20 January 2014

Gooey Pork, Slippery Greens and Mushrooms ...

This is the weather for cozy suppers - ones that are full of heat and spice and that warm you to the cockles of your heart. Now, normally I think of cozy comfort food as something in a bowl with steam rising up and around my face, enveloping me in a heady scent. Yeah. Total comfort and a sauna besides. A total sensory experience that calls back far off memories of home and hearth.

This plate, though, took me somewhere else. These spicy hot chilis and softly velveted pork bites took me on an imaginary trip to a crowded street fair where the smoke from hot woks and the cacaphony of shoppers blended to make a happy backdrop for a bowl of street food, grabbed and gobbled over excited conversation and much jostling of bags and boxes of exciting food finds. I have no idea where Nigel Slater was when he concocted this recipe for Pork with Garlic and Oyster Sauce, and it doesn't matter. What matters is that I knew when I read his diary entry about this recipe that I would be using it as a jumping off spot for my own take.

I am building a bit on Nigel's recipe by velveting the pork before cooking it fast in the wok. The pork bits I am using are tip ends of pork tenderloins ... ridiculously cheap at the market today! I love what the soft coating (made of cornstarch, white pepper, salt, sugar, a bit of water and a few drops of sesame oil and tamari ) gives to bits of pork and chicken in wok dishes. The velveting paste sits on the meat bits for an hour or so and acts to tenderize and flavour the meat, oh so subtly. Then, it serves to add a soft consistency to the surrounding sauce, as the cornstarch helps thicken things just a bit. The result is a sauce that stays on the meat and any accompanying vegetables that are added to the stir fry.

Here's how I did it ... Nigel's recipe can be found on page 85 of Notes From the Larder.

Gooey Pork, Slippery Greens and Mushrooms

Serves 2 with leftovers for lunch the next day


1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tsp. cornstarch
¼ tsp. ground white pepper
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. sugar
Several drops cold water
Several drops sesame oil
Several drops tamari (or soy sauce)
5 tbsp. peanut oil
4 small bunches baby bok choy, washed and roughly chopped
1 large shallot, ends trimmed, cut length-wise into thin wedges
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and deveined, sliced into very thin strips
1 very small habanera pepper, seeded and deveined, sliced into very thin strips
2 whole habanera peppers, washed and left whole
6 oz. mushrooms, sliced into ½ inch thick slices – Shitake and Crimini combination
4 tbsp. oyster sauce
4 tbsp. dry sack Sherry
2 tbsp. water

Steamed rice for serving along side

Making the Dish:

  1. Cut the pork into cubes and place in a deep bowl.
  2. Add the next seven ingredients and toss the pork to coat each piece with the velveting paste. Set the bowl aside in a cool place for one hour.
  3. Prep the vegetables and have them in bowls near the wok station.
  4. Fifteen minutes before you wish to eat, heat the wok over high heat.
  5. Add 2 tbsp. peanut oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add half the pork bits and spread them out in the hot oil. Leave them to brown and crisp, then flip them with wooden paddles to brown on their other sides. Don’t disturb them while they’re browning. Just let them crisp up.
  6. Remove the first batch and repeat with the second half of the pork and a bit more oil, as needed.
  7. Remove the second pork batch to the platter and keep the pork warm while you cook the vegetables.
  8. Add the last tbsp. of oil and the shallots, peppers, and garlic. Stir fry for one minute, tossing constantly.
  9. Add the mushrooms and continue to stir fry until the mushrooms are tender.
  10. Turn in the bok choy and toss to wilt the leaves and cook the stalks until tender crisp.
  11. Add the pork and its juices back to the wok, pour in the oyster sauce, Sherry, and water, and the whole habanera peppers and toss to coat everything with the sauce.
  12.  Let the sauce bubble for a few minutes to thicken slightly and heat the pork thoroughly.
  13. Serve the gooey pork and greens with a side of rice or wedges of pot-browned noodles. You need something to cool the palate a bit because this is very spicy.

You can certainly make Nigel's dish as he writes it or you can step away a bit from the recipe and work your own magic ... create your Asian comfort food. Maybe you like carrot ribbons and spinach nestled next to your gooey pork bites. Maybe you will make a bed of pan-fried noodles to soak up the sauce and slurp along side. Maybe your gooey pork will go atop a crisp bed of chilled greens a la salad with crisped egg noodles in place of croutons.

However, you choose to have your gooey pork, be sure to have a comforting pot of tea and a cozy time with supper!

This is the first of the dishes dedicated to My Love Affair with Nigel ... Asian in inspiration for the month of January. Find an Asian inspired dish of Nigel's and cook along with me, if you care to! Post your dish and let me know you've joined in ... I'll make up an end-of the month round-up. The more the merrier ...   


  1. It looks great - healthy and comforting - and I love the name of this dish - very interesting and unique.

  2. What a treat! I can totally see that on my dinner table and lunch box!

    love it Susan :)

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors


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