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)
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:
Recipe for Sichuan Stir-Fried Pork in Garlic Sauce with Mushrooms, Water Chestnuts and Snap Peas
Takes 45 minutes start to finish. Serves 4.
For the Garlic Sauce:
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons chinese black vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon chinese rice wine or 1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 teaspoons ketchup
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
For the Pork:
12 ounces country-style boneless pork ribs, trimmed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cold water
2 teaspoons chinese rice wine or 2 teaspoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
For the Stir-Fry:
4 minced garlic cloves
2 scallions, white part minced, green parts sliced thin
2 tablespoons Asian Chili Garlic Sauce
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces Baby Bella mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thing
1 (5 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts
6 oz. Snap Peas, trimmed
Make the Garlic Sauce:
Whisk all sauce ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.
Prepare the Pork:
Cut pork into 2” lengths and then cut each length into 1/4” matchsticks. Combine pork with baking soda and water in bowl.
Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Rinse pork in cold water. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Whisk rice wine and cornstarch in bowl. Add pork and toss to coat.
For the stir fry, combine garlic, scallion whites, chili paste in bowl.
Cook the Stir-Fry:
Heat 1 tbsp oil in large non stick pan over high heat until just smoking. Add mushrooms and cook stirring frequently until tender, 4 minutes. Add snap peas and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Add water chestnuts and cook for additional 2 to 4 minutes until tender. Transfer vegetables to separate bowl.
Add remaining 3 tbsp oil to pan and place over medium low heat. Add garlic scallion mixture and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Transfer 1 tbsp garlic scallion oil to small bowl and set aside.
Add pork to skillet and cook until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk sauce to recombine and add to skillet. Increase heat to high and cook stirring constantly until thickened and pork cooked thru, 1 to 2 minutes. Return vegetables to skillet and combine.
Transfer to platter, sprinkle with scallion greens and reserved garlic scallion oil and serve.