Friday, July 2, 2010

Sichuan Pickled Vegetables with Pork (Zha Cai Rou Si)

Okay, so I admit; this picture isn't the greatest one I could have taken. I actually don't like the dull brown, and the green onion wasn't vibrant enough to add a good contrast. Then again, I had planned originally not to put this up, because although the dish is extraordinary, it just doesn't have the most aesthetic appearance.

So what exactly is it? It is the classic example of Chinese comfort food. It's one of the few recipes I happened to learn from Mom (for some reason, she really discourages me from cooking and we get into occasional fights in the kitchen about that...kind of the opposite of what you'd expect right?). Pretty much, it's a conglomeration of various ingredients put together into a stirfry that is surprisingly tasty. The hero of the dish is Sichuan pickled vegetable (or Zha Cai), which we buy in precut strips in plastic packages. I'm not sure how it's made, but I think it's somewhat similar to how Koreans pickle their kimchi.

Anyway, Mom cooked it up while Dad was out for his convention, and we ate it with Japanese soba noodles. Simple enough dinner, but it was absolutely delicious. And the great thing about it was that it tasted even better the next day as leftovers. Mmm...comfort food...hopefully they'll have Zha Cai available in Philadelphia...

Sichuan Pickled Vegetables with Pork (Zha Cai Rou Si)

Ingredients (sorry, but there are no exact ingredients; add everything to taste)

-Zha Cai (~2 packets?), squeezed and cut into slivers
-1 bag frozen, shelled edamame
-1/2 pound pork, cut into thin slivers
-1 tbsp cornstarch
-3 tbsp soy sauce
-2 tbsp sesame oil
-1-2 pieces dry, pressed tofu, cut into strips
-1-2 dried chilis, deseeded and roughly chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2-3 scallions, chopped
-1 can bamboo shoots (optional), cut into slivers
-Soy sauce to taste
-Sugar to taste
-Mushroom seasoning, to taste

1. Marinade the pork in soy sauce, sesame oil, and cornstarch about 1-2 hours beforehand.
2. Heat oil in a wok on high. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
3. Add the pork and cook until it is ALMOST done. Remove immediately.
4. Add the tofu and cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat. 
5. Add bamboo, pickled vegetables, and edamame, cooking for about 1-2 minutes.
6. Return the pork and tofu to the wok and stir for about 2-3 minutes.
7. Add soy sauce, sugar, mushroom seasoning, and dried chilies to taste.
8. Reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer for about 2-3 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
9. Sprinkle with the chopped scallions and serve hot with rice or noodles.

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