This is the first time I buy, cook and eat fennel. I know nothing about this vegetable, except for the few times that I watched chefs preparing fennel in some cooking shows. Most of the time, it is cut into quarter or chunks, toss with olive oil, salt/pepper, mix with other root vegetables and roast in oven. My understanding of the fennel stops here. In the past, I hardly see fennel in Singapore, other than Cold Storage (now also available at NTUC Finest and Giant). So, it is a rather foreign vegetable to me. And the price is SO eXpensive ... Why should I pay so much for a bulb that looks like onion (w/o skin) with leaves on top and taste similar to celery?
But when I was window-shopping at the Queen Victoria Market during my recent Australia trip, I was thrilled to see big bulbs of fennels in the market. They were huge compared to those that I have seen in Singapore. And yes, they were much cheaper too. Happily, I bought two bulbs.
The first dish that I prepare with fennel is these pork rolls. This is one of my favorite dishes to prepare. Simple and delicious. I tried with Enoki mushrooms, but find the texture of the Enoki too springy or elastic. I prefer to use some parboiled carrot, celery, mushrooms and spring onion. Cut all the vegetables into thin sticks and roll them up in thinly-sliced marinated pork shoulder.
You will need:
Pork shoulder - thinly-sliced (I used frozen pork, ready sliced)
Carrots, fennel, Chinese mushrooms, spring onion
Sauce - soy sauce, coca-cola, grated ginger, water
1) Cut carrot, fennel, Chinese mushrooms, spring onion into thin sticks. For carrot, parboil in hot water for 2 minutes.
2) Take 2 sticks of vegetable each, place them on a thin slice of pork shoulder and roll up. Seal the edge with a little cornstarch. (Marinate the pork with soy sauce and pepper for an hour).
3) Pan fry the pork rolls over high heat (place the seal-side down) till brown. Pour in seasoning sauce - I used a combination of soy sauce, coca-cola (I happened to be drinking Coke while cooking....) and grated ginger. The sugar in the coca-cola helps to balance the saltiness in the soy sauce, giving the dish a nice flavour plus colour.
4) Remove the pork rolls and place on dish. Cook the sauce further to thicken it. Stir a little cream to the sauce. Pour over the pork rolls and serve hot.
When pan-frying the pork rolls, make sure the pan is heated up on high heat first. The high heat helps to seal the meat juice and lock in flavour, plus of course, creating that wonderful aroma in the dish.