Liver and Snow Peas

Zhugan Chao Xuedou

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: Reddish-Brown: Red-cooked

    This is a simple stir-fried dish whose clear, bright sauce contains the standard array of Szechwanese spices. But liver is a special food in Szechwan as in the rest of China; no Chinese gourmet would consider this dish an ordinary one.

    Mrs. Chiang’s combination of textures and colors is very special.

    The bright green snow peas (xuedou), orange carrots, crisp white water chestnuts, and gelatinous black tree ears provide the kinds of visual and textural contrasts that an expensive delicacy like liver deserves. In America the situation is reversed; liver is not exotic but the vegetables are. Because frozen snow peas are not crisp enough and canned water chestnuts taste wrong, these vegetables must be fresh; they will probably require a trip to Chinatown.

    Method

    Preparation

    ½ cup dried tree ears

    2 cups boiling water, approximately

    1 pound pork or beef liver

    Put the tree ears in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set them aside to soak.

    Pull off the whitish membranes around the liver, then cut it crosswise into very thin slices, about 2 inches long and ⅛ inch thick. (It is easier to slice meat very thin if you have first put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes, until it becomes slightly stiff but not frozen.) Put the sliced liver in a bowl.

    1-inch piece fresh ginger Peel the ginger, then cut it into slivers about ⅛ inch thick, the width of a wooden matchstick. Add half the ginger shreds to the liver and reserve the rest.
    1 scallion Clean the scallion, then cut it, both white part and green, into 2-inch lengths and then into slivers. Add the scallion to the liver.

    3 tablespoons soy sauce

    1-½ teaspoons sesame oil

    1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking sherry

    ½ teaspoon granulated sugar

    1 tablespoon cornstarch

    Now add the soy sauce, sesame oil, wine, sugar, and cornstarch to the liver. Mix well, so all the liver slices are covered with the marinade, and let stand.
    3 fresh water chestnuts (optional) Cut off the dark outer skin of the water chestnuts, then slice the meat as fine as you can.
    1 small or ½ large carrot Peel the carrot and cut it crosswise into similarly thin slices. (Mrs. Chiang adds a decorative touch by first incising 5 small, wedge-shaped channels lengthwise around the outside of the carrot, so each slice comes out shaped like a flower.)
    1 cup snow peas (about 4 ounces) Wash the snow peas. Break off the tough tips at both ends.
    (tree ears) Drain the tree ears, then rinse them and pick over them carefully to remove any impurities, such as little pieces of wood, that may be embedded in them.

    Cooking

    1 tablespoon peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a high flame for 15 seconds, then add the oil. It will be hot enough to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.
    (snow peas) When the oil is ready, put the snow peas in and stir-fry them, using your cooking shovel or spoon in a scooping motion to spread them around in the pan and make sure they are all exposed to the hot oil.
    (carrots and water chestnuts) After about 45 seconds, add the carrots and water chestnuts and stir-fry them, together with the snow peas, for about 30 seconds.

    1 teaspoon salt

    (tree ears)

    Add the salt and the tree ears to the vegetables and continue to stir-fry them over a high flame for another 30 seconds.
    ½ cup water Pour in the water and cook the vegetables for about 20 more seconds, stirring occasionally. Then remove them from the pan.
    5 tablespoons peanut oil Clean out the pan by wiping it with some paper towels. Reheat it over a high flame for 15 seconds, then pour in the fresh oil.

    2 tablespoons water

    (liver)

    While you are waiting for the oil to heat up, add the water to the liver slices and mix thoroughly.

    1 tablespoon hot pepper paste

    (ginger)

    When the oil is hot enough for cooking, add the hot pepper paste and the reserved ginger shreds. Stir-fry vigorously for 10 seconds, making sure that the ginger doesn’t burn.
    (liver)

    Add the liver slices and stir-fry them for about 1 minute over the same high flame.

    Return the vegetables to the pan and stir-fry them, together with the liver, for a final 1½ minutes. Serve immediately.