Fragrant pork

  • 6 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
  • 1 aubergine, halved lengthwise and cut into long 1cm thick slices
  • Water, as needed
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 medium red chilli, finely chopped
  • 200g ground pork
  • 1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp chilli bean sauce (can be found at speciality Asian markets)
  • 200ml chicken stock, hot
  • 2 pak choy or 1/2 head Chinese cabbage, halved and sliced lengthwise
  • 1 tbsp clear rice vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch, blended with 2 tbsps cold water
Notes: In Sichuan cooking, there are over twenty-three different flavours that can be created. 'Yu-shiang' or 'fish fragrant' is just one of these, but this dish does not actually taste 'fishy'. It is a way of describing the almost bouillon-like taste that is derived from using a good stock. Here, the flavour is created using a good chicken stock, chilli bean sauce and rice vinegar. I love cooking this dish time and time again.

1) Set a wok over a high heat, and add 4 tbsps groundnut oil. Fry the aubergine slices with just a splash of water, being careful of the splatter, until softened and golden on the outside. Transfer to a plate, and set aside.

2) Wipe down the wok, reheat, and add the remaining 2 tbsps groundnut oil. Stir-fry the garlic, ginger and chilli for a few seconds, then add the ground pork. Stir-fry for 1 minute, and then pour in the rice wine or sherry. Cook until the meat has browned, then add the chilli bean sauce and stock. Return the aubergine slices to the wok, along with the pak choy.

3) Season the dish with the vinegar and sesame oil, and bring everything to a boil. Stir in the chopped spring onions. Add the blended cornflour slurry, and stir to thicken the sauce. Serve immediately.

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