My favorite Chinese regional cuisine is Sichuan, of course! In Sichuan cuisine, there is a number of ridiculously addicting dishes. This includes the most wonderfully scrumptious, Chicken with Chilies（辣子鸡）, and many other extremely delicious foods like anything Dry-Fried（干煸）. If anything says it’s Dry-Fried, that is code for “Incredibly Marvelous and Insanely Tasty, so Awesomely Addicting that You Will Never Stop Eating”. The most delicious Dry-Fried foods are those with meat. The reason I am not a vegetarian and still eat pork and chicken after knowing what those animals live through (sob… makes me feel bad!), is: Chicken with Chilies, Dry-Fried Chicken/Pork, and Mapo Tofu with Ground Pork. Honestly, if there was no Sichuan cuisine, I would be vegetarian long long ago. So try at your own risk!
If you know me, I don’t deep fry at home since it uses up too much oil and I feel it’s wasteful. Also the fact that there is a wok with liters of burning hot sizzling oil that can be spilled and give me extreme burns. That’s the reason why I have to go to a Sichuan restaurant (wonderfully located near the grocery store I shop at) every other weekend for extremely wonderful and amazing chicken with chilies. When I start eating it, I cannot stop. It’s crazy. Really! Some American fans of the dish actually call it “crack chicken”. Sadly I cannot make this wonderful dish which uses deep frying. Actually, one day I will make a recipe using stir-fried chicken, but it won’t be as good. Anyways, the dish also requires one bowl of dry red chilies per plate. And you don’t eat a single chili, they just add this incredibly addicting flavor to the oil. So I always put the remaining chilies in a take-out container from the restaurant, and use for making Sichuanese dishes, lol. It’s very handy and wonderful. But I don’t even use up half of them before the go bad, which is wasteful 😦 but still the chicken is so delicious! YUM! Sorry!
So unlike chicken with chilies, dry-fried chicken/pork does NOT require deep-frying! Yay! So what is dry-frying? It is the process of frying in some oil until dry. During this process, the meat gets dry (like texture in-between jerky and tender meat) but extremely flavorful, especially after adding the addictive seasoning so-called Pi County Fermented Salted Fava Bean and Dry Red Chili Paste（郫县豆瓣）along with wonderful Sichuan peppercorns. And with the crisp and crunchy celery, the final result is SO GOOD! Some people really, really don’t like dry/tough meat though, and so this dish won’t be for you. But while I usually prefer tender meat in stir-fry, a dry-fry dish makes drier meat so amazing, full of concentrated umami flavor, wonderfully delicious, that it is totally fine for me. Just keep in mind it will be dry.
In Sichuan, dry-fry is made with chicken, and also Sichuan river eels. In the marvelous and fresh Sichuan vegetable markets, not only are there vegetables but also meat and fish sellers. (and those with live chickens and ducks of course) As you get to the end of the vegetable section and arrive in the fish section (you can tell cause it will smell bad) you will first see the eel seller. Please skip to the next paragraph if you are afraid. The eel seller has a large cleaver and a wooden cutting board. First he takes a live eel out of the tub containing eels and water. Then, as it squirms, the head is chopped off and it still squirms. The body is slit in half and blood and guts scraped away. Then the meat is given to you to take home. How pleasant! PS. I loved reading this in Fuchsia Dunlop’s book because I was like, wow, I saw that myself!
Since I don’t prefer to eat those eels, and cannot even get them here, you can use beef instead, like in Dunlop’s book, Land of Plenty. You should get it if you’re on this blog for non-vegetarian authentic Sichuan cuisine. (if you’re vegetarian, you should get Every Grain of Rice, which has meat recipes too but more vegetable recipes and tofu recipes and such) It’s my most used cookbook. Anyways, today, I used pork! The meat can be julienned (丝) or sliced (片). The first is preferred. But slicing is what I had already. So I don’t really think that pork is often dry-fried in Sichuan (I never even had either chicken with chilies or dry-fried meat in Sichuan! The first is a Chongqing dish and I wasn’t in the area.), but the seasonings are extremely authentic! So let’s get the recipe! Yay!
BTW, the chicken recipe will be posted in the future. It’s similar to this one but in slightly different amounts of ingredients.
This recipe is adapted from Land of Plenty‘s Dry Fried Beef Recipe with some influence from the Dry Fried Chicken Recipe too 🙂
1 lb pork loin, cut into julienne or sliced thinly
4 stalks celery, sliced thinly diagonally (this breaks up the fibers and makes it much less fibrous! it’s very helpful!) (it might look like a lot but it shinks to the perfect amount, so don’t worry! I used 5 stalks since I like more, hehe)
4 green onions, finely shredded (separate white and green if you want to)
1 1/2 inches ginger, finely shredded (I ran out so I skipped. But it is recommended.)
1/4 cup oil (1/3 cup for more traditional) (you need lots of oil! if you don’t want so much oil, fine! use 2 tbsp only. first add only 1 tbsp. then before adding peppercorns, chilies, add the other 1 tbsp in the middle of the wok.)
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns (or, if you aren’t accustomed to trying to pick out peppercorns and accidentally eating one for huge bursts of ma flavor, use 1/2 tsp ground roasted Sichuan peppercorn powder. Dry-roast Sichuan peppercorns in a pan until fragrant, then remove and cool. Crush to a fine powder, which I do in a mortar. You can also use a coffee grinder, not recommended for tiny amounts. Add at the very end.)
6 dry red chilies (Japones, arbol, Chinese, facing heaven, etc.) (cut in half and seeds mostly removed, leave a few if you wish) (use up to 12 chilies if you wish!) (optional, you can skip)
2 tbsp Pi County chili bean paste
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
homemade Sichuan red chili oil (optional) (if using, about 2 tsp maybe?)
1. Heat a wok until hot, high heat. Add oil. Spread around bottom of wok. (surface where pork will be)
2. When oil is hot, add pork. I spread out and leave for 30 seconds or so. Then flip and start-to stir-fry, over high heat. After some time the pork will start to release liquid. I add Shaoxing wine just when it starts. But you can add when it is drying out too. So then keep boiling on high heat so it dries out. My pork released a lot of liquid, almost to cover all the pork. Don’t worry, it will dry up. When pork is dry, continue stir-frying a couple minutes so it gets somewhat browned in a few areas. You can leave flat in the wok for about 30 seconds, then stir-fry, and repeat. This makes it get browned faster. As it gets browned, lower the heat to medium.
3. Now put the pork to the sides of the wok, leaving a well in the center. The oil should flow into the well. If using little oil, add another tbsp here. Now add Sichuan peppercorns and fry a minute or so. You should smell the fragrance a little. Then chilies and fry until some parts of chilies are darkened. Don’t burn them! Lastly add chili bean paste and break into the oil. Amazing smell! It is so fragrant and delicious! After 30 seconds (after adding the paste) or so, start to combine with the pork and coat evenly with the paste. Yummmmmmmm! Mouth is watering by this point, LOL. Tip: the chili bean paste may stick to the bottom if the pan is not non-stick. After adding the celery, it releases a little liquid, which makes the “fond” come off. Don’t worry, it will not make the dish watery at all.
4. Now add the white part of the green onion and ginger. Stir-fry 1 minute, increasing heat to high again.
5. Add the celery and soy sauce. Now stir well to combine everything. Stir-fry a couple more minutes. You can stir well, leave 30 seconds, repeat. During this time, the fond should release from the bottom of the wok, the celery will shrink in volume. The strips will be able to bend. But if you taste it, it should still be crunchy. Yum!
6. Add the green part of the green onion and stir-fry 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.
7. Now if using Sichuan peppercorn powder, add now and stir. Or, sprinkle evenly on top after putting on the plate. I prefer adding in the wok, as it is easier. You don’t have to mix before serving. You can add sesame oil and chili oil now, or drizzle over it on the plate. For these, it doesn’t matter much for me because they are liquid. When you’re done, serve on a plate. ENJOY!!!
I warn you that this dish may be too addicting and you won’t stop eating! Don’t blame me if that happens! 🙂