Pork in the Style of Fish

Yuxiang Rousi

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: Reddish-Brown: Yuxiang

    A malodorous quality clings to the literal English translation of the name of this celebrated Szechwanese specialty. But no fish are used in its preparation, and there is nothing fishy about the actual taste of the dish. The “fish” in its name refers to the fact that this particular method of cooking — and Mrs. Chiang makes many other things besides pork shreds in the style of fish — was originally similar to that used in preparing fish. By now it has evolved into a very specific recipe, which obtains its delicious result by using sugar and vinegar in addition to the more customary Szechwanese condiments. It is a highly complicated dish that tastes hot, sweet, and tart all at the same time.

    Mrs. Chiang’s version of this famous dish features an equally unusual interplay of textures. She gets it by adding fresh water chestnuts and tree ears to the pork shreds and chopped ginger and garlic. The combination lets you experience crunchy, gelatinous, fibrous, and soft textures all in one mouthful.

    Do not use canned water chestnuts in this dish. If fresh ones are unavailable, leave them out. The texture may be less intriguing, but the taste will be authentic. It will also be hot. Some Szechwanese dishes are more fiery than others; this is one of them. It can be toned down somewhat by reducing the amount of hot pepper flakes in oil. Don’t omit them though; yuxiang rousi should be hot.

    Method

    Preparation

    3 medium pork chops (for a yield of ¾ pound meat, approximately) Remove all the fat and bone from the pork and slice it into very thin shreds, 2 inches long and ⅛ inch thick, or about the size and shape of a wooden matchstick. (It is always easier to cut meat into very fine slices if you first put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes, until it is slightly stiff, but not frozen.)
    4 scallions Clean the scallions; then cut them (both green part and white) into shreds about the same size as the pork.

    (pork)

    ½ teaspoon salt

    1 teaspoon sesame oil

    ½ teaspoon ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns

    Take half of the scallion shreds and put them in a bowl with pork shreds. Add the salt, sesame oil, and ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns to the meat and scallions. Mix thoroughly and let stand for 30 minutes.

    cup dried tree ears

    1 cup boiling water

    Put the tree ears in a small bowl, pour the boiling water over them, and let them soak for at least 10 minutes.

    1-½ inch piece of fresh ginger

    4 cloves garlic

    Peel the ginger and the garlic and mince them together very fine, until they almost reach the consistency of farina.
    5 water chestnuts (optional) Cut off the dark outside part of the water chestnuts and chop them into tiny pieces the size of a match head. (The water chestnuts should not be minced quite as fine as the ginger and garlic.)
    (tree ears) Before you drain the tree ears, make sure that they have become soft and slightly gelatinous. Then rinse them thoroughly and pick them over carefully to remove any impurities, such as little pieces of wood, that may still be embedded in them. Slice the tree ears into shreds approximately the same size as the pork and scallion shreds.

    1 teaspoon cornstarch

    1 teaspoon water

    Combine the cornstarch and water, then add to the pork mixture and stir thoroughly.

    Cooking

    3 tablespoons peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a fairly high flame for 15 seconds, then pour in the oil. It will be hot enough to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.

    (garlic, ginger)

    1-½ teaspoons hot pepper paste

    1-½ teaspoons hot pepper flakes in oil

    (tree ears, water chestnuts, and scallions)

    ½ teaspoon granulated sugar

    (pork and marinade)

    1 tablespoon water, approximately (optional)

    When the oil is ready, quickly add the ginger, garlic, hot pepper paste, hot pepper flakes in oil, tree ears, water chestnuts, scallions, sugar, and, finally, the meat mixture. As you throw in the various ingredients, agitate them around in the bottom of the pan with your cooking shovel or spoon so that the little pieces of ginger, garlic, and water chestnuts cook without burning. Then stir-fry everything together, using your shovel or spoon in a scooping motion to toss the ingredients around in the pan so all are equally exposed to the hot oil. If the mixture seems too dry and is sticking to the pan, add a little water to it.
    Continue to stir-fry the pork shreds until they are thoroughly cooked; they will have stiffened and turned pale. This whole process should take only about 3-½ minutes.

    ½ teaspoon rice wine vinegar

    Salt to taste

    Add the vinegar and mix thoroughly; then taste for salt and serve immediately.