A significant proportion of my week night cooking is Asian themed.
I say ‘Asian themed’ in the loosest sense possible. My cooking is totally inauthentic – there’s been no hard research and not nearly enough travel to the region; Western ingredients regularly sub-in for the Asian principals; and the root of the cooking is more closely alined to whatever is in the fridge and larder, rather than any single cuisine or culture.
Calling it ‘Asian’ because its done in a wok and eaten with chopsticks is probably, at best, sacrilege. But it does taste good and it’s generally quick. And those, on a school night, are pretty much the most important things.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t share this sort of food on here. Despite my inability to stick to the rules of any particular nation at any one time, I think there’s merit in reading up on real recipes written by people who know what they’re doing. Note, for example, Fuchsia Dunlop for Sichuanese and David Thompson for Thai. Also look at the sites and books/forthcoming books of Uyen Luu (for Vietnamese) and Meemalee (for Burmese), and bloggers like Shu (for Singaporean) Jason (for Singaporean/Peranakan) and Lizzie (for Chinese and swearing).
On this occasion, though, the result was particularly bloody great. So if you fancy cooking up a Vietchijapanese dish by way of N1, read on.
Already slow cooked pork shoulder (could use belly) is rendered and re-fried in a wok till caramel coloured and crisp. Quartered baby gems (in lieu of pak choi) are added and rapidly browned in the pork fat. The pork and lettuce are then sprinkled with ground ginger and doused in soy and mirin. Sesame and pumpkin seeds (in lieu of cashew) are chucked in and, finally, the heat is turned off, lime juice, sesame oil, chopped mint and chilli are added and tossed through.
It’s tempting as a Westerner to use every vegetable you have when you stir fry. I think that’s wrong, and that this particular combination works precisely because, seasonings and seeds aside, this is basically just pork, lettuce and mint. It began as a typical unplanned fridge forage, but I’ll doing it more deliberately in the future.
Pork, lettuce, sesame and mint stir fry
Serves 21 teaspoon of ground nut or sunflower oil 350g pre-cooked pork belly or shoulder (boiled, braised, or roasted) 1 dessert spoon light soy sauce 1 teaspoon mirin 1 teaspoon ground ginger 2 baby gem lettuces 1 small, fiery green chilli 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds 1 dessert spoon of pumpkin seeds (or cashew nuts) Juice of half a lime 1 teaspoon of sesame oil Good handful of fresh mint leaves
First, prepare all of your ingredients – the cooking is quick. Also cook some rice to have on the side.
Chop the cooked pork into c.3cm squares. Wash, dry and quarter the baby gems. Put any outer leaves that fall away to one side. Chop the chilli finely and pick and chop the mint leaves. You could shred the outer leaves of the lettuce finely too – add with the chopped mint leaves at the end. Line the other seasonings and seeds up so they’re ready when you need them.
When the rice is nearly ready to drain, put your wok on a medium heat. Add just a dash of ground nut or sunflower oil and chuck the pork in. After a minute or two – as the fat is rendering out and the pork starting to fry, turn the heat to maximum.
Once the pork is golden and crisp (probably after two to three minutes), push the meat to a pile on one side of the wok an add the lettuce quarters, cut side down into the pork fat that is rendering out of the meat. Brown for twenty seconds and then turn each onto their other cut side for another thirty seconds. As this is happening, sprinkle the ginger over the meat, then pour in the soy, and mirin. Stir everything and cook the liquids out for twenty seconds more, then chuck in the seeds, stir, turn the heat off and squeeze in the lime juice, and add the sesame oil, chilli and mint (and shredded lettuce if you wish). Toss everything for a few seconds then leave to warm through from the residual heat of the pan as you drain and rinse your rice.
Put your rice in a fancy bowl, top with the meat and veg and all the juices in the pan.