My hometown Ipoh produces a lot of pomelos. Big, fat, juicy pomelos. We eat the flesh as it is or use them in salads. But the skin is usually tossed out. Sometimes my mother collects the pomelo peels and dries them under the sun. She uses it as a mosquito repellent by burning it. Smoke from the dried pomelo peels will drive mosquitoes away.
Pomelo peels have a pleasantly strong, citrus scent. Using them to smoke out mosquitoes seems like a waste of good ingredient. I remember my grandmother used to talk about how delicious braised pomelo peels are but it is a very complicated process. My parents used to rave about this braised pomelo peel dish too but nobody at home has ever made it before. So I did some research on pomelo peel and read up about this ancient Chinese recipe that is slowly disappearing— braised pomelo pith.
I found 2 references to be particularly useful:
Christine Ho’s Braised Pomelo Pith recipe (https://www.christinesrecipes.com/2013/10/braised-pomelo-pith.html) is simple, straightforward and adapted to our modern lifestyle.
Hong Kong cooking show Grandpa’s Kitchen 阿爷厨房 (https://youtu.be/s5L5Zl3faJw) presents a very traditional way of cooking pomelo skin that is intriguing yet challenging.
I decided to take on the traditional recipe challenge.
It begins with a very complicated process of grilling the pomelo skin until it turns black. Soak the charred pomelo skin in water to soften. Once softened, scrape off the burnt skin layer. Soak the remaining pulp and squeeze out the water repeatedly. Continue this process for 7-8 times to get rid of any bitter taste.
Prepare lard. Soak the pomelo skin in lard before braising it in a pot of special fish stock. The main ingredient of the broth is a dried flat fish 大地鱼 which gives the broth it’s super umami flavour.
This traditional dish is slowly disappearing due to the tedious process. It took me 2 days to prepare and cook and this dish— making the lard, searching for dried flat fish, processing the pomelo skins. The skin is very soft and spongy and absorbs the flavour of the broth. It is like biting into a sponge that is filled with rich, flavourful soup, bursting into your mouth with each bite. It is a good dish but not sure if it’s worth all the work. Will be making shortcuts to this dish again, using Christine’s simplified method of preparing the pomelo skin and leaving out the lard. Should produce a lighter and cleaner taste that is more in line with our modern, health conscious lifestyle.
I have also found another way of using up pomelo skins—candied pomelo peels. This we will save for the next post..