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Szechuan Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce
A spicy stir-fry with tenderized pork

10 ounces boneless pork shoulder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 tablespoon Chinese dark vinegar
1 tablespoon chili paste with garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons shao hsing (Chinese rice wine) or dry sherry
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon MS1/4 (optional)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup dried tree ears
1 quart peanut oil
2 stalks celery, cut into julienne
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
5 scallions, finely chopped
7 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and diced

1. Freeze pork slightly, then cut into long, thin julienne strips. Mix well with baking soda, and add just enough water to cover. Refrigerate, covered, for 5 hours.
2. When ready to cook, rinse pork and dry well.
3. Make the sauce: Mix together the tomato purée, vinegar, chili paste, 1 tablespoon water, sugar, shao hsing, soy sauce, sesame oil, and MSG. Blend the cornstarch with a little water until it becomes a milky cream, and stir into the sauce.
4. Soak the tree ears in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, then remove and reserve tree ears.
5. Heat the peanut oil in a wok to 375 degrees. Add pork and deep-fry for 30 seconds. Remove pork and place on paper towels. Let the oil return to 375 degrees, add the celery, and deep-fry 30 seconds. Remove and place on paper towels.
6. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil. Over high heat stir-fry garlic, ginger, and scallions for 1 minute. Add water chestnuts, stirring. Add pork, celery, and reserved tree ears, stirring. Add sauce mixture. Bring to boil quickly and serve immediately.

In this spicy stir-fry, the pork gets a baking soda marinade; this is a traditional Chinese technique for tenderizing meat before it goes into the wok. Serves 4 as part of a Chinese dinner