Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chinese bacon and cherry stir fry

I bought a big chunk of Chinese bacon a while back in a misguided attempt to improve my already fine scallion rolls. I only used a little of it for that and I've been looking around for a proper use of the rest of it. This recipe is adapted from the Bacon Cookbook by James Villas. He gives his version this half-hearted recommendation: "I doubt it's a dish you'll make a regular habit of serving at brunch, it is a delectable and unusual introduction to authentic Chinese regional cooking—and it's fun to make once in a while." Let's see if I can make something I can be more enthusiastic about.


1/2 pound lean Chinese slab bacon
3 or 4 small red and yellow sweet peppers, seeded and cut into thin rings
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tablespoon black bean paste
2 Tablespoons hot chili oil [I'm substituting for the genuine Szechuan chili paste I haven't got, but Chiu Chow chili oil is very nice too.]
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry rice wine
a few dashes of soy sauce
1/2 pound cup green beans, blanched
1/4 pound tofu, cubed
2 scallions, white and green, cut into 1- to 2-inch lengths
oil to fry

1. Steam or boil bacon until tender. [How long depends on the sort of bacon you've got and how thick it is. The original recipe says to boil it for an hour. The package instructions say steam for 15 minutes. I went with the latter and it worked out fine.] Let bacon cool. Remove bacon rind if it's there. Slice bacon against the grain 1/8 inch thick.

2. Toss garlic, peppers and green beans together with a generous pinch of salt. In another bowl combine bean paste, chili oil, sugar, wine and soy sauce.

3. Heat wok or large heavy skillet over high heat until really really hot. Add oil and bacon. Stir fry until lightly browned. [7 or 8 minutes says the recipe. 2 minutes says I.] Remove from pan.

4. Add garlic, peppers and green beans to pan. Stir fry 1 minute and remove.

5. Add sauce mixture and tofu to pan. Stir fry 1 minute. Return vegetables and bacon. Heat through. Stir in scallions just before removing from heat.

The recipe says to serve hot with fresh fruit and fried wonton skins. Sure, why not? I've got some cherries here and some dumpling skins in the freezer that I can fry up.

The sauce is a typical Szechuan hot sauce, but I like that so I've got no problem there. Spicy, but not overwhelmingly so, with lots of good pepper flavor along with the heat. You can just barely taste the individual flavors of the vegetables through the sauce, but the bacon, with its sweet soy glaze and inherent bacon-ness, is just as flavorful as it should be. It's chewy and a little tough, but it gives the dish a little more texture than some other cut of pork would have. Quite possibly I wasn't supposed to use cured bacon but I like it the way it is.

The crispy chips are fine. A bowl of rice to soak up this sauce wouldn't have been a bad idea, though. The fresh fruit, on the other hand, is quite a nice accompaniment, giving a bright freshness that the dish lacks. They're particularly nice in close contrast to a bite of bacon. A squeeze of lemon juice might have done the trick as well, but instead I'd suggest halving the cherries and stirring them in with the scallions so the warm cherry juice mixes in and sweetens the sauce. That not only improves the balance of flavors, it makes this into a rather interesting new non-traditional dish. I'm going to pretend that's what I intended from the start and go back and change the name of this post to reflect that, OK? Isn't that a more intriguing title than "Twice cooked Chinese bacon"?


City Girl said...

Where did you find the Chinese bacon? I'd like to find some of Chinese friend was telling me about it but didn't even know where I could find some!

LaDivaCucina said...

Same here, never heard of it.

billjac said...

It was right next to the sausages in Lucky and most other Asian groceries I've been to. If I had realized it was an obscure ingredient I would have went into a bit more detail about it.

kat said...

The title had me really not sure about this but your description of how the cherries worked in it makes sense

billjac said...

Pork and fruit are often paired. This is just another variation on that theme. I think the tartness of the cherries is the element that really elevates this particular combination.