Remember that naked post I made a few days ago about the recipe for gai lan stir fried with pork and pressed tofu, and how bummed I was that the batteries for the camera were dead so I had no pictures?
Well, I made it again today, and this time the camera was working! And, even more exciting, I refined the recipe a little, so you get a second look at the recipe itself.
Which is cool–because I actually like this second version even better.
I added some bean sauce and oyster sauce to the recipe, and took out the Sichuan peppercorns. I also added about a half a teaspoon more of sugar, which I mixed in with the two thick sauces that were added at the end, in addition to the sugar that was put into the pork marinade.
And finally, I used dark soy sauce instead of thin soy sauce to marinate the pork and to cook with.
This results in a dish with a darker, thicker, heavier sauce; in hindsight, (or is that hindtaste–no, that sounds awful) I should have also added a splash of chianking vinegar to offset the extra sugar.
In any case, both versions of the recipe are quite good, but in different ways. The first one is zingier, with lots of dancing heat from the chiles and Sichuan peppercorns, while the second version is much darker and sweeter, full of mysterious flavors that resist identification.
That is one of the things I have discovered I like about the bean sauce–it defies the palate. It teases the diner. It gives a definate, savory, sort of meaty flavor, and yet it is nothing that is easily identifiable, unless the person is very familiar with bean sauce. But even so, if used judiciously, a teaspoon or so at a time, it really punches up the flavor of a Chinese sauce and is very, very hard to single out. Paired with oyster sauce–a classic pairing with gai lan, by the way–and it is a one-two punch that can really push a dish over the top.
I do like having two different ways to cook the same basic main ingredients; versatility in the kitchen keeps boredom away from the dining room.
2 small, but thickly cut pork loin chops, sliced into thin shreds–about 1 1/2″x 1/2″
1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine, or sherry
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon brown or raw sugar
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 heaping tablespoon fermented black beans, mashed
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
1/2″ cube fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red jalapeno chiles, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 teaspoon fresh coarsely cracked black peppercorns (optional)
1 8 ounce package thick cut dry spiced tofu, cut on the diagonal into thin shreds
1-2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 pound gai lan, washed and trimmed
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons bean sauce
1/2 teaspoon brown or raw sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon chiangking vinegar (mix the last four ingredients in a small bowl and have ready by the wok)
Mix together pork slices, wine, cornstarch, sugar and first amount of dark soy sauce, and set aside to marinate for at least twenty minutes. (You can do this while you prepare all the other ingredients for cooking.)
To prepare the gai lan–trim the bottom bit of the stalks where it was cut from the roots, and discard. After washing, dry thoroughly in a salad spinner. Cut off large leaves, and then cut them into 3-4″ lengths. Cut off any thick stems–thicker than 1/2″ or so–and if the peel is very tough, peel them. Then cut these thick stems diagonally into slices.
Heat up your wok, when it releases its breath in a wisp of white smoke, then add peanut oil and allow it to heat for a minute, until it shimmers from the convection currents. Add onion, and stir and fry until they wilt and turn distinctly golden.
Add the ginger, garlic, chile and black beans all at once (with the black peppercorns if you are using them), and stir and fry until the whole is very fragrant. (At this point is usually when the stomach starts to growl–I swear that nothing is better than the smell of garlic, onions and fermented black beans cooking.) This should take about one minute.
Add the meat, reserving any liquid marinade that isn’t clinging to the meat. Spread the meat into a single layer on the bottom of the wok, and let it sit, undisturbed until you can smell it browning–because of the sugar in the marinade this is faster than usual. At that point, start stirring and frying. Add tofu, and keep stirring and frying until most of the pink is gone from the meat. Add the extra marinade, if there is any, the soy sauce and the Shaoxing, and if there is any browned bits in the bottom of the wok, scrape them up.
Add the gai lan stem slices, and stir and fry for about a minute or two. Spread the gai lan leaves over all, and add the chicken broth, then stir vigorously but carefully. The idea is to get the already cooked stuff up on top of the gai lan and get it down into the wok where the leaves will wilt into a velvety-sweet texture and be coated by the sauce. After the leaves begin to show signs of wilting add the contents of the little bowl of bean sauce, sugar and oyster sauce, and stir to combine well.
The dish is done when the leaves have wilted and gone from a dull dark green to a vibrant, glossy dark green. The sauce should be thick and cling to the ingredients very tightly.
Remove from heat and slide into a warmed serving platter.
Note to Vegetarians and Others Who Do Not Consume Pork:
This would be really good with just the tofu and gai lan, or if you want, you can have tofu, gai lan and either fresh mushrooms or reconstituted dried black Chinese mushrooms. If you use the dried mushrooms, you can use 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid in place of the chicken broth, or you could use vegetable broth.
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