Capital Sauce Pork Ribbons

京醬肉絲

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    3–4

    as a main dish with .

Appears in

This is a Peking-style dish (hence the name) of shredded scallion and tender pork tossed in a rich, hoisin-based sauce. It is typically served with Mandarin Pancakes but is also an excellent topping for Pot-Browned Noodles. The preparation time is short and the process is simple, making this an excellent dish for a novice or a working person who wants a good, warming dinner at the end of the day.

  • Traditionally, this dish consists of a bed of raw scallions with the saucy pork threads heaped on top. It is a classic contrast of crisp, acrid green vegetable with sweet and soft pork, and the mixture works beautifully inside a mandarin pancake. It is, in fact, a first cousin to Peking duck, where the duck meat, scallion frills, and hoisin sauce are wrapped up in a pancake before eating. Used as a crown for noodles, however, I like to vary the treatment. I cut the pork into broader ribbons and stir-fry the scallions in at the end to make it a more fitting, toothsome crown for the noodle pillow. Try it one way with the pancakes and the other way when you’ve a yen for noodles, and see which you like best.
  • If you are using the pork as a topping for Pot-Browned Noodles, cook side one of the noodles after you have deep-fried the pork, using the frying oil. Once you have flipped the noodles over and started them browning, proceed to stir-fry the pork so the two dishes are done simultaneously.
  • All the preparations, short of the 10-minute cooking, may be done hours or a day in advance.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, trimmed of all fat (weight after trimming)

To marinate the pork

  • 2 tablespoons thin (regular) soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or quality, dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon Chinese or Japanese sesame oil
  • 6 hefty or 8 medium whole scallions

Sauce ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • scant 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or quality, dry sherry
  • tablespoons thin (regular) soy sauce
  • 5 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon Chinese or Japanese sesame oil, or sesame-based hot chili oil
  • 4 cups corn or peanut oil, for deep-frying

Method

Preparations

Cut the pork against the grain into thin slices ⅛ inch thick. Cut each slice against the grain into either thin shreds ⅛ inch thick (the traditional skinny cut for a mandarin pancake filling), or broader “ribbons” ½ inch wide (a nice, toothy cut for a noodle topping). Then, cut the shreds or ribbons into ½-inch lengths. As you work, gently slap the slices with the broad side of your cleaver to thin and even them if necessary.

In a bowl large enough to hold the pork, mix the soy, wine, water, cornstarch, sugar, and sesame oil until thoroughly blended. Add the pork, toss well with your fingers to coat each slice, then seal the bowl airtight and put the meat aside to marinate for 1–3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before frying.

Trim the scallions of root ends and any wilted greens, then cut them crosswise into 2-inch lengths. Cut each piece lengthwise into quarters or sixths to yield thin shreds a scant ¼ inch wide. Rinse the scallions briefly with cold water to remove any grit, then shake to remove excess water. If you are working in advance, bag the scallions in a plastic bag and refrigerate until use. The scallions will typically curl as they sit, which makes for a pretty effect if you are using them raw.

In a small bowl mix the hoisin sauce, wine, soy, sugar, and sesame oil or hot chili oil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and leave the spoon in the bowl.

Deep-frying the pork

Have the pork, the remaining ingredients, a large Chinese mesh spoon or a large heatproof strainer or colander set securely over a pot, and a pair of pot holders or pot mitts all within arm’s reach of your stovetop. Stir the pork to loosen the slices. If you are not using the pork as a noodle topping, put a serving platter of contrasting color in a low oven to warm.

Heat a wok or deep, heavy skillet over high heat until hot. Add the oil, leaving at least an inch free at the top of the pan to accommodate bubbling, then heat the oil to the light-haze stage, 350° on a deep-fry thermometer, when a single piece of pork rises to the surface in 4 or 5 seconds surrounded by a ring of slow bubbles. Adjust the heat so the oil temperature does not rise (on an electric stove this means turning it off altogether), then slide the meat gently into the oil. It will bubble on contact.

Stir slowly with chopsticks or a wooden spoon to separate the pieces as they fry. After 15 seconds, when the meat is mostly gray to golden, remove it in one quick motion with the mesh spoon, or decant the oil swiftly into the pot topped with the strainer or colander to catch the meat. Work quickly, lest the pork overcook. It should be undercooked when it leaves the oil.

(If you are decanting the oil through the strainer to drain the meat, work carefully and use pot holders or mitts. I far prefer to use my 6-inch wide Chinese mesh spoon to scoop out the meat so I don’t need to handle the hot oil. I balance the mesh spoon with the meat in it on top of a bowl so the pork can continue to drain and then turn around to deal with the oil once the pork is safely set aside. If there is enough space free on top of the stove and I have an extra pot for stir-frying, then I do not touch the oil at all until it cools. If space or pots are at a premium, then I decant the oil with care into a heatproof receptacle, so I can reuse the pot. In either case, I stir-fry using the deep-frying oil. Then once the oil cools, I strain it through cheesecloth, bottle it, and store it in a cool place for future use.)

Stir-frying the dish

Return the drained wok or skillet or a second suitable pot to high heat until hot enough to sizzle a bead of water on contact. Add 1½ tablespoons oil, then swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is hot enough to bubble a drop of the sauce mixture, add the sauce. Stir until fully bubbly, then add the pork. Toss briskly several times to mix and heat the pork through.

If you are using the pork as a filling for Mandarin Pancakes and wish to eat it with the raw scallions, remove the pot from the heat. Quickly make a bed of the scallions on the serving platter, then scrape the pork into a mound on top, leaving a skirt of scallion showing all around.

If you are using the pork as a topping for noodles, then add the scallions to the pan once the pork is heated through. Toss briskly to combine until the scallions are heated through, about 10 seconds, then mound the mixture on top of the noodle pillow. The whole stir-frying operation should take less than a minute, and the scallions should still be crisp when they leave the pan.

Serve the dish immediately. It is best when piping hot.

Leftovers are tasty at room temperature and will grow somewhat spicier if you have used chili oil in the dish.

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