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Sichuan Stir-Fried Pork in Garlic Sauce with Mushrooms, Water Chestnuts and Snap Peas

         There’s a Sichuan restaurant close to home in New York that I go to more frequently than I’d like to admit.  There’s a big “B” in the window which means The New York City Board of Health has some “issues” with the place.  In my view, if they haven’t closed it down, and I haven’t experienced any problems after eating there, I’m good to go.  I would have to say this mainly has to do with the fact that the lunch special comes in at $6.75 and includes a choice of soups or egg or spring rolls, three kinds of rice and finally, about 20 main dishes all fairly standard Sichuan fare.  Every one I have tried has never disappointed.   The place also has a Japanese menu and a prominent sushi bar.  I choose to believe that the “B” was assigned to that end of the restaurant.  I am happy to spend so little for such traditional Sichuan dishes as Pork in Garlic Sauce. In fact I like it so much, that this weekend I made it at home.  Once you get the hang of stir-frying, there’s no limit to your kitchen creativity. And if there was one technique that I could pass on to harried, time-pressured home cooks, it would be the stir-fry.  And you don’t need a wok, just a big non-stick frying pan.

         It also helps if you keep an Asian pantry, which is far less daunting than those words sound.  Here’s a list of what to have on hand to be able to whip together Asian stir-fries whenever the mood strikes you:
 
The Basics of an Asian Pantry
 
This Asian Pantry includes a couple of things
not on this list–
bean paste and dried mushrooms among them.
1 large bottle of Soy Sauce. 
(These come in low sodium versions if you’re concerned about salt.)
1 bottle of Rice Vinegar
1 bottle of Chinese Rice Wine
(Sherry can be substituted for this, if you can’t find the real thing.)
1 bottle of Fish Sauce
(A pungent, anchovy based ‘vinegar’ )
1 bottle of Chinese Black Vinegar
(Again, you can substitute substitute 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar)
1 bottle of Sesame Oil
1 jar of Asian Chili Garlic Sauce
(I use a brand called Tuong Ot Toi Viet-Nam which is fairly ubiquitous in New York)
 
All of these items are more and more available as Asian communities grow in this country.  But if you’re not in a part of the world where Asian groceries are readily available in supermarkets, you can find everything on this list—and a good deal more—in the US at http://www.kimsasianmarket.com/, in Canada at http://www.grocerysavings.ca/onlineGroceryStores/Ontario/T&TSupermarketFlyer.aspand in the UK at http://www.hoohing.com/
A simple Google search will likely help you out wherever you live in the world. 
         
     

Now that you’ve got your Asian pantry together, you can let loose and create custom stir fries which is exactly what I did here.  Since I was keen on making this one dish dinner, I added snap peas to the mushrooms and canned water chestnuts. Besides adding color this rounded out the dish and added crunch.   The real labor in a stir-fry is getting all the ingredients prepped and ready to go into the pan.  Everything should be assembled beforehand so the steps are easy to follow.  This whole dish came together– despite its dauntingly long list of ingredients–prep and all in 45 minutes.  But that includes 15 minutes of soaking the pork in baking soda—a technique that acts as a tenderizer.  (Once the tenderizing has taken place, the pork gets washed in water to remove any trace of the taste of the baking soda.)  As to the pork, you want a cut with some fat on it. Because hogs are being bred to be lean, you may want to choose a fatty cut, like country style boneless ribs.  I went with organic pork tenderloin cut into ¼ inch thick medallions, with a fine marbling of fat, which are then slivered into ¼ inch pieces.  Serve this over Jasmine Rice to be sure you get every delicious drop of garlic sauce.  (You can make the rice while the pork is in its baking soda bath.) Here’s the recipe:



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