Twice Cooked Pork
A classic dish in Szechuan Chinese restaurants is Twice Cooked Pork, a spicy stir-fry with pork and crunchy vegetables that combines interesting favours and textures with enough heat to wake up your taste buds (and, depending on the restaurant, make your eyes water).
There are several styles of this dish, and the traditional way of preparing it is somewhat time-consuming and fussy. If you’ve read my other recipes, you know that’s not for us. Here is a variant where the “first cooking” is done when you make our Chinese Roast Pork and the leftover meat from that dish is the starting point for this one. If you consider this inauthentic, that’s because it is! If you like, call it “Twice Crooked Pork”! It’s still delicious, quick and easy to fix, and can’t fail.
Start with the leftover meat and juice (if any) from your meal of Chinese Roast Pork. You should have between 350 and 500 g of meat for this recipe. Note that we’ll be adding vegetables which will “stretch” the recipe substantially, so if you’re a little light on the meat, things should still be fine.
In addition to the meat, assemble the following ingredients.
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp powdered (or fresh ground) ginger
- 1 tsp finely ground cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 2 tbsp black bean garlic sauce
- 1 tbsp garlic purée
- 1 medium (250 g) bok choy (Chinese cabbage) (If you can’t find this, regular white cabbage will work fine.)
- 1 medium (240 g) green bell pepper
- 2 medium (20 g each) mild red chili peppers
- 1 medium/large (80 g) green onion
- 25 g dried Shiitake mushrooms
- 4 tbsp sauce thickener (maize starch based)
- 2 tbsp oil (olive, etc.) for frying
Don’t worry about the the precise quantities of these ingredients. I use “tbsp” (tablespoon) to mean 15 ml and “tsp” (teaspoon) for 5 ml. If you’re making the recipe for a mix of people, some of whom don’t like hot food, leave out the cayenne pepper and invite hot-heads to add hot sauce at the table. If you need to further stretch the recipe (for example, for unexpected guests), you can add sliced water chestnuts and/or bamboo shoots, which will also add additional flavours and textures.
The most time-consuming part of preparing this meal is cutting all of the ingredients into bite-sized pieces as shown above. If you have large Shiitake mushrooms, break the caps into three or four pieces with your fingers. I put the ingredients in separate bowls, but mix the red and green peppers. When chopping the peppers, remove the seeds and seed webs from the interior.
Break up the dried shiitake mushrooms into pieces first, placing them in a bowl. Add about an equal volume of boiling water and cover with a small plate. The dried mushrooms will absorb the water and be reconstituted by the time you’re ready to use them. The remaining water will pick up the flavour of the mushrooms and be used later in the sauce. Obviously, if you’re using fresh shiitake mushrooms, simply cut them up like any other vegetable.
We’ll be doing the cooking in a Tefal Actifry, which will do much of the work for us. If you don’t have such a device, you can cook the ingredients in a non-stick frying pan or wok, stirring with a spatula which won’t damage the surface. Start by pouring 2 tbsp of oil in the back of the Actifry, add the 1 tbsp of garlic purée, and sprinkle the 1 tsp of ground cayenne pepper (if you’re using it) on the top. With the Actifry stirrer installed, cook for three minutes (the Actifry has no temperature setting).
At the end of the three minutes, add the cubes of pork to the Actifry pan and cook for three minutes more. Since the pork has already been cooked (this is twice cooked pork, remember!) all we need to do is to warm it up and season it with the oil which will now have picked up the flavour of the garlic and cayenne pepper.
And now, throw all of the remaining ingredients: vegetables, spices, condiments, and the remaining water you used to soak the dried mushrooms into the Actifry pan. Sprinkle the sauce thickener on top of the vegetables. At this point I usually stir everything with a wooden or plastic spoon just to initially mix all of the ingredients together, but if you don’t the Actifry stirrer will probably do the job for you. If you’re using a pan or wok, you should constantly stir with a spatula while cooking. Set the timer for eight minutes and leave the Actifry to do its thing.
When the Blessed Beep of Eating sounds, it’s ready! I usually serve twice cooked pork over white rice which I’ve been cooking on the stove while preparing the pork, using the Fourmilab can’t fail technique: take the desired quantity of just about any kind of rice (but not “wild rice”, which is actually grass seed), around ⅓ to ½ cup per person (I use “cup” to mean 250 ml), and place in a saucepan. Add twice the volume of cold water as rice and, if you like, a little salt. Stir the rice and water to sink any “floaters” then turn on the highest heat setting and wait until the water is boiling vigorously. Turn down the heat to the lowest setting (“simmer”) and cover the pan. Then do absolutely nothing for 15 minutes, at the end of which all of the water will have been absorbed and the rice will be perfect.
Place servings of rice in bowls and ladle the cooked pork and vegetables on top. Be sure to add the juice from the bottom of the Actifry bowl to season the dish and rice. This is easy to do if you tilt the bowl so the liquid collects on one side where it can be extracted with a baster and added to the servings.
There’s one thing the Actifry does not do optimally when preparing this recipe. For whatever reason, it doesn’t thicken up the sauce as nicely as when everything is cooked in a frying pan or wok. (My guess is that adding the heat from the bottom raises the temperature of the sauce to the point where it thickens, while the Actifry’s distributed hot air doesn’t do this.) The thinner, more runny sauce from the Actifry still tastes the same, but if you prefer the traditional thicker sauce, drain the sauce into a small saucepan and heat on the stovetop to near boiling. The sauce should thicken nicely (if it doesn’t add a bit more thickener) and may then be added to the servings.
This recipe makes enough for around two generously-sized servings (more if you start with more meat and add additional vegetables). Leftovers can be refrigerated and microwaved for two minutes before serving over freshly-made rice. The vegetables won’t be as crunchy after being reheated, but they’ll still be fine.