Often, this five spice meat roll would be called ngoh hiang (五香) or lobak (滷肉), the shortened Hokkien dialect for this dish. In the northern states of Malaysia, it is more popularly known as lobak whilst moving southwards, this immensely popular dish is known as ngoh hiang.
You could find this dish sold in many hawker stalls but traditionally, this dish is a staple during Chinese New Year dinner (reunion dinner) for the Hokkiens. Nowadays, it is also a staple for the non-Hokkiens' Chinese New Year dinner.
There are many versions out there, so do not fret if you find your version different from others. If you ask me, this five spice meat roll is so versatile you could adjust the ingredients to your liking. But one ingredient must be prominent, the five spice powder, which is what this dish is named after. This powder when cooked, exude a very sweet aroma that makes the whole dish. I have to fight off this urge to gobble up the ngoh hiang lobak whenever it is still half steaming on the stove. So fragrant!!
The ease of preparing this dish truly appeals to me. All you have to do is mix everything in a bowl and scoop little portions to be wrapped. How hard could that be? The best thing about this dish is that it could be frozen, to be fried later and eaten as an when you want. A very convenient solution to today's busy working class.
Having said that, I do have my preference. It has to have five spice powder (without a doubt); it has to have texture and crunch when bitten; and it has to be moist inside. I prefer the meat chopped coarsely (and not minced) for the bite. Water chestnuts are also added for the crunch. The percentage of fats would decide on whether your ngoh hiang lobak is moist or dry. I highly recommend pork belly but if you find it wasteful (expensive), you could use pork shoulder with fats.
Chinese New Year dinner: Five Spice Meat Roll/Ngoh Hiang/Lobak 五香滷肉Makes 10 medium rolls
450 g pork belly, chopped finely
200 g prawns, cut into chunks
100 g water chestnuts, diced finely (can also use yam beans)
2 stalk spring onion, chopped coarsely
1 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked and chopped
1 large onion, diced finely
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp oil
1 egg white/cooked starch for sealing
2 tbsp five spice powder
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 1/2 tbsp shao xing wine
3 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1. Preparation. Chop pork belly, prawns, water chestnut, spring onion, dried shrimp, onion and garlic as per instructed.
2. Saute garlic and onion in a skillet with one tablespoon oil. Set aside to cool.
3. Put all seasoning into a large bowl. Add all ingredients except egg and flour and mix well. Lastly, add in egg and flour and continue to mix until all ingredients are well combined. Cover and marinade in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight (I did mine overnight).
4. Wipe beancurd skin with a wet towel to clean and soften the skin. Cut the skin into desired size. I usually like my five spice meat roll smaller with a lot of excess beancurd skin at the side for that crispy skin. Scoop filling on the lower part of the skin leaving some space at the sides. Fold the skin upwards. You could either leave the sides outward or fold the sides inwards like a wrap. Apply some egg white on the sides and end. Roll the meat snugly.
5. Steam the rolls in high heat for 10 minutes. Deep-fry the rolls when needed. Freeze the rest. Alternatively, you could just deep-fry the rolls raw.
Need some greens to complement this meaty dish for reunion dinner? Try:
Jiu Hu Char
Braised Mushroom with Mixed Vegetables and Gluten