Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chinese New Year and Asian Style Pork Recipe

Traditional Asian Style Pork
Today is the official start to the Lunar New Year for Chinese cultures, and to officially ring the blog into the Year of the Sheep, we're breaking down the easiest way to incorporate Asian flavors into your meal this evening.  In Chinese cooking, it's all about a few basic ingredients: garlic, green onions, sesame oil, and chili soy paste. If you don't have the last two, improvising with olive oil and your favorite hot sauce or sriracha will be a good compromise -- just temper the heat to your taste!

1) Start with your pork, sliced into about 1 inch cubes. Typically Asian cultures like a little fat on their meats, so don't trim too much (unless you are like me and like things really lean and don't care about being traditional).  

2) Pound your meat.  This step is important to increase tenderness and also helps your meat absorb the great marinade we're making.  My mother in law likes to joke that it's the chef's way of taking out her aggression, so pound away.  She has a great method of keeping the meat in the plastic grocery store bag while pounding to limit any mess.

3) Create your marinade
I have tried my best to give you exact estimates here, but she doesn't cook by recipe.  Like most real-life chefs -- it's all by sight.  So feel free to add or subtract a little as you see fit, but here's a general idea:

2 Teaspoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Chili Soy Paste
1/2 Cup Sesame Oil

Stir this all together, and you should have about a cup of dark soy-sauce colored mixture full of flavor.  I really highly recommend buying Chili Soy Paste if you can -- the flavor has a good bit of heat but also a mild sweetness that makes it a perfect way to kick up your flavor on many dishes, from tofu to dumplings!

4) Add your meat to the bowl of marinade and coat each piece by gently mixing with tongs.  Once you have your marinade and meat well mixed, add about 3-4 tablespoons of corn starch or flour, coating the individual pieces of pork. This will make the meat a little more tender as you eat it, and also allows for a bit crispier finish when you are cooking it stove-top later.  You can now let your meat and marinade mixture absorb overnight, or for a few hours if you don't have that luxury.  Even letting it sit for about 30 minutes will usually be enough to get a great flavor, but overnight is always best.

5) Prepare your fresh vegetables.  You'll need:

1  medium sized white onion
2-3 two or three green onions
1-2 handfuls of cilantro leaves

 To slice your green onion, just remove the end where there are roots, and then slice the remainder into about 1 inch sections.  The white onion can also be sliced into about 1-2 inch pieces.  Because of when we are adding things, you may want to put the white onion into one small bowl, and place the cilantro and green onion into another since you will be cooking with them at different times.

6) Pound your garlic.  Depending on how much you like garlic, you can use up to 1 full clove for this dish.  Just pound it up like you did your meat to break open the individual sections and release the flavor inside.  You can mince your fresh garlic up into smaller pieces, but if you like a lot of flavor you can also leave the garlic larger but really mashed up to get maximum garlic effect.

Ok to leave your garlic a little larger if you really pound it up to release extra flavor

7) Prepare your skillet.  Put about 1 teaspoon of oil in the pan and then turn onto medium high heat.  You need to let your pan get hot and your oil warm up before you start adding ingredients to cook.  Just hold a hand over top and if it feels warm, you are ready to start.

6) Saute the garlic.

Make sure to keep flipping your garlic regularly to prevent burning with a spatula.  When both sides are beginning to brown, you are ready for the next step!

7) Add your white onion to the skillet. Make sure to save the green onions for later -- those need to be added at the very end to prevent over cooking them.  You can also season with a little salt and pepper at this point (just a few shakes of each).  If you are more traditional you may also add a few shakes of MSG, but I skip that when I cook at home so really up to you.  Turn down the heat to medium and saute the onions until they are starting to appear translucent in color, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  Add oil as needed if the pan appears to be getting too dry to prevent burnt onion from sticking to the bottom.

8) Remove the onion and garlic from the pan onto a plate or bowl and set aside.  In your same pan (already flavored from your garlic and onion mixture!) add your marinated pork.  

Cook the meat, flipping as needed, until you get a nice brown crust on both sides.  The corn starch coating is going to give it a nice crispy brown surface.

9) Add your onion and garlic mixture back to the pan with your browned meat.  Keep the heat on medium and stir until well mixed. Cook together for about 1-2 minutes.

10) Add your fresh green ingredients: the green onions you chopped earlier and the handful of fresh cilantro leaves.  These won't need to cook long because you want to retain that little fresh green color and a little crispness to the green onion texture.  About 1-2 minutes on medium heat is all you need!

11) Plate and enjoy!  You can serve this with steamed rice or noodles, or with a fresh side of vegetables like asparagus.

Need more Chinese New Year ideas?  World Market is having 20% off all Lunar New Year related products for the next few days, so it's a great time to stock up on Asian teas, bamboo steamers, and chopsticks.  I probably need these animal trainer chopsticks for a few years, but I'd rather just jump straight to these blue and white ceramic ones and struggle with my meal instead.

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