Monday, 6 June 2016

Pork with Sichuan Chilli Oil Sauce

My 2nd recipe this week from the October 2014 issue of Olive magazine - moving from the Chettinad region of India to Chengdu in China and of course Sichuan cuisine: one of my favourites.

The recipes featured were taken from a cookbook called Hunan: A Lifetime of Secrets from Mr. Peng’s Kitchen. Confusingly the recipes therein are Sichuan in origin rather than Hunanese - the (co-)author, Mr Peng has a restaurant in Pimlico called Hunan, so-called it seems in homage to the man who taught him to cook, rather than the region.

Anyway, two recipes caught my eye - the first being for a Sichuan chilli “sauce” which to me resembled the chilli oil with sediment that I love to spoon over as much food as possible and then a dry pork dish, where the chilli sauce is used as a condiment.

The chilli sauce recipe makes quite a lot: which is fine by me as I poured the excess into a couple of little jars to keep and use as I like (edit: ahem - all now used up, which reminds me that I really must make some more), but you could possibly scale the ingredients down if you weren’t sure you would use as much as me. Be warned though it is FANTASTIC so if you do scale it down you may very well regret it.

You will also need to make some “garlic juice” for the pork marinade - simply crush 2 cloves of garlic and leave to steep in 100 ml of water for 20 minutes then strain and use the resultant allium scented water.

I was slightly disappointed by the pork but only in that mine didn’t look like the picture accompanying the recipe. I’m not sure why this was but I think it is down to one of 3 reasons (or a combination): I used quite a lot of oil in the frying but didn’t deep-fry as suggested; I didn’t dry the pork off as it came out of the marinade; I let it sit in the cornflour too long before frying. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious but didn’t have that hint of crispy batter that the pic showed.

But the sauce/oil more than made up that. Now to arrange a visit to the restaurant itself.

Sichuan Chilli Oil
Makes approx 300ml

4 tbsp dried red chilli flakes
200ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
150ml chicken stock (you’ll use 6 tbsp + more possibly)
2 tsp tian mian jiang (sweet bean sauce or use hoisin)
2 tsp tomato purée
pinch of sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar

Heat a wok and when it is very hot add one tablespoon of oil and the chilli flakes - be careful as there will probably be a lot of spitting and smoke. Not to mention sneezing.

As the chilli flakes absorb the oil add the rest of it, a tablespoon at a time until you have what resembles an oily paste. This will take 5-10 minutes.

The chilli flakes will darken considerably but be careful not to let it burn.

Take the wok off the heat and add the Sichuan peppercorns and 3 tablespoons of stock. Hold your nerve as it will sizzle and bubble up quite ferociously.

Stir through then put the wok back on the heat and add the sweet bean sauce, tomato purée, 3 more tablespoons of stock and a pinch each of salt and sugar.

Stir everything together well and add a bit more stock if you like but you need a thick yet runny sauce.

Finally add the white wine vinegar, stir through and remove from the heat. Reserve a couple of tablespoons to serve with the pork and carefully pour the rest (let it cool a bit) into a jar.

Pork with Sichuan Chilli Oil Sauce
serves 2

2 small boneless pork loin steaks, trimmed of fat, sliced into strips
100ml garlic juice (see note above)
2 tsp Shaoxing wine
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
2 tbsp cornflour
vegetable oil, for frying
1 long red chilli, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 spring onions, sliced (the whole length, including greens)
a pinch of Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
2 tbsp Sichuan chilli sauce (as above)

Put the pork strips in a bowl with the garlic juice, Shaoxing wine, wine vinegar and 5-spice. Mix it all together well and set aside to marinate for 10 minutes.

Remove the pieces from the marinade and coat with the cornflour.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a wok and fry the pork until golden. When it is cooked, remove with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen paper on a plate.

Discard most of the oil and then quickly stir-fry the chilli, spring onion and garlic for a minute or so.

Return the pork to the wok and stir in the peppercorns and a pinch of salt.

Continue to stir-fry for another minute and then serve over plain rice with the Sichuan chilli oil sauce drizzled over.

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