Sometimes simple is best. And the Chinese, along with the Vietnamese, Japanese and the Italians seem to have a real penchent for making simple dishes sing. A few ingredients, cooked fast, and served straight away. Ideal food for a light post-work dinner.
While eating at Sichuan specialist Chili Cool I’m always blown away by their dry fried beans with pork mince. Similarly, while travelling around Vietnam, simple bowls of stir fried greens were an eye-opener and have left me yearning for them more than any other dish (except maybe those crispy spring rolls).
And yet, reading the recipe books, it’s so hard to believe that stir frying a few vegetables and flavourings for five minutes can really be that good. Just ginger and garlic and a splash of soy? Really? Surely it needs a little sugar, some more veg, a splash of this, a scattering of that…
I’ve often been driven to add just a bit of this, a pinch of that to quick cook dishes that started out simple. And just as often I’ve ended up with a clash of textures and flavours. Everything competing for attention, no harmony or focus.
Not this time. Not any more. Now I’m going to stick to the plan. The plan in this case being a mish-mash of about four different recipes I found and quite liked the sound of. See, there I go again, fiddling. But with focus.
I’ve nabbed the pork seasoning that seems to pop up everywhere in Sichuan cooking, and added it to simply fried Chinese spinach (also called
morning glory and water spinach Amaranthus dubius, Red spinach or Hsien tsai) a-la-Vietnam, with ginger, garlic and a red onion (in lieu of spring onions or shallots).
The result? Fast, quick and very tasty indeed. The water spinach is tasty and textures, the pork adding just a little meaty heat to excite the taste buds and build on the aromatic garlic and ginger.
This is a straightforward feast for the eyes, the nose and the tongue. And it’s very flexible, cheap and easy. the perfect post work, healthy dinner.
Sichan style stir fried Chinese spinach
Feeds two with rice or as a side
You could use pretty much any stir-friable green vegetable here, spinach, bok choi, choi sum, tender stem or purple sprouting broccoli. If it stir-fries, it’ll work. If you’re vegetarian, just omit the pork, or use smoked tofu in it’s place, chopped very fine.
500g Chinese spinach – washed and roughly chopped
1 red onion – finely chopped
1 thumb ginger – finely sliced
2 cloves garlic – finely sliced
Light soy sauce
100g pork mince
1 pinch of Sichuan pepper
1 pinch of dried chilli flakes
Light soy sauce
Shao Xing rice wine
Get some rice cooked and leave the the lid on for it to steam. Put some oil in a wok, put it over a high heat until smoking, and at the same time heat up some oil in a small non-stick pan.
Add the pork to the small pan, and stir it to break it up a little. Add the spice, stir for a few seconds then add a couple of splashes of soy sauce and rice wine. Stir occasionally while you do the spinach. When it’s dry. take it off the heat.
Now throw the onion into the wok and stir fry for about a minute, add the garlic and the ginger and stir for about thirty seconds. Then chuck in the spinach. Stir and fry for about three minutes, splashing in a little soy sauce along the way.
Serve over the rice, sprinkle over the pork, eat.