Recipe: Vegetarian Twice-Cooked “Pork”(素回锅肉)

Twice-Cooked Pork(回锅肉 – hui guo rou – say: “hway gwor eroh”, literally “return wok meat”)is the most famous Sichuanese food. Mapo Tofu, Kung Pao Chicken, etc. are also very famous, but Twice-Cooked Pork is the most famous of all of them. If you like real Chinese food, it is a must-try! Pork belly is boiled until cooked, then cooled, and sliced thinly. The slices are stir-fried with seasoning, especially the Fermented Salted Fava Bean Paste with Dried Facing-Heaven Chilies from Pi County (Pi Xian Dou Ban – 郫县豆瓣 – say: “pee syehn doh behn”, literally “Pi County bean segments”), which is essential to Sichuanese cooking. Often, two other fermented seasonings are Sweet Fermented Wheat Flour and Soybean Paste (Tian Mian Jiang – 甜面酱 – say: “tyehn myehn dzyahng”, literally: “sweet flour sauce”) and Dry Fermented Black Soybeans with Ginger (Dou Chi – 豆豉 – say: “doh chuh”, dou = “bean” and chi = “fermented bean”).  Vegetables are also added, usually bell peppers and/or garlic stems / leeks, and sometimes onions and cabbage. The dish is very delicious, especially with rice. However, some people do not like pork belly’s fat and texture. Also, vegetarians, vegans, Muslims, and other religious groups cannot consume pork.

Last year, when I traveled to Sichuan, I was walking back to the hotel from the Mapo Tofu Restaurant in Chengdu (Please go to Chengdu for cute pandas and delicious Mapo Tofu!!) when I passed a bookstore. Books in China are really inexpensive! I bought a vegetarian Sichuan cuisine cookbook for 10 yuan (approx. $1.70). I can’t find most of the ingredients without going to San Gabriel, which is quite far away. However, reading through this book gives me a lot of great ideas for making vegetarian Chinese food! I found the vegetarian Twice-Cooked “Pork” to be especially very interesting, but it is deep-fried. Many of the recipes are deep-fried!  I will translate more delicious Sichuanese recipes later. 🙂

This is a really authentic Sichuanese recipe. Really authentic Sichuanese recipes have tons of oil. Not kidding. At the end, it says “drain the oil”. It is also very salty and spicy. Lower the dou ban and soy sauce amounts for a less spicy and salty dish. Also lower the 50 grams oil if you want less oil. Otherwise, the finished dish contains 150 grams of oil. (around 245 grams is one pound in the USA) I actually haven’t made this recipe since I never deep-fry at home. I put it here because I thought the way it was made was really interesting! If you want to make it, please try! 🙂

Adapted from: 川味素菜 家庭烹饪丛书

Ingredients:

500 grams winter melon (daikon radish is good too)

15 grams (2 tbsp) bean starch (corn starch or potato starch is good replacement for overseas)

10 grams (2 1/2 tsp) white sugar

1 gram MSG (Skip this unless you use. I don’t use it!)

20 grams (1 tbsp + 1 tsp) soy sauce

20 grams Pi Xian Dou Ban

100 grams green bell pepper (you can also use onion or garlic stems or seasonal vegetables)

5 grams Sichuan salt (sea salt is good :))

50 grams all-purpose flour

500 grams cooking oil (the winter melon will absorb 100 grams) + 50 grams more

Directions:

1. Cut the winter melon into 5 cm by 2 cm triangles, 0.3 cm thick. Coat with the starch and flour. Finely chop the Pi Xian Dou Ban (I usually don’t do this). Cut the green bell peppers into squares (they said 1-3 pieces, I think Chinese bell peppers are much smaller than American!), remove seeds, and lightly stir-fry with a little oil until 60% cooked. Mix sugar, MSG (skip it), and soy sauce into a sauce. (I personally don’t mix any and just add it to the pot.)

2. Heat a wok and add 500 grams cooking oil, heat it 7 levels (I’m not sure what this means, but it might say it the beginning of the book. Just heat the oil like normal for deep-frying.) Deep-fry the winter melon slices until golden and crispy, then strain.

3. Heat the wok again (no oil) over highest flame and add 50 grams oil. Add Pi Xian Dou Ban and stir fry until evenly distributed. Add fried winter melon and stir-fry to coat evenly. Add green bell peppers and stir-fry a little. Add sauce (soy sauce and sugar) and stir-fry to mix the sauce. Once cooked, transfer everything to a plate, draining the oil.

(From the book. It uses two 4-character phrases in Chinese, which are sort of challenging to translate in English.) Specialty: Salty, savory, fragrant, and spicy; delicious and satisfying.

Enjoy!

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