The goal of our summer kitchen is speed. Welcome to Stir Fry 101.
Sichuan cooking is immediately associated with hot and spicy flavors. Not so here. This dish has a sweet, sour, and salty taste. But it’s not nearly as hot. That makes it a hit with any children you’re feeding. Aside from its speed and sensational taste, there are lots of good reasons to make Chinese food at home. Chinese take-out is notoriously high in sodium and fat. One example: Kung Pao Chicken, a Sichuan standard, is loaded with about 40 percent more sodium and more than half the calories an adult needs in a day. The dish has 1300 calories, 3200 milligrams of sodium, and 11 grams of saturated fat. And that’s before the rice. My recipe, with its big, bold silky sauce, comes in at 564 calories, 1200 mg. of salt, and just 4.1 grams of saturated fat. Add in the rice and you add 200 calories.
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
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’. I use a brand called Tuong Ot Toi Viet-Nam which is fairly ubiquitous in New York)
1 bottle of Chinese Black Vinegar (If hard to find, you can substitute 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar)
1 bottle of Sesame Oil
1 jar of Asian Chili Garlic Sauce
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 https://www.kimsasianmarket.com/
in Canada at https://haisue.ca
In the UK at https://www.hoohing.com/
A simple Google search will likely help you find a local resource wherever you live in the world.
Now you can let loose and create custom stir fries which is exactly what I did here.
The real labor in a stir-fry is getting the ingredients prepped and ready to go. Everything should be assembled beforehand. Despite its long list of ingredients, today’s dish came together–prep and all– in 45 minutes. And that includes 15 minutes of tenderizing the pork in baking soda. (Once tenderized, the pork is washed to remove any trace of baking soda.) As to the pork, 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 is 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 takes its baking soda bath.) Here’s the recipe and some other Asian favorites.
Sichuan Pork with Garlic Sauce
All the sweet, sour and salty flavor of Sichuan cooking without the spice.
- 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
- Step 1 Make the Garlic Sauce
- Step 2 Whisk all sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Step 3 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 a bowl.
- Step 4 Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Step 5 Rinse the pork in cold water. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Whisk rice wine and cornstarch in a bowl. Add pork and toss to coat.
- Step 6 For the stir fry, combine garlic, scallion whites, and chili paste in a bowl.
- Step 7 Cook the Stir-Fry:
- Step 8 Heat 1 tbsp oil in a 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 an additional 2 to 4 minutes until tender. Transfer vegetables to a separate bowl.
- Step 9 Add the remaining 3 tbsp oil to the pan and place over medium-low heat. Add garlic scallion mixture and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Transfer 1 tbsp garlic scallion oil to a small bowl and set aside.
- Step 10 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 through 1 to 2 minutes. Return vegetables to skillet and combine.
- Step 11 Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with scallion greens and reserved garlic scallion oil, and serve.