Chinese Braised Pork and Spinach is an American-style Chinese dish with a strong mid-century vibe. Like many of the recipes in Myra Waldo’s Chinese Cookbook (1968), what makes this dish “Chinese” is a blend of soy sauce, sherry, and honey that add a subtle Asian flair to an otherwise run-of-the-mill pork roast. I say this without judgment for tradition or authenticity: the twenty-first century consumer has access to many more ingredients than would have been available to Ms. Waldo in the 1960s. Chinese Braised Pork and Spinach represents a best effort to reproduce traditional Chinese cooking within the constraints of ingredient availability.
Ms. Waldo observes that Chinese cooking “often involves several main dishes” and assumes that the reader will prepare a variety of options for a standard dinner. This does indeed align with traditional Chinese meal planning but is not always convenient for the modern home cook. Chinese Braised Pork and Spinach is one of the few recipes in Myra Waldo’s Chinese Cookbook that comprise a meal in a single course. It includes both meat and vegetables in a richly flavored sauce and needs no more accompaniment than a bowl of rice.
Preparation is straightforward. A lean pork loin is seasoned and browned on all sides, then braised in a thin gravy of beef broth, soy sauce, and honey. The pork loin is removed once tender and cooked through, and a healthy amount of fresh spinach is cooked in the remaining gravy. The pork loin is sliced thin and served on a bed of spinach.
While I am quite comfortable cooking with traditional Chinese ingredients, I’ve made no major changes to the recipe in my adaptation. There’s a certain elegance to Americanized Chinese cuisine that is worth remembering and preserving, even if the dish would be unrecognizable to Chinese citizens. The only significant change I’ve made is to substitute for frozen spinach for fresh. Bagged, pre-washed baby spinach is a relatively recent phenomenon, rising to popularity in the 1990s, and offers a crisper and tastier alternative that I suspect Ms. Waldo would approve of.
As mentioned above, the recipe is a meal unto itself served over rice. Protein portions are hearty and approximate an average “meat and potatoes” meal. It may also be served as one of many Chinese main dishes for a larger crowd, as per Ms. Waldo’s suggestion. This dish would also work well as part of a Western-style meal. As an alternative, consider serving with ginger-glazed carrots and garlic mashed potatoes. Enjoy!
- Season pork roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Brown in a large dutch oven on all sides until fatty bits are crisp and meat is well-browned. It may be necessary to add a small amount of oil to facilitate browning.
- Whisk together honey, soy sauce, sherry, and boiling broth. Pour over the pork roast, scraping any tasty brown bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for ~90 minutes until pork is cooked through and tender.
- Remove pork and bring "gravy" to a simmer over medium heat. Add spinach and toss in hot liquid until wilted. Remove from heat.
- Serve thinly sliced pork roast over a bed of spinach accompanied by long grain rice.