Cabbage and Pork Shreds

Baicai Chao Rousi

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Regular round cabbage is a Chinese vegetable, too, and, as in Europe, it is associated with real peasant cooking. Probably for the same reason, too — it’s cheap and easy to grow. According to Mrs. Chiang, it was by far the cheapest vegetable available in Szechwan. As far as growing it went, each head could grow very large without taking up much space or requiring very much effort on the part of the cultivator.

    Because its robust flavor was considered unrefined, it was prepared in very simple ways, as in this lusty pork dish. Mrs. Chiang has dressed the recipe up a bit with tree ears and mushrooms, but its rural origins are still easy to discern in the simplicity of its seasonings and its ease of preparation. If you yearn for true peasant cooking, you can easily omit the extra ornamentation. Either way, it’s delicious.

    Method

    Preparation

    ½ cup tree ears

    4 large dried black mushrooms

    2 cups boiling water, approximately

    Put the tree ears and mushrooms in a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set aside to soak for at least 20 minutes.
    3 medium pork chops (for a yield of ¾ pound meat, approximately) Cut the fat and bones away from the pork chops, then cut the lean meat into slivers about 2 inches long and ⅛ inch wide, the size and shape of a wooden matchstick. (It is always easier to slice meat very fine if you first put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes, until it becomes slightly stiff but not frozen.) Put the meat shreds in a bowl.

    2 scallions

    8 tablespoons soy sauce

    2 teaspoons sesame oil

    1-½ teaspoons cornstarch

    Clean the scallions; then cut them, both green part and white, into slivers approximately the same size as the pork shreds. Add these to the meat, along with the soy sauce, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Mix well.
    ½ small head cabbage Peel off and discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, then slice the cabbage into shreds, just as if you were making cole slaw; you should get about 6 cups of loosely packed cabbage shreds.
    (tree ears and mushrooms) Drain the tree ears and mushrooms. Rinse the tree ears very carefully under cold running water, picking them over in order to remove any impurities, like little bits of wood, that might still be sticking to them. Slice the tree ears into shreds, the same size as the other ingredients. Rinse the mushrooms, remove their tough stems, and then shred them, too. Keep them separate from the tree ears.

    Cooking

    2 tablespoons peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a high flame for 15 seconds, then add the oil. When the oil is just at the point of smoking, add the cabbage.

    (cabbage)

    1-¼ teaspoons salt

    Stir-fry the cabbage for 45 seconds, using your cooking shovel or spoon to scoop the cabbage shreds off the sides of the pan and then stir them around in the middle, then add the salt and continue to stir-fry the cabbage for 1 more minute. Remove it from the pan.

    5 tablespoons peanut oil

    (mushrooms)

    Wipe the pan out with a paper towel, then reheat it over a high flame for a few seconds. Pour in the fresh oil and wait until the first few bubbles form and a few tiny wisps of smoke appear. When the oil is ready, add the mushrooms. Stir-fry them for 30 seconds.

    1 tablespoon water

    (pork and its marinade)

    (tree ears)

    Combine the water with the meat mixture and mix thoroughly, then add the meat to the pan. Stir-fry it, together with the mushrooms, for about 10 seconds, then add the tree ears and stir-fry for another 1-½ minutes.
    (cabbage) Finally, return the partially cooked cabbage shreds to the pan. Stir-fry everything together for about 3 minutes, or until the meat is thoroughly cooked (slightly grayish in color and stiff), and the cabbage, though no longer raw, is still green and not yet limp.

    Serve immediately.