I don’t often use cookbooks because I ususally don’t like to stick to a recipe. Normally I either try to realize my ideas without external help at all, or I read a lot of different recipes from many sources to figure out my own way of cooking something I haven’t got much experience with.
A notable exception is Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop. This book was a true eye opener for me with regard to Chinese cookery. It only describes the cuisine of Szechuan (or Sichuan, if you prefer), but here I saw for the first time how far apart the food of the middle-of-the-road Chinese restaurants in the West is from the food they acutually eat in China.
Szechuan is famous for its many spicy dishes. And even though I have never been too big a fan of hot and spicy food, I never have cooked more different dishes from one single cookbook.
Based on what I learned from Land of Plenty here is a simple improvised stir fry that should be resonably authentic and could be part of a Szechuan family meal.
The chili bean paste gives the dish a nice but not overwhelming heat. The proportions of ingredients have not been optimized, so there certainly is some room for fine tuning. But the result is already quite good.
Ingredients (serves 2 as main dish with rice):
- 350 g pork butt, boneless chops or any other cut suitable for stir frying
- Green parts of several scallions (3 to 6 depending on their size)
- 1 tablespoon chili bean paste (preferably from Szechuan, Lee Kum Kee if anything else fails)
- 1 tablespoon dry fermented black beans
- 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
- The same amount of peeled ginger, finely chopped
- Shao Xing Wine (can be replaced with dry sherry)
- Dark and light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon corn or rice starch
- 20 g coconut fat or lard
- Preparation: 10 to 15 minutes
- Cooking: 10 minutes
Cut meat into short flat strips and marinate shortly in a mixture of Shao Xing Wine and light soy sauce while you prepare the other ingredients. The marinade should be just enough to coat the meat, no liquid should collect at the bottom. Chop the garlic and the ginger as finely as possible. Cut the scallions diagonally into small pieces. In a small bowl mix starch and one tablespoon of each of the 2 soy sauces, a small splash of water and the sesame oil for the sauce.
In a wok heat the coconut fat or lard on high heat until it begins to smoke. Stir fry the meat for a few minutes until it has taken on a light brown colour. Push the meat up in the wok and tilt so the fat will form a small lake. Let evaporate any juices that might have rendered from the meat.
Add the chili bean paste to the fat and fry until the fat has become nicely red. Then add garlic and ginger, take care not to burn it. Now add the black beans and mix everything together. Add the scallions and stir until they are just cooked. Finally add the sauce mix and give everything a final stir. There should not be much sauce, not much more than needed to coat the meat.