Friday, September 18, 2009

Stir Fried Mushrooms and Bok Choy With Pork and Homemade Noodles (Mian)

My wife loved this. In fact, she talked about it for days, which I can say because I have to guiltily confess that I made this a week ago and am only now getting around to posting it.
Doesn't it look good? I can tell you, like my wife surely would, that it was extremely good and very characteristic of real Chinese cooking, based on my experiences with JB this summer (n.b.: all of the dishes labeled with "JB" in the title are directly based on the meals I watched/helped him prepare and enjoyed dozens of times this past summer while living with him, and JB is short for Jinbao, which is a very Chinese name for a very Chinese guy that cooks very authentically Chinese food). That said, you won't probably have a dish like this in a Chinese restaurant unless it's a very authentic one, and although I'm not super-widely traveled, I do know that the vast majority of "authentic" Chinese restaurants aren't. I couldn't tell you what area of China this dish is typical of, but since it reminds me of JB's cooking, we'll say the area around the capitol and be willing to be wrong. I should point out that he never got bok choy while we were together, passing it over for Napa cabbage every single time, so to make it more characteristic of his cooking, replace the bok choy with Napa cabbage. He used a lot of it. I'm sure it's pretty common in his cooking.

Stories aside... how did I make it? Well, as so often happens, I found a cut of meat that's suitable for my purposes and a great deal and built the recipe around it. Bone-in pork steaks (not chops, though honestly I don't yet know the difference) were on sale when I went shopping and looked plenty fresh enough for my purposes, so I got some. I was surprised to see how little bone and fat there was given that it definitely carried a bone-in price per pound (i.e. low). As you'll see below, I ended up cutting it up into roughly half-inch cubes and setting it aside until it was business time, although that actually happened after I cut up the veggies, which happened after I put a pot of salted water on the boil to make the pasta.

The stars of this dish were the veggies, of course, and those required some prep work. First, I used three kinds of mushrooms, two ribs of celery, almost an entire head of bok choy, about half a sweet onion, and the obligatory garlic (two or three cloves, crushed first and finely chopped) and ginger (about three quarters of an inch, cut into fine matchsticks because I have a slight bent toward that shape over minced or coined ginger in dishes). The three types of mushrooms were baby 'bella (about 4-5 of them, halved and sliced thinly), shiitake (sliced thinly), and maitake (chopped roughly).

The cutting of the other veggies was like this: I cut the half of the onion so it became quarters and then sliced quarter-inch thick slices across it. Done. I then tore the greens off of the bok choy and sliced the whites and celery into thin cross sections... lots of them. Done. Finally, I sliced and chopped the mushrooms. Done. After setting all of that on a plate, I made a chiffonade of the bok choy greens and then cut up the meat and made the pasta dough (2 cups all-purpose or bread flour, about 2/3 of a cup of water, a pinch of salt, and a lot of kneading).

Once everything was in place and my pasta water was boiling, I started the heat on the wok at a high temperature and added a couple of tablespoons of canola oil. I'd have preferred peanut oil, but I don't have any right now because I didn't want to buy the high-falutin' kind and refused to buy almost two gallons at a go. Anyway, the veggies, sans garlic and greens, went first with just a bit of salt. After they had a few minutes of rather vigorous stir-frying, I added the garlic, greens, another light pinch of salt, and a small splash of toasted sesame oil to the pan, tossed it gently for about thirty seconds, and poured the mixture on the plate. That's what you see in this picture: the veggies waiting on the plate for Phase Two.

Before starting Phase Two, I shaved and pinched the noodles from the dough directly into the boiling water and let them get cooking. Once that was done, I made sure my pan was cooking hot again with just about half a tablespoon (or a little less, maybe) of fresh oil in it and added the meat, which I immediately salted lightly and peppered with freshly ground black pepper (because my first attempts to get Szechuan peppercorns failed -- I'll have to use the internet for those, I think). I let the meat cook until it looked like in the picture, meaning until it was definitely close but not quite done. Overcooked meat is tough and not good and defeats almost the entire purpose of the stir-frying over high heat. When the meat took on that appearance, I added a couple of tablespoons of rice wine and let it sizzle for about thirty seconds before adding the veggies back in. About a tablespoon and a half or so of soy sauce chased the veggies.

After a quick stir, it was time to drain the pasta, and as soon as it was drained and shaken, I added the pasta in and mixed it up, and that's what you see at the top.

Seriously. This was good. Really good. Definitely a thumbs up!

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