Crispy Pork and Eggplant Stir-Fry

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Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T aged balsamic vinegar
1 T dark sesame oil
1 t hot chili oil
2 T dark brown sugar
4 scallions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t ginger, minced
2 T peanut oil
1 lb lean ground pork
1 lb Chinese Eggplants, 1-2 eggplants
1 cup uncooked Jasmine rice
Garnish: crushed red pepper flakes and 2 scallions, chopped

Spoon Mage™ Note:

Chinese eggplants are long and slender with thin delicious skin that does not need peeling. If you are using regular globe eggplant, make sure to peel off the thick slightly bitter skin before slicing.

Eggplant will discolor as it is exposed to air. To minimize this, do not prep the eggplant until shortly before it goes into the wok.

One reason people have a difficult time getting crispy veggie results from a wok is that they start the wok off at medium-high. When you add the ingredients to the wok, the cooking temperature drops enough to change dinner from crispy to soggy. Start the wok on high and reduce to medium-high only to avoid smoky oil or if a simmer is the goal. A good time to reduce the temperature is after you have added about half the ingredients. Use your eyes and nose instead of the directions for when to reduce to medium-high.

To wok, use two wooden spoons and get them both moving slowly throughout the dish in a lift and fold method. If the food is to cook but not brown, stir constantly. If dinner needs to brown a bit, allow 20 seconds every now and then between some of the folding motions so the ingredient to sit in contact with the wok a bit. Watch for the change in the wok liquid when you are browning your pork. You will know when it is just about done!

Never ever leave a wok unattended. Prep everything first and set it all out before beginning.

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine the chicken stock, soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, and brown sugar.

Mince the scallions, garlic, and ginger and place in a separate small bowl.

Prepare the rice per package directions. When the rice is nearly done, prepare the final ingredients.

Remove the ground pork from the refrigerator. Use your fingers and break the meat up into small chunks, reserve in a bowl.

Right before wokking, slice the eggplants lengthwise into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick. Cut the lengths into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl, covered with a paper or cloth towel.

Line up the ingredients near the wok in order of appearance:

oil, pork, 2 wok spoons (or 2 wooden spoons), eggplant, scallions/garlic/ginger, and sauce

Set a wok over high heat until the wok is very hot. Add 1 T of the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Wait 30 seconds.

Add the pork to the wok, stirring to break up the biggest pieces with the wok spoons, frying until crispy and brown, approximately 4 minutes. This step is very important, so make sure the wok is very hot.

Stir the pork slowly, but almost constantly until the meat is no longer pink and the liquid has reduced. Place pauses between the lift and folds of wokking.

When the liquid evaporates and the meat becomes firm, put longer pauses between stirs. About 20 seconds between stirs should be just right as long as you have the wok on high heat. The pause allows the meat to sear as it lingers on the wok.

When the pork is very browned, add the remaining oil, then the eggplant, and toss gently.

Stir-fry using the brief delay between the stirs technique to encourage maximum searing on the eggplant.

Reduce the heat to medium-high after the first 30 seconds, or as necessary to prevent smoking oil.

After the eggplants brown, continue to cook until they are softened – again, this is another change you can watch. Pay attention to your food while you cook.

It will take another minute or two after browning for them to soften. Total eggplant cooking time is approximately 4 minutes.

If you have not yet reduced the wok temperature to medium-high, do so now or things will get smoky.

Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger. Stir fry constantly for about 30 seconds to release their aromas.

Give the sauce a stir with a spoon and add it all to the wok, stirring with the wok spoons until everything is combined. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

This is a good time to set out the rice and any other side dish.

Serve immediately with hot rice and either a bowl of broth based soup or spring roll.

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