Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first shall we. No, there is no fish in fish flavoured pork. It’s called that because it uses a mix of flavours and aromatics that are commonly used in seafood dishes. What it does have is a wonderful, and powerful, combo of intense flavours.
I was put in the mood for Sichuan (not that it takes much) by this recipe over at Hollowlegs’ blog. It was kind of a last minute affair so had to improvise. After all, where can you find cloud ear mushrooms at 8pm on a cold Monday night in NE London?
Happily, it’s one of those dishes that can be stretched and tweaked to fit whatever you have in the cupboard. No pickled chilli paste? Don’t worry, harissa or Turkish chilli sauce (of which there is plenty in NE London) are great stand ins.
The dish itself is chewy, slithery, spicy and pungent. For me, along with its auberginey sibling, it’s the quintessence of Sichuan cooking. A combination of punchy flavours and textures held together in a careful balancing act.
Subtle it ain’t. But if you need something red in tooth and claw (and oil and meat) then this is perfect. And unlike a hot pot or stew, it only takes a few minutes to make.
When you take a mouthfull, layers of warming, sharp and sweet flavours open on your tongue like a fiery flower. It’s incredibly satisfying and incredibly moreish. I dare you to start and then leave some for the next day. G’wan, I dare you. I couldn’t.
For two or three with noodles and some green veg. Add another savoury dish and it would do four.
The key to this is having everything ready to go, because once you’ve started, the whole thing only takes about ten minutes or so to cook. The recipe calls for cloud ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots and pickled chilli paste.
I didn’t have these and so left out the ‘shrooms altogether, and substituted celery for bamboo shoots and harissa for the pickled chilli paste. It still tasted pretty damn good. I also used corn instead of potato flour.
I served it with some flat wheat noodles tossed in a little sesame oil and some choi sum (tender stem broccoli is a good substitute) boiled for 3 minutes.
300g lean pork
2 celery sticks
75ml ground nut oil
2 tblsp pickled chilli paste (I used harissa)
3 cloves garlic – crushed
1.5 finely chopped ginger
1 spring onion finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp light soy sauce
1 tblsp corn flour
1 tblsp cold water
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1.5 tsp white sugar
1.5 tsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar
3/4 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp corn flour
3 tblsp water
Slice the pork as finely as you can. I flattened some loin and sliced it into 3mm slices. Add the marinade ingredients and stir. Leave it while you do the rest.
De-string and finely slice the celery. Scatter some salt on it and leave it on some kitchen roll to drain.
Mix together the sauce ingredients stirring until the corn flour is fully absorbed.
Add the oil to pan and heat until it’s shimmering and smoking hot. Add the pork and stir fry until it separates and colours a little. Add the chilli sauce and stir fry for a minute or two until the oil is red.
Add garlic and ginger and stir fry for 30 seconds until you can smell them. Add the celery and stir fry until warmed through. Stir in the sauce, add the spring onion and stir fry it for a minute more. Serve.