I’ve been feeling very chuffed and excited today to see Shananigansblog.com in print in Food File in the Irish Times magazine. A big thank you to Marie Claire Digby for her review and to Aoife of Babaduck (@babaduck71) fame for having the thought to send me the screen grab below.
I’ve started reading Fuchsia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper – a fantastic insight into her discovery of China and its cuisine. Fuchsia was the first westerner to train as a chef at China’s Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. She writes beautifully and she describes vividly her first encounter with Thousand Year Old Eggs – preserved duck eggs in her case. “They leered up at me like the eyeballs of some nightmarish monster, dark and threatening.” She made me giggle because I had a very similar reaction to them and like her I had resolved to dive into the China experience this time and to eat whatever was put in front of me without question. And so I did. I swallowed every single preserved egg I encountered on my trip and felt they deserved their Chinglish title of “perservered eggs” See post on Upper East Beijing and Yuxiang Kitchen.
Fuchsia’s memoir is a testament to how much has changed since the early 1990s, not just in China but in world-wide communications. Imagine if Fuchsia had a blog and Twitter at her disposal on that first visit to Chengdu where, in reality, she was almost completely cut off from the outside world. My own 21st century China odyssey seems very tame by comparison. And yet the superficial modernisation of China can be deceptive. The “otherness” of the culture can jump out and catch you unawares.
It took me a while to figure out that “Fish-Fragrant Flavour” dishes in Sichuan cuisine have no fish in them. These You Xiang Wei Xing dishes are based on the seasonings traditionally used in fish cookery – what Fuchsia describes as salty, sweet, spicy and sour notes, heavy on garlic, ginger and spring onions and using soy sauce and sometimes chilli bean paste for seasoning.
Yu Xiang Rou – Fish Flavoured Pork Shreds is one of the dishes Ricky the head chef made for me in the China Sichuan when I visited their kitchen recently. See Inside the Kitchen of the China Sichuan. Kevin Hui kindly gave me their recipe for this dish which is one of their favourites. It’s pretty straightforward and I look forward to trying it at home (which I subsequently did and you can see my results here.)
- 200 g Pork Steak
- 1 egg white
- 15g Corn flour
- A pinch of Salt
- 1 tbsp water
- 10g Finely Chopped Ginger
- 10g Finely Chopped garlic
- 15g Sichuan Garlic Sauce*
- 15g Granulated Sugar
- 10g / 2 Tbsp Sichuan Vinegar*
- 10 g / 2 Tbsp Dark Soya Sauce
- 5g / 1 Tbsp Shaoxing Rice Wine (or any white wine or sherry if not available)
- 50g chopped scallion
- 5g Corn flour mixed with 5 Tsp Water
- Cut the pork into thin slices. Then cut the slices into very thin shreds.
- Mix the marinade ingredients.
- Place the pork shreds in a bowl with the marinade and mix thoroughly.
- Marinate the pork for only 5 minutes.
- Heat a wok on high heat and pour in approx. 75ml of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, (you can tell as the oil starts to smoke), add the pork and stir fry quickly for around 30 – 45 seconds, until the pork turns white in colour.
- Drain the excess oil from the wok.
- Add the Ginger, Garlic and Sichuan Garlic Sauce until the oil turns red and you can smell the garlic and ginger.
- Add the Sugar, Vinegar, Soya Sauce, and wine and stir fry for a further minute.
- Finally add the scallions and cornflour mixture. Stir fry for another 10 seconds and serve on to a serving dish, with some steamed rice
* China Sichuan import their own but similar versions should be available in your nearest Asian Supermarket where you will also find Shaoxing Rice Wine
The finished dish should look something like this: