You probably will never see this dish on a restaurant menu. I married two similar, traditional (but equally unfamiliar) noodle recipes from the work of one of my earliest Chinese teachers –- the cookbook author Gloria Bley Miller.
This dish with its intriguing combinations perfectly illustrates the curious juxtaposition in Chinese food. Marrying flavors into a complex whole is a technique the Chinese do best, yet no other cuisine plays opposing textureswith the precision that they do. You’ll taste it all in this suave Hoisin-scented pork with slippery noodles and crunchy water chestnuts, all finished with raw, crisp vegetables.
Before there were cooking schools and Chinese food experts on television, there were the books. Through her writing, author Gloria Bley Miller was one of my first teachers. Her book, Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook, was a classroom in itself. She stayed at my bedside for years.
Cook to Cook: The secret of success for every stir-fry is to have each ingredient prepped and ready to go before touching the wok, and watch timing carefully.
If you can find fresh water chestnuts, their special sweetness and juicy crispness will greatly enhance the dish. They will need peeling.
This dish is best cooked and served immediately.
The Five Flavors:
1-1/2 cups thin sliced radishes
1-1/2 cups bean sprouts
1-1/2 cups peeled, seeded and diced cucumbers
1-1/2 cups thin-sliced fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup minced garlic
5 quarts of boiling salted water in a 6-quart pot
3/4 pound (12 ounces) narrow Chinese egg noodles, or imported spaghetti
1 pound ground pork butt, or shoulder
3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine, or dry sherry
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot chile paste or hot chile powder (use more or less to taste)
3 tablespoons expeller pressed canola or other neutral tasting oil
Heaping 1/2 cup thin-sliced whole scallions (about 4)
1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
3/4 cup chicken broth
1. Place each of the five flavors in a separate small serving bowls.
2. Have the salted water boiling. Drop the noodles into the boiling water and boil, stirring often, until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain them in a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, use a fork to blend the pork with the sherry, garlic, and the sugar. Let stand while prepping the rest of the dish.
4. In a small bowl, blend together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and chile paste.
5. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Swirl in the oil. When it is hot, add the pork. Stir-fry it 3 minutes, breaking up any chunks. The meat is ready when it is no longer pink and most of its liquid has cooked off. Add the scallions and water chestnuts. Stir-fry 45 seconds more.
6. Stir in the soy sauce mixture, and stir-fry 1 minute. Add the broth and heat quickly. Then cook, stirring, 2-1/2 minutes over high heat.
7. Add the noodles and stir-fry them for 1 minute more to permeate the noodles with the sauce. Turn the noodles into a large bowl. Serve them immediately with bowls of the 4 flavors.
Adapted from The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter, 2008)
Jekka McVicar is a gardening legend in her native England, and she tells Lynne about her latest project, a herb garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London with a heartfelt purpose.