Shanghainese rice with salt pork and pak choy

Shanghainese rice with salt pork and pak choy

Xian rou cai fan

Every Grain of Rice
Chris Terry

This is a typically Shanghainese supper dish, made with salt pork and Shanghai green pak choy. I first ate it in the wonderful Fu 1088 restaurant, which occupies an old mansion in the French Concession. There, it was served in a black clay pot. My Shanghainese lunch companion said it reminded her of her childhood, when she ate it often, but she thought her family’s version was made with salted mustard greens rather than fresh pak choy, or perhaps with a mixture.

Anyway, it’s a delicious and terrifically simple dish. Don’t pay too much attention to the quantities; you can add more or less meat and vegetables as you please. Use Shanghainese salt pork if you have it (soak it for five to ten minutes in hot water if it’s very salty, then rinse), or pancetta, or bacon. Just make sure the meat is streaky rather than lean, as the fat helps to flavour the rice. I’m sure this method would also work well with other green vegetables, particularly broccoli and kale. And of course you can make it with Chinese preserved mustard greens too, rinsing them before use if they are very salty. If you are eating this instead of plain steamed rice with a few Chinese dishes, you don’t need to salt it. If you are eating it as a one-dish meal, add salt to taste.


Quantity Ingredient
300g shanghai green pak choy
2 tablespoons cooking oil, plus a little more if you are using a clay pot
or 2 tablespoons lard, plus a little more if you are using a clay pot
50g salt pork
or 50g pancetta
or 50g streaky bacon
200g thai fragrant rice, rinsed


  1. If you are using a clay pot, heat it with a little water over a very low flame, or warm it in an oven, so it won’t crack. Bring a kettle to a boil.
  2. Cut the meat into very fine dice. Coarsely chop the pak choy.
  3. Heat the oil or lard in a wok over a high flame. Add the pork and stir-fry briefly until it is cooked and fragrant. Add the rice and stirfry until it smells delicious. Then add the pak choy and stir-fry for another minute or so.
  4. If you are using a clay pot, pour off the water used to warm it, dry the inside of the pot and rub it with a little oil or lard. Place the rice mixture in the clay pot (if using), and pour over hot water from the kettle to just cover the rice. Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and cook over a very low flame for about 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked and a golden crust is developing at the bottom of the pot. (If you are using a rice cooker, simply put the rice mixture into the cooker, cover with water and set it to cook.)
  5. Serve the rice with some nice bits of guo ba (the golden crust at the bottom of the pot).


  • The same ingredients can be used to make a fine fried rice: simply stir-fry the salt pork and greens as described above, add some cooked, cooled rice and stir-fry until wonderfully fragrant, seasoning with salt to taste.
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