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Stir-fried Sichuan Pork with Aubergine
Those of you who watched UK TV food programmes a decade ago might remember Ching, a delightful British Chinese chef, offering simplified Chinese recipes for the home cook. I enjoyed watching her shows and acquired a few of her cookbooks subsequently. This is one of her recipes, combining pork with aubergine which is quite classic in Sichuan cuisine.
In a traditional Sichuan cooking the aubergine would have been deep-fried. But Ching stir fries the aubergine which is easier and less wasteful. I have gone a step further by microwaving the sliced aubergine first (something I discovered a while back on an America Test Kitchen show, and now no matter what recipe I follow using fried aubergine, I use this technique to cut oil and cooking time). The recipe is perfect for a weekday night as it’s quick to make and is not too rich.
We ate it with some plain steamed Jasmine rice and some stir-fried broccoli and bean sprouts. For the stir-fry, I par-cook the broccoli in the microwave for 2 minutes before stir-frying. For the flavouring, I used chicken fat, sliced garlic, light soy sauce, and black pepper at the end. Finish off with some fried shallots to garnish. Don’t waste the hard stem of the broccoli. Peel off the top layer and slice thinly to use. See photo.
Stir-fried Pork with Aubergine
Althoguh the recipe has Sichuan peppercorns, as these are kept whole, they aren’t mouth-numbing unless you bite them. Do try and get hold of these for this recipe, although a little crushed chilli flakes can be substituted. The receipe also calls for black rice vinegar, a standard ingredient in Sichuan cooking, which gives a mellow tanginess to the dish. If you don’t have it, substitute with balsamic vinegar, for a slightly less authentic, but still good effect.
1tablespooncornflourmade into a slurry with a tablespoon of water
Chop the aubergine into long batons. Sprinkle salt generously and leave to drain in a colander.
After half an hour rinse and place on several levels of kitchen paper on a microwaveable plate. Microwave on a high setting for about five minutes.
Mix together all the sauce ingredients except the cornflour slurry.
Meanwhile heat a wok over high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the aubergine has been microwaved, add to the oil and fry on a high heat until golden brown. Add about half of the mixed sauce, combine and transfer to a bowl.
Wipe the wok and return to heat. Put in the second tablespoon of oil and add the garlic, ginger, chilli and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry for a minute. Then add the minced pork. Fry the pork, breaking it up with a wooden fork or spoon. Once the pork is brown add the Chinese wine and cook for another 2 minutes. Then pour in the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a boil.
Return the cooked aubergine to the wok and mix well to combine. Reduce the heat and add the sliced spring onions and cook just for a minute or so to heat through. Taste the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with the sliced spring onion greens.
Transfer to a serving dish and eat immediately with steamed jasmine or brown rice.