August 25, 2006

Asian Porkalicious!

I’ve only made this once, but it was so good – and so easy – that I wanted to get it up quickly.

This is actually the cover recipe for the September 2006 issue of Food & Wine magazine. The name of the recipe in F&W was “spicy ginger pork in lettuce leaves.” The only problem: it really isn’t “spicy,” at least not in the traditional American sense. Despite its misleading title, it’s still an extremely flavorful dish that makes you want to eat it as fast as you can.

The original recipe called for ¾ pounds of pork. But most of the time when you buy ground pork, it’s going to come in 1 pound increments, or something close to that, so I adjusted the recipe a bit to compensate for the extra pork. I was fortunate enough to have some organic pork from Wil-Den Family Farms in Jackson Center, Pa. It’s some good stuff.

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 big red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of minced ginger
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Thai sweet chile sauce (most large grocery stores carry this)
  • 1 1/4 tablespoon of Asian fish sauce (most large grocery stores carry this)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
  • 8-ounce can of water chestnuts, drained and sliced thin
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (I find the bulbs of green onions can some times be surprisingly pungent and can overwhelm a dish. So, to be safe, I typically use a good bit of the green leaves and just some of the white bulb)
  • 2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon of oyster sauce
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of chopped cilantro
  • A whole bunch of (cleaned) sturdy lettuce leaves, such as Boston or Bibb

Mix the ground pork with the red pepper, garlic, ginger, chile sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of the grapeseed oil.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining grapeseed oil over high heat. Add the pork and cook, breaking it up, until it is no longer pink and starting to brown, which should take about 10 minutes.

Mix in the water chestnuts, scallions, oyster sauce and cilantro and remove from the burner. Put a big spoonful or two on a lettuce leaf and have at it.

Now, this recipe is meant to be a starter or an appetizer. But, heck, why not just make some brown or white rice, throw in some chopped cilantro or green onion -- or any other left over herb/spice used in this dish -- and call it a meal?!

Finally, I don’t see why this couldn’t be a “spicy” dish. Next time I make it, I’m going to add a dash or two of cayenne, or maybe throw in some diced jalapeno. Nothin’ like a little sweat under the eyes to make you really 'feel' your food.

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