Sunny days in February are often not what they seem.
From the comfort of your living room, all may appear splendid outside, with the sun sitting majestically in a clear, perfect, cloudless, azure sky, but the truth is that in the world beyond the double glazing, it’s still freezing.
So, although a stroll along the seafront to your local coffee shop is in itself a wonderful idea, sitting outside whilst necking your Americano and double espresso is not, no matter how many blankets you can cocoon yourself in, or how tempting it is to gaze at the sunset.
There was only one solution to this intense cold. Heat. Chillies. Pepper. Lots of it.
Sichuan here we come….
Sichuan Pork With Asparagus
- 450g pork fillet
- a bunch of white asparagus
- 5 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced on the diagonal
- a 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp whole Sichuan peppercorns – see Notes
- 3 tbsp Tianjin preserved vegetable – see Notes
- 4 Sichuan round dried chillies, cut in half lengthways – see Notes
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp 5 spice powder
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- fish sauce – see Notes
- coconut oil
- Hot chilli flakes
- Sesame seed oil
- lemon juice
- Trim the stalks of the asparagus by the “snap” method. Steam the trimmed asparagus spears vigorously until just tender, about 5 minutes or so. Refresh under running cold water, then set aside to drain. Once cool enough to handle, cut the asparagus spears into thirds. Set aside.
- Cut the pork fillet into thin strips the size of chunky matchsticks, and place in a mixing bowl. Add the ground ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, 5 spice powder, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix well, and set aside to marinate for 15 minutes or so.
- Heat 4 tbsp of coconut oil over high heat in a non-stick wok. Stir fry the pork until it is just cooked, i.e. when it has lost its raw, pink colour, about 4 – 5 minutes or so. Remove from the wok, and set aside.
- Wipe the wok clean, and bring another 4 tbsp of coconut oil up to high heat. Add the Sichuan peppercorns, and the Sichuan round dried chillies. Stir fry for 1 minute.
- Add the spring onions, ginger, and garlic. Stir fry for 2 minutes.
- Add the Tianjin preserved vegetable. Continue to stir fry for 2 minutes, adding a little water if the mixture starts to look a little dry.
- Return the pork to the wok. Stir fry for 1 minute.
- Add the asparagus to the wok. Stir fry for a few seconds, adding 2 tbsp each of fish sauce and lemon juice.
- Remove the wok from the heat. Serve, garnished with chilli flakes and sesame seed oil, and a side of egg fried cauliflower rice.
- Sichuan pepper is widely available these days, but if you can’t get whole peppercorns, use 2 tsps of ground instead, and introduce it towards the end of cooking, when you return the pork to the wok.
- If you can’t obtain Tianjin preserved vegetable, your next best bet would be a similar amount of sauerkraut.
- Similarly, if your best efforts fail to produce Sichuan dried chillies, then any similarly sized, round dried chillies should work. Failing that, any dried, mild-ish chillies would do as a substitute.
- To make the dish truly Paleo, get hold of fish sauce that contains fish, water, and salt. You’re probably best looking in an Asian store for genuine Thai fish sauce, although if you’re in Britain Tesco’s own fish sauce fits the bill. I currently use Thanh Ha Phu Quoc.