Thursday, January 26, 2012

Junky Chinese, Refined: Pork in Honey Garlic Sauce (plus one more)

The problem is when that fun stuff becomes the habit. And I think that's what's happened in our culture. Fast food has become the everyday meal. – Michelle Obama

This does taste as good as it looks, with an unusual salad to boot!
Here's another homemade version of a dish that's a staple of take-out and grocery store Chinese food. Yes, it's loaded with honey, but hopefully it's a little more healthy than what you buy. Once again I'm trying to rescue the "junky" Chinese while walking that thin line between homemade/authentic and what we appreciate about take-out in the first place. I believe I succeeded.

At good Chinese restaurants this dish is probably not even on the menu. At take-outs what you get is hit and miss; from the grocery it's often a teeth-rattling, sweet, runny mess. Both can be either dry with no sauce but somehow sticky, or the pork is swimming in thin brown liquid. Often this dish has the added "bonus" of monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Browning the meat, onions, ginger and garlic.
MSG is used to enhance flavour in many Chinese (and other) dishes and it gives me a raging headache. This recipe has none at all, as should all good home cooking.

This recipe will answer all your honey garlic cravings. It is full of garlicky flavour, and just enough spice and sweetness. It's thick enough to coat the meat nicely and the five spice powder gives just the right taste.

You also don't have to baste this pork as it cooks as some recipes call for. Just stirring the pot as the sauce thickens is all the effort you have to exert.

Although usually used for spare ribs, I used a pork loin because I couldn't find any decent pork or beef ribs in my "allotted price range." The loin worked very well as a substitute. I can't wait to try it once pork or beef short ribs go on sale. (I think beef will be stellar.)

One other word: Instead of the peanut oil I used the leftover fat from frying bacon used in the potato salad recipe at the end of this post. It certainly didn't do the dish any harm!

Try the potato salad. It's completely different than any potato salad you've ever had before. I can almost guarantee it.

Let the sauce reduce until thick and dark brown.
Pork in Honey Garlic Sauce
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook 30 min  |  Serves 4
2 lb pork loin, cut into serving pieces (or pork or beef ribs)
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 Thai red chilli, chopped with seeds
1 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup soy
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

Heat the oil to a saucepan. Add the pork, garlic, onion, ginger and chilli. Fry until the pork is no longer pink.

Add the star five spice powder, pepper, soy, honey, sugar and rice wine. Then add just enough water to cover the pork.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let cook for 20-30 minutes or until the sauce has become very thick and dark.

Serve with steamed rice, or the following recipe.

Chinese Potato Salad
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 20 min  |  Serves 4-6
Loosely based on a recipe from The Frugal Gourmet
5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
4 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
1 lg rib of bok choy, diced
3/4 red pepper, diced
6 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp Sichuan mustard, or Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt

Sichaun peppercorns add a very distinctive flavour to anything they are added to. They're sold in fairly large bags in relation to how fast you'll use it. If you wish substitute the Dijon, although it won't be the same.

Fry the bacon and crumble it into a bowl.

Cook the potatoes until just done. Drain and add to the bacon. Add the bok choy, red pepper, green onions and cilantro. Toss well.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Pour over the potatoes and mix well. Chill before serving, although you can serve it warm if you wish.


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1 comment:

  1. Thx for sharing the idea that it doesn't have to be deep fried pork bits to be yummy westernized chinese flavor. I will be giving this a shot and I already know it will be as good...or better than the fried version. Good luck with your new adventures.