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Chinese salt and pepper pork chops recipe

Recipe: chinese salt and pepper pork

You know what I like about Chinese New Year besides all of the Chinese food? It’s later in winter than the regular winter holidays, which means there is usually better snow. You see, I like winter. But you already knew that.

he likes winter too… i think i’ll keep him
My parents are in Florida right now because (Southern) Virginia is “too cold” for them. I chuckle to myself when they tell me these things. Winter is probably the most maligned of all seasons. I sometimes think people dislike winter because they don’t appreciate it. Or maybe it’s because they have to travel in bad weather? I could totally relate to that. Or maybe they are living in a Bad Winter Zone? I consider Bad Winter Zones to be places that don’t get proper snow. Just the other day, Jeremy and I were discussing the seasons and I declared, “I LOVE winter! I love skiing and getting out into the backcountry, baking and cooking, snuggling with Kaweah, grilling in the snow, crystal clear night skies.”
i shooted it
I paused and added, “And autumn – autumn is great with the changing leaves and the cooler temperatures, the hikes and rides. Oh and spring! Spring mountaineering, spring skiing, wearing a light jacket, longer days…” Of course there is summer. It seems everyone loves summer. I do too, but it’s not my favorite season. Mountain summer is brief, but jam-packed: wildflowers, backpacks, rides, trail runs, afternoon thunderstorms, evening dinners on the deck with friends, dog walks as the sun sets, farmers markets, hummingbirds, alpine lakes, cool mountain air dancing through the house at night. I guess my point (Jen, is there a point?) is that I love it all. I just LOVE being here and being alive. There is something precious about every season, every day. I’m loathe to squander it.
winter love
But back to Chinese New Year. The food – there is so much food that I need to prepare in the next couple of days! Plus, we have to clean the house because once Chinese New Year is here, you are not supposed to clean the house for two weeks (sweeps out the luck). Oh, and don’t buy salt for the rest of the month of February. Bad luck. That’s what Grandma tells me. I made the trek down to Denver to meet up with my pal at the big Asian market to get groceries for the Lunar New Year. This year I’m keeping the menu “simple” since it’s just me and Jeremy. We’ll have (chocked full of lucky goodies), , and lucky ten ingredient vegetables. How are you going to celebrate the Lunar New Year?

reminded me about avoiding squid. Instead of cuttlefish balls in the bean thread noodle soup, I buy fish balls this one time of year. That’s because the superstition equates squid with getting fired. Eating nian gao (rice cakes), for instance, means a promotion or raise because nian (sticky) gao (cake) is a homonym for nian (year) gao (higher). So you can just imagine what a minefield planning dinner can be if you don’t have a Wise Chinese Grandma advising you on your menu selection. Since I had posted the recipe for salt and pepper squid, I thought it was only fair for me to give you an alternative that won’t get you fired.

this time it’s salt and pepper pork
When I’ve seen salt and pepper pork on the menu, it’s actually salt and pepper pork chops. These aren’t the pork chops that you find in your typical (white person) grocery store. These are cut rather thin and because 1) I have had disappointing results when I ask the butchers at Whole Foods to cut meat the “Asian” way and 2) it’s easier to eat without the bone, I didn’t bother with pork chops. I got a pork tenderloin instead (I prefer the dark meat) and sliced it myself. Control freak. Me.
mix up the flour, cornstarch, and sichuan pepper salt

slice semi-frozen pork tenderloin

The technique is pretty much the same as the squid, except the pork marinates in some garlic, soy sauce, and Shaoxing cooking wine for extra flavor. I guess you could mince the garlic, but I sliced them for ease of picking them out before coating the pork slices in the flour mixture.
marinate the pork

dredging in flour mixture

Unlike the squid, the pork doesn’t spatter and pop when you fry it. I like that. I like that very much. It takes a little longer to cook than the squid. The frying time will depend on how thick your slices of pork are. Mine were fairly thin (1/4-inch) and turned golden in about 3 minutes. You could conceivably stop at this point and wait until you are ready to serve before the last step. The pork gets a final pan-fry with the green onions and chilis.
draining on a cooling rack

seasoning the pork during the pan fry

I can eat the salt and pepper squid straight, but for some reason I find the salt and pepper pork is especially good when eaten with a bowl of steamed rice. That little bit of sweetness from the rice makes it so satisfying. It just works. And it won’t get you fired.
goes great with rice and baby bok choy

Chinese Salt and Pepper Pork

1 pound whole pork tenderloin (actually, you can use ribs if you can find someone to slice them about 1/2-inch thickness)
1 clove garlic, sliced thin or minced
2 tsps soy sauce
4 tbsps Shoaxing cooking wine
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted
3 tbsps salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
vegetable oil (something without strong flavor) for deep frying

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