A couple of months ago, CB and I took the very exciting decision to pack up our things and move into a new place in (un)fashionable Saaaf London. For those of you who live, have lived, or know London in any reasonable capacity, you will understand the exquisite agony of living in an area of London where your nearest tube station is almost 5 miles away (a Northern Line station; the less said the better), a quick google search of local brunch spots suggests you head to your nearest Subway, and where £1.99 fried chicken boxes are a food group in their own right.
For those of you who don’t know London very well, suffice to say that this very much a change of scene from our old flat, but one which we are happy to make on our journey toward being real adults. Step one on this route, as far as I am concerned, was to buy a real wine rack and stop keeping the booze in a spare dresser drawer.
Hopefully you’ll forgive our small and unplanned hiatus. By the time the kitchen and the rest of the flat were unpacked, so much time had passed and so many new takeaways had been mooted and agreed upon that I almost forgot where the chopping board was. It wasn’t until a friend stopped by a few weeks ago to drop off a book and see the new place (and following a round of very large, very strong, gin and tonics) that we were encouraged to get the pots back out.
Eating Chinese food in our house has been a notoriously stressful task; CB has long suffered at the hands of MSG, and my pre-reflexive instinct is to stuff Kung Po Chicken from my local takeaway down my throat. It therefore seemed sensible to forge on with a home-made attempt. In an bid for authenticity (scoff) we bought an unseasoned wok, and the truth is that we’re still scratching our heads about the necessary care and upkeep. Needless to say, this recipe will work with a regular non-stick wok as well and can be rustled up in no time at all.
2 tbsp shaoxing rice wine (try your local Chinese supermarket, though it’s pretty typical in bigger supermarkets now)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornflour
3 tbsp soy sauce (we use reduced salt)
400g pork fillet, sliced into discs
4-5 spring onions – split the white and green bits apart and chop the white bits on the diagonal and the slice the green ones into long and thin ribbons. Keep separate.
2 green peppers, sliced
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tbsp chilli oil (optional – really not a problem if you don’t use this #TriedAndTested)
5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 large red chilli, sliced finely
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, chopped into matchsticks
1 tsp of brown sugar
2 tbsp asian fermented black soya beans (try your local Chinese supermarket – we go to New Loon Moon in Chinatown. Look or the same container as pictured above)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
200g brown rice (white is fine, if you prefer it)
1 egg, beaten
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
- Cook the rice as per package instructions (ideally use the absorption method to ensure rice is cooked but not wet). Any professional Chinese cook will tell you to use cold or leftover rice for your fried rice but I personally like it fresh, hot and a bit stodgy. Be your own judge. In the same saucepan, create a well in the middle of the rice, to which you should add the sesame oil and then the spring onions. Let these fry for about 30 seconds until they lose the worst of their bite and then add the beaten egg. Wait another 20 seconds and then scramble it energetically in the well and then mix the egg and onions through the rice with the soy sauce. Put the lid on and set aside while you cook everything else.
- Put the spring onion ribbons into ice water. Set aside. Rinse the black beans in cold water and then let them sit in cold water for at least 30 mins to get rid of some of the saltiness.
- Combine the rice wine, sesame oil, cornflower and 1 tbsp of the soy sauce and then add the pork. Leave aside to marinade.
- Heat your wok (or a large pan will do in a pinch) until very hot and add your sliced green peppers to the dry pan. Dry fry for about 4 minutes, until slightly charred. Add 1 tbsp of the groundnut oil to the peppers and cook for a further 1 minute. Transfer peppers to a plate and set aside.
- Lift the pork out of the marinade (which you should reserve) and add to the wok and cook for 4-5 minutes, until browned and crisping up on the edges slightly. Stir frequently. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add the rest of the groundnut oil and the chilli oil (if using) to the wok and add the garlic, ginger, chilli (both fresh and dried) and the white part of the spring onion. Fry for 30 seconds or so. Stir in the sugar, 3 tbsp of water and the remaining soy sauce. Bring the mixture to the boil then put the pork and peppers back in the wok, along with the drained black beans, and cook for a further 3 minutes.
Serve over the rice with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and the spring onion ribbons which should have by now curled attractively in the ice water. Your favourite Saturday night beverage should be in your hand and your favourite Saturday night friends by your side