sticky pork stir fry
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A wok is a truly weird and wonderful utensil. Vessel. Cooking implement? Surely it's not just a ‘pot’? (Google says it's a vessel) You can use it for all kinds of cooking activities because it can handle stir and deep frying, steaming, smoking, braising for sure, but is also great for tossing pasta in the sauce and - that's the good bit – warming up tortillas for tacos as it will house more than two at a time easily.
I've had and used one for ever, having started with a cheap Ikea one. Then I thought I'd graduate to a proper grown up article and got myself a wok that needed to be seasoned. Off I went to coat it with oil and put it over high heat for two hours, or whatever the recommendation was. The fire brigade weren’t called out but the exercise wasn't entirely successful. Weird burnt film sat all over the inside and – even though that might have been precisely the seasoning, albeit overdone – I didn't like the look of it so it went to the bin.
Next I had a non-stick John Lewis (I know, not what a Chinese takeaway would use) and cooked mainly pasta in it. Then I became a bit more knowledgeable and obsessed with cast iron so an unbelievably heavy thing appeared. I would scrub it ferociously with lashings of Fairy liquid after each cooking session and then wondered why things stuck to it when next used.
I did learn eventually – you don't wash cast iron with detergents only scrape off the residues with a brush and hot water – but weirdly, the sticking problem persisted. I'd heat the wok up to glowing red, toss the meat vigorously in and it would cook nicely, but always left a horrible stuck on layer that even the vegetables cooked in it next could not always shift.
Where‘s the rub? It appears you need to let the meat sit in the wok for half a minute before pushing it about – it sticks and then relaxes as its temperature rises from the heat of the wok.
I tested it on the recipe below – if the sticky pork doesn't stick, nothing ever will – and it works. As I say below: let it sit and relax before you start to prod it. It won't burn. It's not even necessary to heat up the wok to screaming smoking – moderate heat as you'd have in a frying pan is sufficient.
NB. I also own a carbon steel wok bought when my back packed in after lifting the cast iron monster too many times. The same approach works: no detergents in washing up and a little patience when stir frying meat or fish.
You live. You learn. And YouTube helps too.
sticky pork stir fry
- 300g (10 oz.) pork tenderloin
- For the marinade:
- 4 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp chili bean paste or grated chili
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- juice from ½ lime
- 1 tsp corn flour
- For the stir fry:
- 3 tbsp. groundnut oil
- 100g (3oz.) baby sweetcorn, quartered lengthwise
- 100g (3oz.) sugar snap peas
- 100g (3oz.) shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- a handful of small broccoli florets
- 2 pak choi, chopped
- 50g (2oz.) beansprouts
- 1 tbsp. black bean sauce
- 1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
- 2 spring onions, chopped
Trim the pork fillet of tendons and silver skin. Slice it across, and then cut in to 1cm strips. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl, stir in the pork and chill for 30 minutes or longer.
Heat the wok until smoking; add 2 tbsp. of the oil. Add the pork with the marinade, let it sit for a minute, then stir fry for another minute or two until all strips are coloured all over. Scrape it back into the bowl.
Add the third tbsp. of oil to the wok and follow with the pepper, mushrooms, sugar snaps and baby corn. Stir fry for two minutes. Add a splash of water if the meat stuck to the wok and left a residue.
Add the broccoli and the pak choi stems and stir fry for two minutes. Add the rest of the pak choi and the beansprouts, stir fry for a minute. Drizzle in the bean and hoisin sauce and stir fry it in.
Return the pork to the wok and stir into the vegetables. Add the spring onion and take it off the heat when the sauce has cooked off. Serve with plain rice.