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 because that is what they had at the store, make sure to peel off the thick slightly bitter skin before slicing. For this recipe choose smaller globe eggplants.

Eggplant flesh will discolor as it is exposed to air. To minimize this, do not prep the eggplant until you are ready to wok and cover the bowl with a damp towel.

One reason people have a difficult time getting crisp results from a wok is that they start the wok off at medium-high. Every time you add ingredients to the wok, the cooking temperature drops. Starting on medium high means the temp drops to medium and that is what takes your dinner from crispy to soggy. Start the wok on high and reduce to medium-high only to avoid smoky oil or if a saucy simmer is the goal. Use your eyes and nose instead of the directions for when to reduce to medium-high. Wisp of smoke – reduce the temp and stir constantly for 30 seconds.

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 20-30 seconds every now and then between some of the folding motions so the ingredient to sit in contact with the wok a while.

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, let it sit covered while you wok.

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, peel (if you do not want skin) and then 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. The goal here will be to fry the pork to a lovey crispy brown. This will take approximately 4-6 minutes.

Stir the pork slowly at first, almost constantly, until the meat is no longer pink and the exuded liquid evaporates. The pork will start to fry in the oil. You’ll see and hear the change in the wok because you did not go answer the phone, you just stood there wokking.

Now is the time to put 20-30 second pauses between stirs. The wok is still on  high heat so the meat will sear. Spread out the pork between stirs so that as much as possible is in contact with the wok.

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

Stir-fry with brief pauses to encourage searing on the eggplant. Here we just want some color on some of the eggplant, not a seriously browned veggie.

Remember you will only reduce the heat to medium-high when necessary to prevent smoking oil.

After the eggplants sear a little, continue to let them cook for a minute or two, stirring slowly and constantly until they are softened.

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 at medium-high 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. Briskly simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until the liquid has reduced.

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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