka (bonito flakes moistened with soy sauce and dried again), salmon, shiso, egg, powdered miso, vegetables, etc. are often added to the mix.
Soy sauce, fish, sesame seeds, and MSG? How can you go wrong? Like I said, junk food. But the good kind. Let me tell you that is probably better to eat a bit of MSG than to eat that chocolate chip cookie you got from a gas station. Yuck.
Anyways, furikake is also available in Asian grocery stores. On the bottle that I have here, it says that you can use it on top of salad and soup, so if you’re worried about not having much use for it, think of it as Asian Mrs. Dash.
Something about this comfort food just glows. Actually, that might just be my camera’s white balance freaking out.
But this stuff is pretty close to ambrosia, just so you know.