As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t love rice cakes unless they’ve been crisped up in a hot cast-iron skillet. There’s something about the (for lack of a better word) mouthfeel of boiled rice cakes that doesn’t appeal to me. For that reason alone I wasn’t looking forward to the spicy pork sausage and rice cakes. In theory the recipe sounded delicious and I was ready to change how I felt about rice cakes, just like I changed how I felt about kimchi.
The recipe is a riff on spicy Sichuan food, with ma po tofu as the starting point. There isn’t actually much tofu in this dish, but it is spicy, even though I toned down the chili peppers to a quarter of what the recipe called for.
The spicy pork sausage isn’t really sausage in the traditional sense of sausage with a casing, instead it’s ground pork pan-fried and mixed with dried red chilies, garlic, ssämjang, sichuan peppercorns, and kochukaru. There are also some roasted onions and sugar to add sweet to the heat. Chopped gai-lan adds some crunch and just a touch of tofu is stirred in to make the sauce a bit more creamy.
The spicy pork sausage ragu was delicious just out of the pan. It had a bit of a nostalgic flavour to it for me, because growing up, we didn’t eat beef so all of our meat sauces were made with ground pork. Ground pork is flavourful, juicy, and lighter tasting than beef.
I was super happy with the spicy pork sausage, but then I had to add the boiled rice cakes. I really truly gave it a go, but after eating two pieces I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating more. It’s a texture thing. I’m sure if I grew up eating boiled rice cakes I would love this dish.
There was one thing that made the dish slightly more palatable for me: crispy shallots. Chang tells you to buy packaged Chinese fried shallots, but I happen to have a container full in my fridge that my mother-in-law made for me. She knows I love them and one day she gave me a giant container. It was a great present! I love love love crispy shallots and really, they make anything taste better. They add crunch and a delicious mild onion taste.
Alas the crispy shallots where not enough to make me eat my whole plate. I picked out the rice cakes, saved the ragu, and mixed it with udon, topping it with crispy shallots. Now there’s a chewy carbohydrate that I love! The spicy pork sausage tasted great with udon.
Would I make this dish again? No, not in way it was intended in the book. As much as I hoped otherwise, the rice cakes were disappointing.The ragu I would make again: juicy ground pork, spicy Sichuan flavour, crunchy greens. I would skip out on the tofu though; it didn’t add much. I imagine this would taste fantastic on rice, which I’m going to try because I have a lot of spicy pork sausage left.