Crispy Pork with Baby Bok Choy

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chicken stock
2 T soy sauce
1 T Mirin rice wine
1 T oyster sauce
1 T dark sesame oil
1 t hot chili oil, optional
2 T coconut palm sugar
4 scallions, white and light green part sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t ginger, minced
2 T peanut oil
1 lb lean ground pork
1 lb baby bok choy, sliced lengthwise into 2 inch widths
4 oz snow peas, sliced on the diagonal
1 (8 oz) can water chestnuts, sliced

Garnish: crushed red pepper flakes and 2 scallions, chopped

Spoon Mage™ Note:

This is a great recipe to experiment with the different flavors and textures of the many varieties of bok choy. Hopefully you have an Asian market near you. If so, go. Wander around. So many beautiful bok choy! For the dish in this picture, I used one of the baby varieties (yes, there are several types and they are all delicious).

One reason people have a difficult time getting crispy results from a wok is that they start the wok off at medium-high. Each time you add the ingredients to the wok, the cooking temperature drops – just 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 and not a good wokking. Usually a good time to reduce the temperature to medium high 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 your dinner needs to brown a bit (such as the pork here), 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. Use your eyes and nose and watch for the change in the pork and exuded liquid. You will know when it is starting to crisp!

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

Oh, and make sure the rice is ready and on hold before you begin wokking. It will be fine sitting with the lid on.

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine the chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine, oyster sauce, chili oil, sesame oil, and coconut palm sugar.

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

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

Rinse and pat dry the baby bok choy. Slice on the diagonal into 4 inch pieces and place in a bowl.

Rinse and slice the snow peas on the diagonal and place in a bowl. Many packages are 6 oz. If you love snow peas, add the whole thing. You only need 3 oz to accent the dish with a slight crunch of peas, but more is remarkably tasty.

Open and drain the can of water chestnuts – love water chestnuts? Add a second can. Pour them in to the bowl of snow peas.

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

oil, pork, 2 wok spoons (or 2 wooden spoons), baby bok choy, scallions/garlic/ginger, the sauce, snow peas, and water chestnuts.

Set a wok over high heat and wait patiently until the wok is very hot. Add 1 T of the peanut oil, reserve the second tablespoon, and swirl to coat the bottom of the wok with oil. Wait 30 seconds.

Add the pork to the wok, stirring to break up the biggest pieces with the wok spoons. The goal is to fry the pork until it is crispy and brown. It will take approximately 4 minutes. This step is important, so make sure the wok is very hot before adding the pork.

At first, stir the pork slowly, but almost constantly until the meat is no longer pink and the liquid has reduced to clear oil and meat. Now pause a moment or so between each lift and toss of the meat. Do you notice the liquid? It’ll go away. It’s fun to watch.

When the liquid evaporates put longer pauses between stirs. About 20 seconds between stirs should be just right if you have the wok on high heat. Spread out the meat between each stir. The pause allows the meat to sear as it lingers on the wok. If you started on medium high, this step will take a lot longer, be patient. Soon you will be able to smell the browning.

When the pork is very brown, add the remaining oil, the bok choy, and toss gently.

Please do not answer the phone or you will burn the bok choy. Stir, tossing the ingredients slowly and pretty much constantly until the bok choy leaves wilt a bit. This will take about two minutes.

Add the scallions, ginger, and garlic. Stir constantly for 30 seconds – hopefully you are still on high heat. If not, stir constantly for one minute.

After the seasoning veggies have sat in the wok 30 seconds, reduce wok temperature to medium-high, or things will get smoky.

Add the sauce 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 get everything ready for the table.

Add the snow peas and water chestnuts. Simmer for about 4 minutes, stir every now and then. Taste a snow pea. It should be crisp, but tender to the bite. Remove from heat.

Serve immediately with hot rice and a few pork dumplings or easy make ahead cold Asian noodles.

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