This past weekends Mid-Autumn Moon Festival got me thinking back to my time in Boston. During this period I lucked into the experience of sharing an apartment with a girl from China. As is the Chinese custom during this fall celebration we ate moon cakes under the harvest moon. These delicacies are dense pastries filled with lotus seed paste and duck egg yolks.
I had a lot of fun exploring Chinese foodways and culture. She took me for my first taste of dim sum where I inhaled char siu bao in true American form! Char siu bao is a steamed bun filled with barbequed pork known for being about the only item some Americans will eat on the dim sum menu – but I did eat my steamed veggies as well! I also tried a phoenix talon, which is a very flavorful steamed chicken foot, but not really my cup of tea.
I tagged along to keep her company when she went grocery shopping at the Chinatown markets. I still get a thrill to see all the colorful, fresh vegetables at rock bottom prices, cheap lobster and whimsical packaging. She would always buy a huge bag of baby bok choy and steam it for every meal it seemed.
While growing up my first introduction to Chinese food came in the form of canned chop suey and chow mein. This wasn’t a very impressive start, but fresh, exotic ingredients weren’t readily available from the supermarkets in my small town. I attribute my aversion to bamboo shoots and water chestnuts to eating this canned, but hardly Chinese, food. As a teenager I decided to explore the Chinese restaurants of my town.
The one I loved most was in the middle of downtown El Dorado, AR. The dining area of the restaurant was in a renovated train car. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it has since closed its doors. I always ordered a dish of thinly sliced chicken and mixed vegetables in a Hunan sauce. It was perfect – chicken that melts in your mouth in a light, flavorful sauce with fresh vegetables. Although, I still haven’t perfected a recipe for Hunan sauce like this restaurant offered, I have plenty of other Asian style dishes to share.
During October, I will be posting some of my favorite recipes from the Orient. My thoughts over the weekend led me to a nearby Asian market, Marché Hawaï, in St. Laurent, QC, where I stared longingly at Asian serving ware, until my husband got antsy, and finally bought loads of bright produce. Today, I have a delicious recipe for Pork and Bok Choy in Black Bean Sauce. You should be able to find rice wine and fermented black beans at an Asian market. There are a few substitutions I’ve made in an effort to eat more healthful foods such as tamari and arrowroot. These are available at health food stores. I have included the more traditional ingredients for you to use instead if you prefer.
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce (substitute: shoyu soy sauce)
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine (substitute: dry sherry)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder (substitute: corn starch)
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons peanut oil (substitute: canola or vegetable oil, but not olive oil)
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fermented black beans, finely chopped
1/4 cup of water
1 pound bok choy, trimmed of inedible root
Steamed brown rice, to serve
Mix tamari, rice wine, sesame oil and arrowroot and marinate pork in mixture for 20 minutes.
While the pork is marinating, chop the shallots, garlic, ginger and black beans. Remove the root from the bok choy. These items should be ready to toss in the wok when you begin cooking.
Over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons peanut oil to the hot wok. Give the marinating pork a quick stir then add to the wok and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add shallots, garlic, ginger and black beans to the wok and continue stir-frying an additional 3 minutes.
Stir in ¼ cup water and layer in the bok choy over top. Cook another 3 minutes slowly steaming and incorporating the bok choy.
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