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Pork ear consists of layers of meat, cartilage, fat and skin – something that looks quite ornamental when it is cut. On the plate, its zig zag lines are reminiscent of the course of bridges in Chinese parks, particularly with the various green tones of sliced gherkin behind. Bridges in a western segment of the Forbidden City in Beijing – only, where is the secret agent?

Pigear & Cucumber Salad

With its fresh flavour and unique play of consistencies, this salad is counted among the most delectable dishes in Ren Zilin’s restaurant – and among the favourites of secret agent Hektor Maille, which he naturally did not wish to pass up on a very special evening in Beijing.

The preparation of this salad is remarkably simple – all the more because one can use precooked pork ears, which, in Europe, can be found in the chillers of every good Asian store (and, as a rule, at a low price). The pork ears are usually braised for about two hours in a mixture of soy sauce and water spiced with various ingredients such as sugar, salt, star anise, pepper, cinnamon, Five-Spice powder and, occasionally, a flavour enhancer (generally E621, Natriumglutomat).

Ingredients (for 2 persons)

60 g pigear, ready to eat

1 cucumber of 300 g

1 big onion, in not too fine stripes

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

4 tablespoons Chingkiang rice vinegar

1-2 pods garlic, finely chopped (not pressed as the taste would be too strong)

Optional some coriander green


  1. Cut the pig-ear in fine stripes (of approx. 3 mm).
  2. Batter the cucumber vigorously on the kitchen table – several times and from all sides. Wash the cucumber, but do not peel. Slice it lengthwise and remove seeds. Cut into smallish cubes (not too small).
  3. Mix soy sauce, vinegar and garlic in a bowl. Add pig ear, cucumber and onion, stir well, and allow the salad to soak for a few minutes before serving.

You can add some fresh coriander to the salad. This will make it taste even fresher. But as coriander tends to dominate, the milder aromas of garlic, soy sauce, cucumber and pig ear might be overwhelmed.

The journalist and translator Gunvanthi Balaram evaluating the Pigear & Cucumber Salad (HOIO's menu-test for Episode 4 of «Mission Kaki», October 11, 2009 in Basel).

More about the travel adventure of Secret Agent Hektor Maille:

While eating the items of this menu on a hot evening in the restaurant of Ren Zilin in central Beijing, Hektor Maille finds out why the dragon trail had failed to yield any results earlier:

First Publication: 6-10-2009

Modifications: 23-1-2011, 18-6-2011, 13-11-2011, 12-12-201