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Feb 18, 2010 08:02 AM

Cantonese steamed minced pork with salted fish

In Hong Kong last week I tried this for the first time and loved it. I don't know the Cantonese name: it was a steamed patty of minced pork, topped with crumbled salted fish, ginger, and scallion, with juices. I gather this is sometimes steamed separately and served with a side of rice and sometimes steamed atop the rice.

Is this an unusual or common dish, and where is a good rendition in the Bay Area, preferably SF, and preferably SF Chinatown? Is this the kind of dish that Utopia Cafe on Waverly does especially well?

If I wanted to make this at home, what is the salted fish called (or written) and where and how would I find it?


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  1. It is called "haam yue" or "salted fish" in Cantonese. You can find different types of salted fish in Chinese grocery stores wrapped in clear cellophane bags. For example, sunset super has a bunch next to the preserved meat deli case near the vegetables. The fish is made from a variety of species--with widely varying levels of saltiness and different texture. Getting a brand you like can be tricky (or maybe my mother is really picky). To start with, I recommend starting with a larger, more expensive fish. You may need to scale the fish (this is really messy) and soak it before cooking to make it less salty. My mother usually scales the fish, cuts it into reasonable portions, and puts it in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep forever.

    One warning: because the fish is allowed to ferment before drying, it has the dubious distinction of being the only dried fish that is linked to causing a rare cancer. So you probably shouldn't eat tons of it or feed it to kids, in a "do as I say and not as I do" kind of way.

    1. Yes, pretty common. Didn't care for it much growing up, but now I like it and chicken w/ salted fish fried rice.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kc72

        Funny, as a kid I loved that stuff. When I was really little I'd watch my mom make it (minced with a cleaver) and think to myself, oh boy and couldn't wait until dinner. Now I smell it and I gag, it's the salt fish. Can't stand it, probably haven't eaten it since I was 16.

        Funniest thing I ever heard was over dinner at a Chinese restaurant and my sister's Italian (national) friends said they have a very similar dish in Italy, minced pork, salt fish, etc.

      2. Cantonese: Harm-Yu-Jing-Yuk-Baan

        Harm = Salty
        Yu = Fish
        Jing = Steam
        Yuk = Meat
        Baan = Cake

        1. This is a fairly common dish in Cantonese restaurants. Sometimes it's done as a separate dish, sometimes it's done with rice cooked in clay pots (in fact, just had that last night). I am thinking Great Eastern would have it. Don't know how good they make it. Salted fish is available in all Chinese markets. The trick is to get the pork in the right consistency. If it's machine ground pork from the grocery store it won't be a the same.

          1. During the SF Chinatown lunch series a few years ago, this was a standard order at nearly all the places we tried. Won a lot of converts! At the time, it was even available as a single-serving lunch plate at Capital. I've also had a good version, albeit leanish, at Hong Kong Menu. My favorite is at R&G Lounge, believe it or not, because of the high quality of the fermented fish used there and the texture of the meat. You will need to allow some time for this dish to be steamed to order, so plan accordingly.

            My ancestors were in the salted fish business in Monterey, so it is perhaps a little bit of an embarassment to confess that I used jarred at home. I like the slabs of mackerel packed in oil that you can buy at the Chinese grocers.

            For the best texture of the pork, use the double cleaver method to chop the meat by hand. And I include a very fine mince of fresh water chestnuts.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I second Capital in Chinatown. They have the fish version as well as the salted duck egg and the mei cai tsai versions.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Don't forget to put the pickled vegetables on top!

                1. re: chocolatetartguy

                  Is that standard or your special touch? I don't recall pickled vegetables in the versions I tried in Hong Kong.

                  1. re: david kaplan

                    My mother usually prepared the pork cake without the salt fish and she topped it with the pickled vegetables. Not sure if she ever did both. I think she used to steam the salt fish on top of the rice and serve them together. I think she picked it up from her mother who was born in Canton province.

                    btw fresh water chestnuts make all the difference in the pork cake.