Pork, Cucumber, and Cellophane Noodle Salad

Liangban Sansi

Flavor: UniqueMeal: Easy, Cold

“The summers in Szechwan were murderous, hotter and stickier than anywhere else in China,” recalls Mrs. Chiang. “It was often too hot to sleep, and we would all stay outside in the courtyard. The adults would sit talking and fanning themselves, and we children would be allowed to stay up and play until quite late. Any time we were hungry we would get ourselves a bowl of congee (rice gruel) or a piece of fruit. We ate all our meals outside, and my mother made mostly salads and cold dishes. One of the best is this unusual combination of shredded pork, cucumbers, and cellophane noodles fensi)in a spicy sauce. I particularly like the contrasting textures of crisp cucumbers, resilient noodles, and fibrous pork shreds.”

In many ways this dish resembles the classic Szechwanese cold dish, Bon Bon Chicken. Both feature cucumbers and cellophane noodles, but the sauce for Bon Bon Chicken contains sesame paste, while the sauce for this pork salad does not. In addition, this dish doesn’t have to be highly spiced. It is equally good with or without hot peppers.

Mrs. Chiang often serves this salad with some Thin Pancakes, or baobing. You put a few tablespoonfuls of salad inside a pancake and then roll it up and eat it with your fingers. It’s very much like Moo Shu Pork that way, though cold.

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Method

Preparation

4 cups water

4 medium pork chops (for a yield of 1 pound of meat, approximately)

Bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the pork chops, and when the water boils again reduce the flame and let the meat simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pork chops.

2 packages (2 ounces each) cellophane noodles

2 cups hot water

Put the cellophane noodles in a medium sized bowl and pour the hot water over them. Let soak for 10 minutes.
2 cucumbers Peel the cucumbers and cut them in half crosswise. Cut each half lengthwise down the center and scoop out all the seeds in the middle, then slice the firm meat of the cucumbers into shreds 2 inches long and ⅛ inch wide, about the size and shape of a wooden matchstick. Put the shreds in a bowl.
1 teaspoon salt Sprinkle the salt over the shredded cucumbers, mix well, and set aside for 10 minutes.
(pork chops) When the pork chops have boiled long enough for the meat to be cooked through, take them out of the pan and set them aside to cool for a few minutes. (Don’t discard the water in which they were cooked; you’ll need it for boiling the cellophane noodles.)
(cellophane noodles) Drain the cellophane noodles. Bring the pork chop water to a furious boil, then drop the noodles into it. Let them boil for all of 3 minutes, drain them and rinse them under cold water.
(pork chops) When the pork is cool enough to handle, cut away the bones and the fat and slice the lean meat into shreds, roughly the same size as the cucumbers.
(cucumbers) Squeeze all the excess liquid out of the cucumber shreds with your hands. Put them into an attractive serving bowl and add the pork shreds to them.
(cellophane noodles) Drain the cellophane noodles well and then chop them into segments about 3 inches long. Add them to the pork and cucumbers.
4 scallions Clean the scallions, then cut them, both white part and green, into 2-inch lengths. Slice these into very fine slivers. Add the scallion shreds to the salad.

The Sauce

6 cloves garlic Smash the garlic cloves with the side of your cleaver, then peel. Put them in a small, steep-sided bowl or mortar.

½-inch piece fresh ginger

1 teaspoon salt

Peel the ginger, then chop it into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head. Put, along with the salt, into the same bowl as the garlic. Using the handle of your cleaver, a wooden spoon, or a pestle, mash these ingredients together into a thick paste.

5 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

3 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1 to 2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes in oil (optional)

½ teaspoon ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns (optional)

Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, optional hot pepper flakes in oil and optional ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns to the smashed garlic and ginger. Stir the sauce thoroughly before you pour it over the salad, then mix the salad well so all the ingredients are covered with the sauce.

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