My mom is an amazing cook. Growing up, she made everything from scratch and from dumplings to tong yuan to the best red braised pork belly. She’s the one who ignited my love of food, specifically eating, and I loved spending time in the kitchen as her sous chef. For special occasions, she’d plan out extravagant menus with a minimum of 8 dishes for just us, my dad and brother.
Today, I find myself craving a dish from my mom’s kitchen every few weeks. Sometimes the craving is as simple as her poached eggs for breakfast or a bowl of homemade wontons. There’s just something about the way she seasons her soups that I can’t replicate and of course, nothing is measured. Other dishes I always request when we visit are ones I lack the technique to execute like savoury tong yuans, liang feng and stir fried kidney.
Pork liver and kidney are two of my favourite proteins. Stephen’s managed to master Stir Fried Pork Liver, though he’s still weary of how close to rare I prefer mine cooked, and once bought cow instead of pork. When my mom stayed with us for a week to help with Alivia last month, I took advantage of her being in our kitchen to carefully document the cooking process and measure everything.
The hardest part of cooking pork kidney is the prep and cleaning. Without properly cleaning the innard, the meat can be quite pungent. I mean it’s the organ that processes urine, no surprises there. The exterior meat of the organ though is so delicious. It has a texture that’s hard to describe but similar to very firm tofu. It’s tender, not crispy or crunchy, smooth, not grainy, but still has resistance when chewing. It’s unlike any other innard or organ that’s usually eaten. My mom always buys kidney fresh and butchers it the same day. Once seasoned, it can marinate overnight in the fridge.
We usually add red chilies or some kind of spice to our Stir Fried Kidney but left them out so Alivia could try it.
How to Clean Pork Kidney
To core the kidney, start by slicing the kidney in half along its length when lying flat, almost like a bagel. Press firmly on the organ and keep your halves even. Once halved, there’s a clear distinction between the outer meaty part (what we want) and the darker meat and white parts (what we don’t want). With a sharp knife, cut a perimeter around the dark meat and white parts. Slice straight down, but not through the kidney. Then from a shorter edge, lift up a flap, ensuring you’ve cut deep enough to get to the meaty part, and slowly slice and pull the flap taut again. Slowly pulling and slicing, and adjusting if you’re not getting enough of the innards out will slowly core the kidney, leaving only the shell. You want to try to get the core all out in one piece. The step by step photos below illustrate best.
This is a careful and time consuming technique so be patient and it takes practice to perfect. Make sure you’re using a sharp knife and go slow. Stephen also found it easier to work with a dry cutting board, so wipe away any blood (and urine) as needed.
Once your kidney shells are ready, cross hatch and cut into one inch pieces. Marinate with 1 tsp salt and 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine for at least a few hours before stir frying.