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Sichuan Style Pork in Garlic Sauce

This recipe from Cook's Illustrated is spot on.  I've searched for ages for a good recipe for this dish and CI has come through once again.  This is a good thing because this dish usually fails dramatically in all but a few restaurants.  The trick to attaining the velvety mouth feel of the pork is to soak it first in a baking soda solution, which tenderizes and moisturizes the meat, and then coating it with a velvetizing cornstarch slurry.  I highly recommend this if you love good Southeast Asian cooking.

Marinade

1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine of dry sherry
  cup water
   
Sauce  
   
  Cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar (see notes)
1 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons ketchup
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
   
Stir Fry  
   
2 scallions white parts minced, green parts sliced 1 inch on a bias
1 pound boneless country-style pork ribs, trimmed
8 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons chile-garlic sauce (see notes)
  cup peanut oil (see notes)
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin (see notes)
1 medium red bell pepper thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced on bias into -inch slices

Whisk all sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.  Cut the pork into 2-inch lengths, them cut each length into -inch matchsticks.  In a bowl combine the pork with the cold water and baking soda, whisked.  Let sit for 30 minutes.

Rinse pork in cold water.  Drain well and pat dry with paper towels.  Whisk rice wine and cornstarch together in a bowl.  Add pork and toss to coat.

For the stir fry:  combine scallion whites, garlic and chile paste in bowl and set aside.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a seasoned wok or a large nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently until tender, about 2-3 minutes.  Add celery and bell pepper and continue cooking until celery is crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes.  Transfer veggies to separate bowl.

Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil to now-empty wok and place over medium-low heat.  Add scallion garlic mixture and cook, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 30 seconds  Transfer 1 tablespoon of the scallion-garlic oil to a small bowl and set aside..  Add pork to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink, 3-4 minutes.

Whisk sauce mixture to recombine and add to wok.  Increase heat to high  and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and pork is heated through, 1-2 minutes.  Return veggies to wok and combine well.  Sprinkle with scallion greens and reserved scallion-garlic oil and serve.

Notes:

  1. If black vinegar is unavailable substitute   rice vinegar and   balsamic vinegar.
  2. Chile-garlic sauce is widely available in most supermarkets.  My preference is Sambal Olek
  3. Peanut oil is the traditional oil used in stir frying because of it's high smoking point, but Canola oil is a good substitute.
  4. If Shiitakes are unavailable then white button mushrooms may be substituted.

 

 

     

 

 

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