Red-Braised Pork √
Serves 4 to 6 as part of Chinese meal.
Note: Pork belly would be traditional Chinese, but if you prefer a less fatty cut, use pork ribs or shoulder. Again, the traditional cooking method is on top of the burner, but this could be made in a 300-degree oven for convenience. Rice cooking wine can be found in some supermarkets and in Asian markets, or substitute medium-bodied sherry (or leave it out entirely). Star anise is found in the spice section of many supermarkets. Recipe is easily doubled.
• 1 1/4 lb. boneless pork belly, with skin, or shoulder (see Note)
• 2 tbsp. cooking oil
• 4 slices unpeeled ginger root
• 1 green onion, white part only, crushed slightly
• 2 tbsp. rice cooking wine (see Note)
• 2 c. plus 2 tbsp. chicken stock or water, plus more if needed
• 1 star anise (see Note)
• Cinnamon stick
• Dash of soy sauce
• 2 tbsp. sugar
• Salt, to taste
• A few lengths of the green part of green onions, to garnish
Cut pork into 3/4 - to 1-inch chunks.
Pour oil into a seasoned wok over a high flame, followed by the ginger and onion, and stir-fry until you can smell their aromas. Add the pork and stir-fry for a couple of minutes more.
Splash in the wine. Add the stock, spices, soy sauce, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well, then transfer to a clay pot or saucepan with a lid.
Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over a very low flame for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferably 2 or 3 hours. Keep an eye on the pot to make sure it does not boil dry; add a little more stock or hot water if necessary. Adjust seasoning. Remove star anise and cinnamon stick. Add the onion greens just before serving.
Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:
Calories 375 Fat 28 g Sodium 170 mg
Carbohydrates 6 g Saturated fat 9 g Calcium 42 mg
Protein 24 g Cholesterol 91 mg Dietary fiber 0 g
Diabetic exchanges per serving: ½ other carb, 3 ½ high-fat meat.
Smacked Cucumber in Garlicky Sauce √
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Note: The combination of seasonings is known as “garlic paste flavor” and is a Sichuanese classic. It also can be used to dress fresh fava beans, thinly sliced cooked pork, pork dumplings or wontons or more. Smacking the cucumber before cutting it loosens its flesh and helps it absorb the flavors of the sauce. Do not smash it to smithereens! The recipe is easily doubled. Brown rice vinegar has a deeper flavor than the white rice vinegar more often seen on the supermarket shelf, but feel free to substitute when it’s such a small amount. The brown version can be found at food co-ops and Asian markets.
• 1 cucumber
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
• 1/2 tsp. sugar
• 2 tsp. soy sauce
• 1/2 tsp. brown rice vinegar (see Note)
• 2 tbsp. chile oil
• A pinch or two of ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns, optional
Lay the cucumber on a chopping board and smack it hard a few times with the flat blade of a Chinese cleaver or with a rolling pin. Then cut it, lengthways, into 4 pieces. Hold your knife at an angle to the chopping board and cut the cucumber on the diagonal into 1/8- to 3/8-inch slices. Place in a bowl with the salt, mix well and set aside for about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine garlic, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, chile oil and ground Sichuan pepper.
Drain cucumber, add to the sauce, stir well and serve immediately.
Variations: For a sweet-and-sour sauce, combine 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic, 2 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. brown rice vinegar, 1 tsp. soy sauce and, if preferred for some heat, 2 tbsp. chile oil.
Nutrition information per 2 tablespoons:
Calories 38 Fat 3 g Sodium 110 mg
Carbohydrates 2 g Saturated fat 1 g Calcium 7 mg
Protein 0 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 0 g
Diabetic exchanges per serving: ½ fat.
Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger √
Serves 4 or more as part of Chinese meal.
Note: In China, this fish would be presented whole. Don’t forget to offer the fish cheeks to your most honored guest before you remove the head. Rice cooking wine can be found in some supermarkets and in Asian markets, or substitute medium-bodied sherry (or leave it out entirely). Whole trout could also be used.
• 5 green onions, divided
• 2 oz. piece of ginger
• 1 sea bass, about 1 1/2 lb., scaled and cleaned but with head and tail intact
• 1 tbsp. rice cooking wine (see Note)
• 3 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
• 4 tbsp. cooking oil
Trim green onions and cut three of them into 2 1/2 inch lengths, then into fine slivers. Wash and peel ginger; keep the thick peel and any knobbly bits for the marinade. Cut peeled part into long, thin slivers.
Rinse fish in cold water and pat dry. Starting at the head, make 3 or 4 parallel diagonal cuts on each side of fish, cutting into thickest part of flesh near backbone. Rub it inside and out with a little salt and the wine. Smack the ginger remnants and one of the remaining green onions with the side of a cleaver or rolling pin to release their fragrances and place in the belly cavity of fish. Let it marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.
Pour off any liquid that has emerged from the fish and pat fish dry. Tear the last green onion into 2 or 3 pieces and lay it in the center of a steamer tray. Lay fish over green onion (the onion will raise the fish slightly so steam can move around it.
Steam fish over high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until just cooked. Test it by poking a chopstick into thickest part of flesh, just behind head; flesh should flake away easily from backbone. When fish is nearly done, dilute the soy sauce with 2 tablespoons hot water.
Remove fish from steamer and transfer carefully to serving dish. Remove and discard ginger and green onion from its belly and the cooking juices. Scatter fish with slivered ginger and green onion.
Heat oil in a wok or small pan over high flame. When it starts to smoke slightly, drizzle it over ginger and green onion slivers, which should sizzle dramatically (make sure oil is hot enough by dripping a tiny amount over fish and listening for the sizzle before you pour the rest over it). Pour diluted soy sauce all around fish and serve immediately.
Variation: Fillets of fish can be cooked in exactly the same way, adjusting cooking times and quantities accordingly.