I love stir-fries, especially spicy ones. Recently I became interested in the cuisine of the Hunan province in China thanks to a niece. She had been in China teaching and commented on how good the food is. She wanted to send me an English version of a cookbook from the region but no luck in finding one. So, I went online and came up with: Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchsia Dunlop.
My niece was visiting a few weeks ago along with her mother and we decided to try and make one of the delicious meals they both had the pleasure of eating. One in particular my sister enjoyed while visiting China was this stir-fry with peppers.
So off we went to the Japanese/Korean store and found out they do not carry many “Chinese” products. So, another trip down the road to the Asian market which carried nothing but Chinese. I am finding out there is a difference between the cuisines of these countries even though I think of them all as “Asian”.
Anyways, with a little help from a young man from Taiwan we were able to find a few items we needed. Have you ever been in a Chinese grocery store? What a trip – rows of sauces, vinegars, oils, chilis, beans and so on. So many of the products are in Chinese, however, I did learn the symbols for “Hunan”.
Do you know the difference between light and dark soy sauce? I never did until reading this cookbook. In Chinese cooking dark soy sauce is aged for a longer period of time and with molasses or caramel and some cornstarch added. It is thicker and darker in color than light soy sauce. It is also less salty and has a more full-bodied flavor. Even though soy sauce has a lot of salt it has been found that dark soy sauce may contain up to 10 times the anti-oxidants found in red wine. You can substitute tamari (which is very easy to find) in place of the light soy sauce.
Low-sodium is another category and it is made with extra chemicals. I read recently it is better to dilute regular soy sauce if you want less sodium. I frequent an online site called “Healthy Heart” which has tons of products with low sodium. I buy a few products from them including soy sauce. There are 600 more mg in 1 tbsp. regular soy sauce versus my lower version. That’s an awful lot and we all should be concerned about salt as one day it might catch up with you.
A wok is not essential, but really nice to cook with. I use to have a more traditional wok that I placed on top of my stove but then a few years ago I purchased a Breville electric wok. Instead of my old wok being “seasoned” it became kind of scummy!
This is a beautiful kitchen appliance – a true work horse, very heavy and stable. Something you really want when you’re cooking with oil. It has a very durable non-stick surface, 6 quart capacity and 15 heat settings. However, it does take up a lot of space and so far I have been storing it in my basement. See Kitchen Gadgets – Breville Hot Wok for more information.
Farmhouse Stir-Fried Pork with Peppers, Adapted
- 1-1/4 oz. thickly sliced bacon or pork belly
- 9 oz. Italian frying peppers (mildly hot) or use red and green bell peppers, cut into chunks (actually use any peppers you prefer – kick the recipe up a little with some hot peppers)
- 7 oz. lean boneless pork (we used petite beef sirloin steaks), cut into thin slices
- 1 tsp. Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 1 tsp. light soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. dark soy sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 tsp. black fermented beans, rinsed
- 1/2 tsp. potato flour mixed with 2 tbsp. stock or water (optional for a professional gloss)
- 3 tbsp. peanut oil for cooking
Marinate the pork or beef in the Shaoxing wine or dry sherry and two soy sauces; set aside. Cut the bacon into thin slices/pieces; set aside. Cut the peppers into chunks and place in a bowl.
Add a little oil to the wok and heat to medium; stir-fry the peppers for about 5 minutes until they are slightly tender; remove and set aside.
Reheat the wok then add 2 tbsp. peanut oil and swirl around. Cook the bacon until slightly crisp. Add the garlic slices and rinsed black beans; stir-fry until fragrant. Add the pork or beef and stir-fry until the meat has almost changed color; add the peppers and stir-fry for a minute or two.
Add the potato/water mixture if using and stir briefly.
Recipe by cooking with aunt juju
Cauliflower in a spicy bean sauce, stir-fried peppers, my sister cooking, the potatoes, cauliflower, stir-fried beef with peppers and rice of course, my sister and niece ready to eat!
We made a few other recipes but I need to work on those a little more before posting; cauliflower in a spicy black bean sauce and some potatoes soaked in vinegar. Of course everything was served over rice and our dinner was complete. Very flavorful and spicy but a little too salty – my sister has a heavy hand when it comes to salt!