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Fish-Fragrant Pork Slivers - Fuchsia Dunlop

kept byslomo431
recipe byCookstr

The so-called fish-fragrant flavor is one of Sichuan’s most famous culinary creations, and it epitomizes the Sichuanese love for audacious combinations of flavors. It is salty, sweet, sour, and spicy and infused with the heady tastes of garlic, ginger, and scallions. The hot taste comes from pickled chiles, which also stain the cooking oil a brilliant orange-red. The most classic fish-fragrant dishes are based on pickled chiles chopped to a puree with the blade of a cleaver, although some versions use Sichuan chili bean paste instead, which is made with pickled fava beans as well as chiles. This delicious combination of flavors is thought to have originated in traditional Sichuanese fish cooking, which would explain why other ingredients prepared in the same way would have instantly recalled the taste of fish to those who ate them, hence the name. Some food experts, like the famous chef Xiao Jianming of the Piaoxiang Restaurant in CHengu, say the flavors conjure up the actual taste of tiny crucian crap (ji yu), which are widely eaten in Sichuan – another explanation for the title. The term may also be connected with the fact that whole crucian carp, which are particularly delicious, are sometimes actually added to vats of pickling chiles to improve their taste. Everyone agrees that the fish-fragrant style grew out of home cooking and was only later adopted by professional chefs.

Fish-fragrant dishes have been one of Sichuan’s most successful culinary exports, but the strangeness of the term has led to a great variety of translations on English-language menus: “mock-fish”, “sea-spice” (a great misnomer in inland Sichuan) and “fish-flavored” among them. The two Chinese characters literally mean “fish” and “fragrant”, which is why I prefer my translation.

Fish-fragrant pork slivers is the most famous of al Sichuan’s “fish-fragrant” dishes. Sichaunese chefs tend to use fine strips of lettuce stem (wo sun) as a crunchy element in this dish, but I’ve written the recipe using the more easily available bamboo shoots or celery. This dish should be cooked very quickly, to preserve the tenderness of the pork.



A small handful of dried cloud ear mushrooms
10 ounces boneless pork loin (the meat from about 2 pork chops), preferably with a little fat
2/3 cup fresh or canned bamboo shoots or 2 celery stalks
Peanut oil
2 tablespoons pickled chili paste
1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 scallions, green parts only, very thinly sliced

For the marinade:

¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato flour or 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon shaoxing rice wine or medium-dry sherry

For the sauce:

1 ½ teaspoons white sugar
1 ½ teaspoons Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
¾ teaspoon light soy sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon potato flour or 1 1/8 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons chicken stock of water



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