Fish Fragrant Pork Shreds with Shan's Bashed Cucumber

Since I started this blog I’ve been fascinated by the flavours of Sichuan cooking. It would be a mistake to think these are all about hot and spicy dishes, even if numbing Sichuan pepper is currently my favourite ingredient.
In her memoir Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper, Fuchsia Dunlop talks of learning the 23 ‘official’ complex flavours of Sichuan cooking. One of those is yu xiang wei or ‘fish fragrant flavour’ which came about as a result of the desire of chefs in that land-locked province to make more use of the flavourings used in traditional Sichuanese fish cookery. It is a unique combination of salty and spicy, sweet and sour which doesn’t drift over into the more familiar, and sometimes cloying, sweet and sour flavours of Cantonese cooking. It is heavy on garlic, ginger, spring onions and uses soy sauce and sometimes chilli bean paste for seasoning. The gorgeous dark Chinkiang vinegar and Shaoxing rice wine also make a regular appearance.
This is what the Chinese call fu he wei – engaging the palate simultaneously on several levels and is what I most LOVE about Chinese food.
When I cooked Fish Fragrant Aubergines the other night from Every Grain of Rice, I remembered that I hadn’t yet tried Fish Fragrant Pork Shreds – Yu Xiang Rou – one of the dishes Ricky the head chef made for me in the China Sichuan when I visited their kitchen. See Inside the Kitchen of the China Sichuan.

Fish Fragrant Pork Shreds Shananigans style

The owner Kevin Hui gave me their recipe for this dish and I tried it out my own version of it tonight along with Shane & Shan’s recipe for Bashed Cucumber – Pai Huang Gua. The quantity below serves 4 to 6 people. Make the bashed cucumber first and leave it in the fridge to allow the flavours to mingle.while you are preparing the pork.
Bashed Cucumber

I suspect if I had a Sichuan Master Chef standing over me tasting my dishes he would have things to say about the balance of flavours but to my developing palate this tasted just like I remember it in China Sichuan. I love the way the cornflour sauce adds sheen to the dish and the chilli bean paste, dark soy and Chinkiang vinegar give it a rich dark red colour – a feast for the eyes as well as the palate, especially when set against the contrasting bright green cucumber.
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Yes Chinese food can be healthy, nutritious and even slimming

The headline on today’s RTÉ News “Chinese takeaway meals can exceed daily calorie requirements – study” has me exercised. Of course the Safefood Research is balanced and contains a lot of very useful information about the risks of over-eating unhealthy Chinese takeaway food. But viewers who simply catch the headline could get the impression that Chinese food is inherently unhealthy. It’s not – if it is prepared and eaten in the manner and in the quantities that are typically used in a Chinese household. Chinese food, when authentic, is probably among the healthiest in the world.

Foods That Enhance CBD. There are many ways to take CBD, from smoking, CBD Flower and vaping to oral supplements and edibles. But should CBD be taken on an empty stomach? A few recent studies suggest that taking CBD with food could be beneficial. Which foods enhance the effects of CBD? This guide looks at the factors involved, as well as the top contenders for maximizing CBD.

Why we need to use essential amino acids? Amino acids are the building blocks the body uses to make proteins. The “essential” amino acids are those that cannot be made by the body and must be obtained from the diet. People use l-threonine for conditions such as a muscle control disorder marked by involuntary movements and muscle tightness (spasticity), multiple sclerosis (MS), inherited disorders marked by weakness and stiffness in the legs (familial spastic paraparesis or FSP), and Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS), but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

Since we returned from China in July I’ve been cooking authentic Chinese recipes at least 3 or 4 times a week. We notice that our weight has reduced and we feel less bloated. We are eating far larger quantities of vegetables than we used to but less red meat. I serve rice with the meals but I find we eat about half the recommended portion size – it’s usually only needed as soakage for the sauce. I use groundnut oil in cooking but, because most dishes are stir-fried, the actual quantity of oil used is actually quite small. And, because soy sauce has a high sodium content, I hardly ever add salt for seasoning. Last but not least it is quick and easy to prepare and as we use bowls and chopsticks to serve there isn’t even much washing up to be done.

For instance as part of my commitment to Meatless Monday, below are photos of what I threw together within about half an hour of coming home tonight.

The general rule when serving a meal in a Chinese household is to serve one dish per person with one extra and usually at least one dish is served cold.

All the recipes are by Fuchsia Dunlop from her latest book Every Grain of Rice which I strongly recommend to anyone who wants to start cooking authentic Chinese dishes at home.

Spinach in ginger sauce – Jiang Zhi Bo Cai

This delicious dish is served cold and oozes healthiness.

Spinach in Ginger Sauce

Fish-fragrant Aubergines – Yu Xiang Qie Zi

The people of the land-locked province of Sichuan love their “fish-fragrant” dishes which draw on the seasonings used in cooking fish, but no fish gets near this dish of melting, silken aubergines.

Fish-fragrant aubergines

Stir-fried garlic stems with mushrooms and bacon – La Rou Chao Suan Tai

Ok I cheated a little here on the “Meatless Monday” theme by adding in a handful of smoked-bacon lardons. These little garlic stems, available at the Asia Market, are utterly delicious. The dish cooks in moments and is drizzled with a little sesame oil.

Stir-fried garlic stems with bacon and mushroom

Stir-fried peas with chilli and Sichuan pepper – Qiang Qing Wan Dou

A spicy take on frozen or fresh peas (I opted for Irish peas, frozen when fresh, rather than Venezuelan imports) and another dish than cooks in moments.

Stir-fried peas with chilli and Sichuan pepper

So forget the takeaways and prepare your Chinese meals at home. You will find lots of recipes on this blog. There, I feel better for getting that out of my system!