We’ve all had sweet and sour pork at some point or another. If you, like me, have been put off this dish by its greasy battered pork doused in pink glow-in-the-dark sauce served at a Chinese-American restaurant and/or the supermarket deli counter, take heart, there is hope yet!
I was actually surprised to find out that sweet and sour pork is a bona fide Cantonese dish. It’s just that many restaurants in North American do a lousy job when making it.
Some say it originates from a traditional Jiangsu pork dish made with a sugar and vinegar sauce (tang chu li ji) and it is closely related to sweet-and-sour spare ribs (tang chu pai gu). Sweet and sour pork probably spread to the United States in the early 20th century when Chinese migrant gold miners and railroad workers swapped trades and started cooking. And from thereon it permeated the country and is now a standard item on every Chinese-American menu.
Try this sweet-and-sour pork recipe and you’ll look at this oft-vilified dish with entirely new eyes and your tastebuds will thank you for it.
Sweet and sour pork (Gu Lao Rou)
There are endless variations of this quintessential Chinese dish but it always tastes best homemade. The pork cut of choice is pork butt or shoulder – not too lean, not too fatty. Other cuts may be leaner but they often turn tough and chewy when fried. So trim the fat if you must, or substitute with chicken breast.
Time: 1 hour plus marinating time
Makes 4 to 6 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal
1 lb. pork butt, trimmed of fat if desired and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons self-raising flour
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups vegetable oil, divided
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut thinly on the diagonal
1 green or red pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges and separated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can pineapple chunks, well drained (about 1 cup)
2/3 cup water
3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1. In a medium bowl, mix the pork together with the flour, rice wine, salt, pepper, and egg with your hands, making sure to coat each piece of pork well. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably 12 hours.
2. Bring marinated pork to room temperature before cooking.
3. Line a plate with paper towels.
4. In a large wok, heavy skillet, or Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F. on a deep-fry thermometer.
5. Reduce heat to medium-high. Using tongs, drop the pork a few pieces at a time into the hot oil, ensuring the pieces don’t stick together. Fry in batches, seven to eight pieces at a time, until golden brown and crispy, about 6 to 7 minutes. When done, remove the pork with a slotted spoon, shaking off excess oil, and drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a 300 degree F. oven.
6. Use a slotted spoon or a wire mesh strainer to remove any debris from the oil and bring oil temperature up to 350 degrees F. again before frying the next batch. Repeat with remaining pork.
7. Drain the remaining oil and wipe down the wok with a paper towel. Heat 2 tablespoons of fresh oil over medium-high heat. Fry the garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Toss in the onions and carrots and stir for about a minute. Add the peppers and stir-fry until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. (If you prefer softer carrots, cook ahead by microwaving or steaming.) Add the pineapple, give everything a quick stir and turn off the heat, leaving the vegetables in the wok.
8. In a small saucepan, mix the sauce ingredients together and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously. Once the sauce starts to bubble and thicken, about 1 to 2 minutes, reduce the heat to low. Pour in the vinegar and stir to mix. Set aside.
9. Tumble the cooked pork nuggets into the wok with the vegetables and pour the sauce over. Toss to coat and transfer to a large rimmed platter or bowl. Serve immediately with freshly steamed rice.
You may deep-fry pork the nuggets ahead of time. Refrigerate or freeze until needed. Then re-heat with a quick dip in hot oil or in the oven. Don’t forget to bring the meat to room temperature first.
Related post from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Macaroni and cheese my way
I like to keep a healthier treat at home for those times when all I crave is a major kick to the face with sugar. Often I get cravings for a small bite of chocolate or something sweet. A weakness of mine is ice cream (a reason why I never have any in the house).
I also think it is crucial to have a small little treat around if you’re making your way over to a whole foods diet – especially in the beginning stages. When processed foods get kicked to the curb in favor of whole natural foods, the outcome is a huge reduction of sugar and salt. These two key ingredients trick us into thinking these foods taste good. So as you eliminate processed foods you’ll no doubt be craving sugar and salt in a way you haven’t before because they were previously hiding in everything processed that was being consumed.
Arm yourself with some healthy or at least natural sweets, so when a sugar fix attacks you like a sale does to a shopaholic, you’ll have a stash of these to get you by. Your sweet tooth will be soothed and you’ll have successfully averted a grab for the Haagen Dazs.
Unbelievable almond butter banana “fudge”
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond butter
1/8 to 1/4 cup of raw honey
1/2 of a banana, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place all the ingredients in a small pot. Heat over low heat until things get melty, about 30 seconds. Blend with an emulsion blender until the mixture is smooth. Alternately a food processor would work and you can skip the melting process but blend for longer.
Pour into a small 3- x5-inch mini loaf pan lined with parchment paper or pour into silicone molds. Allow the mixture to cool in the freezer or fridge into solid. Slice into small 1- x1-inch squares or slices. Because of the coconut oil, these will melt if not kept in the fridge or freezer.
Other “fudge” flavor options:
Maple walnut fudge: Substitute maple syrup for honey. Blend until smooth and fold in 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts. For a lovely version of a Chocolate Peanut Butter “Fudge”, see Mindy at The Purposed Heart for this tasty version. Kimi at The Nourishing Gourmet featured this delightful fudge a few years ago if you’re more of a classic chocolate fudge kinda person. Over at Chocolate Covered Katie you’ll find all kinds of desserts to kick a sweet tooth in a more natural way, and her fudge inspired the banana in my recipe. Thanks Katie.
Related post from Beyond the Peel: Apricot squares
I never thought I would express this sentiment: I wish my life was more boring. For as long as I can remember, I have filled every spare moment with activities and interests. If an extra minute turned up, I had a new scheme to fill the opening and then some. Lately, I dream of a few of those unoccupied minutes turning up so I could do nothing but sit.
My mom said it best last week when after a report of our day’s happenings she responded, “It just seems like your lives are on a constant state of overdrive.” Yes. We have no real complaints. We are healthy and we are blessed with family, friends and interesting happenings. But, even an adventure enthusiast would want to take a breather from a nonstop roller coaster.
Because we are in a state of “survival mode,” trying new recipes hasn’t been a priority. Our kitchen has been boresville-snoresville. Same ol’, Same ol’. Eating fresh, healthy food isn’t easy when you are short on time and trying to be budget conscious.
This white bean and artichoke salad was the outcome of digging through my pantry, hoping to find something to pack for lunch. A little fresh rosemary elevated the dish enough for me to forget it was the content of a few cans. Hearty, healthy, and fast.
Even if you have the time to cook properly, you may still want to try this flavor combination. Go ahead, make me jealous and slow cook some beans, steam and clean your own artichoke hearts, add a little citrus zest or hand minced garlic. This salad will can fit your life, whatever state it may be in.
White bean & artichoke heart salad with rosemary
1 can white beans
1 can artichoke hearts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon finely diced red onion (optional)
salt & freshly ground pepper
Open the beans and artichoke hearts. Drain the beans and rinse them. Add drained artichoke hearts (don’t rinse them). Sprinkle rosemary and onion over top. Drizzle with olive oil. Use a fork to gently toss and mix everything together. Season with salt and pepper.
Related post from Whipped, The Blog: Kale sesame and ginger salad
This is my version of a Rolo-stuffed chocolate chip cookie/fudge brownie combo: A chocolate chip cookie base with a Rolo perched atop it covered in brownie batter and baked to gooey goodness. "Crownie" is cookie + brownie. My other option was to call them "Brookies" or brownies + cookies but that seemed a little too cutesy. Plus I liked how the rolo looks like a pseudo crown when you slice into it.
You can use just about any chocolate chip cookie recipe and brownie recipe for this. It's best to use a chocolate chip cookie recipe that's more chewy than cakey and a brownie recipe that's more fudgy/chewy than cakey. Otherwise, the sky's the limit.
I also baked a dozen versions with a generous dollop of nutella in the middle. I didn't get to try the finished product of that version so I'm not sure how it turned out but I assume it was good.
Chocolate chip cookie layer
2-1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
1 stick/8 tablespoons unsalted softened butter
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup all-purpose all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly spray mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Make the chocolate chip cookie dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the melted butter and sugars together until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Pat a tablespoon (or so) of cookie dough into the bottom of the mini muffin tins, lining bottom completely and going halfway up the sides. Place a Rolo caramel candy in the center of each cavity.
5. Make the brownie batter: Melt butter and chocolate chips together in the top half of a double boiler set over hot water. Stir until smooth. Add flour, salt and sugars. Mix a few times then add egg yolks and oil. Mix until well combined.
6. Pour enough batter to cover each Rolo/chocolate chip cookie cup until 2/3 full in the mini muffin tin and Rolo is covered completely. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the side of the brownie (avoid the Rolo) comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
Related post from The Pasty Chef's Baking: Orange creamsicle cookies
Edible Books is a book club without borders. Members can participate from anywhere in the world, any time of the day or night. Every month we all choose a book to read. The following month we read it. The discussion takes place primarily on Twitter although participation on the blog and through our Facebook page is welcomed. Regular updates will be posted here, including the book selections.
Your hosts, Natalie and Christina, are food lovers as well as book lovers, so we’re encouraging books with a food theme running through them. Occasionally, however, there may be a surprise selection. It all depends on what book you, the book club members, vote for each month.
November's pick: "White Truffles in Winter" by N.M. Kelby
We are thrilled to announce that the author, N.M. Kelby, has graciously agreed let us interview her this month (stay tuned to the blog!) and to participate in our Twitter discussion. So the conversation promises to be even more exciting this month!
"White Truffles in Winter" is a novel about world-famous French chef Auguste Escoffier. Called the "king of chefs and chef of kings," Escoffier was also a restaurateur, author, a leader in the development of modern French cuisine, and credited with introducing the organized brigade de cuisine system in his kitchens.
But this novel goes beyond Escoffier’s well-known public persona, to invite us into an imaginative story of his private world, filled with glamour, romance, war, and of course food.
Get ready to travel back in time to the turn of the 20th century – and bring a snack, because reading this book will make you hungry!
November discussion schedule:
- November 1-7: Discuss Chapters 1-8
- November 8-14: Discuss Chapters 9-16
- November 15-21: Discuss Chapters 17-24
- November 22-30: Discuss Chapters 25-31
Find us on Twitter @ediblebookclub #ediblebooks
We’re glad you’re here! Start reading, join the discussion, and welcome to the party
~ Christina & Natalie
Though I ate my share of Oreos growing up and though I’ve had them swirled into a flurry or two, I don’t think I have ever bought a package of them. I love baking from scratch and most of the baked goods coming out of my kitchen involve a more old school base of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. At an event last week, I was introduced to my first cookie ball and not only did the signature Oreo flavor tickle my nostalgia nerve, the decadent bites nearly unplugged my will power.
It is always fun for me when my work life and blog life collide. I had the opportunity to visit the Kraft Food Kitchens in Glenview, Ill., where I got a sneak peek behind the scenes and had the pleasure of meeting more than a dozen mom bloggers. I was invited by the hosting group to talk with the mom bloggers about food photography. I found that I also had a thing or two to learn from this group of in-the-know mom writers and product reviewers!
Between sessions, we were served lunch prepared by the Kraft staff. Only at a blogger gathering would nearly everyone capture a photo of the spread before digging in.
The desserts were artfully presented and had a timely Halloween flair. I helped myself to a little of this and a little of that, taste testing almost everything. The Kraft crew presented some candy bar bites that were some sort of mock Butterfinger. It actually tasted so much like a Butterfinger, it left me wondering, “Why not just buy a Butterfinger?”
I was tickled by a Jello-O brain mold and admired the various pretty pudding parfaits.
But it was the Halloween Oreo Pumpkins that inspired me to ask where I could find their recipes. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Kraft has an enormous website of recipes including a vast Halloween section. There are some cute ideas to get your wheels turning, especially for Halloween party planning.
As for these cookie balls? Perhaps a bag of Oreos will be visiting the Whipped kitchen.
Oreo Pumpkin Cookie Balls
6 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 package 15.25 oz Oreo peanut butter creme cookies, finely crushed (regular Oreos would be good too!)
2 packages (6 squares each) Baker’s white chocolate, melted
1 cup orange colored sugar or sprinkles
10 pretzel sticks, broken into 4 pieces each
Mix cream cheese and cookie crumbs until well blended. Shape into 40 1-inch balls.
Freeze for 10 minutes.
Dip balls in melted chocolate; roll in sugar or sprinkles to evenly coat. Place on wax paper lined cookie sheet.
Insert 1 pretzel piece into top of each for the pumpkin’s stem. Refrigerate one hour or until firm.
Related post from Whipped, The Blog: Halloween witch cookies
We got the most lovely bunch of purple beets at our last CSA pick up. I used a few by grating them raw into salads (yum!), then proceeded to ignore them in order to focus on some of the more time-sensitive veggies that needed to be dealt with quickly. Luckily, beets keep for quite a while in the fridge if you remove the greens and this batch seemed perfectly content to cool their heels in the crisper for nearly two weeks while I dealt with more pressing culinary concerns.
I typically roast beets – they're delicious that way -– but I was not feeling excited about waiting quite that long for them to cook so I decided to try baking them, instead – something I'd never tried before. With baked beets, the cooking time is sped up by putting a small amount of water in the bottom of the baking dish to steam the beets while they cook. Then you slip the skins off just as you would with roasted or boiled beets. It's a bloody-looking business but it washes right off.
I was also attracted to the simple idea of tossing the warm beets with butter, herbs, salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice. So I ran out to our little container garden and gathered up oregano, thyme, and basil and chopped them up.
The results were both quicker and less messy than roasting and deliciously flavorful and light. The baked beets are a little bit softer than roasted and the fresh herbs complement their natural sweetness while the butter makes it feel just a wee bit decadent and the salt, pepper, and lemon juice add a little brightness and jazz.
I served them with a thick cucumber yogurt sauce spiked with fresh mint (have I mentioned how much I love whole milk Greek yogurt for this purpose?), grilled lamb sausages from our favorite butcher shop, and my own interpretation of one of those Near East boxed couscous mixes. I use this very tasty, fine whole wheat French couscous that we get in bulk at our local health food store, some sautéed red onion, a lot of chopped fresh herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper -- it's much better than the box.
The beets were at least as tasty the next day as leftovers, too. I will definitely be making these again.
Baked beets with herbs & butter
1 large bunch of beets (any kind), washed with tops and tails removed
2 tablespoons butter (you could substitute olive or walnut oil if you do not eat dairy)
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Big handful of fresh herbs (thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, etc.,), washed, dried and chopped
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or mild vinegar like champagne or white balsamic
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the beets in a shallow baking dish and add half a cup of water to the bottom. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven.
2. Bake for 30-45 minutes (cooking time will depend on the size of the beets you're using), until beets are soft when poked with a fork. Remove from the oven and let sit, uncovered until cool enough to handle. Slip the skins off and remove any roots or tough pieces left over from the tops with a knife, then slice to whatever thickness and shape you desire.
3. Toss with the herbs, butter, salt, and pepper then sprinkle a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or vinegar of your choice. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Related post from Garden of Eating: Winter veggie pie with cabbage, roasted beets, goat cheese & dill
As I remember it, trick-or-treating is hard work. Lots of walking, in what is invariably an uncomfortable costume, that heavy bag of candy and keeping your best manners on under all that stress.
But the promise of a seemingly endless supply of fun-size candy bars made it all worthwhile. I even liked the stripey, crunchy peanut butter Mary Janes and the peanut taffy in the orange and black wrappers. Then there was the dentist down the street, who gave the “special” neighborhood kids a toothbrush, while any other kids got granola bars.
So after a hard slog of candy hunting, it’s nice to come home to warm, comforting seasonal dinner. And what could be more perfect on Halloween than pumpkin? This creamy, cheesy casserole can be made ahead, and popped in the oven to cook while you’re out and about. The meaty sausage and melty cheese are perfect, with a subtle pumpkin flavor that will satisfy little tummies (and grown-up appetites) before the sugar rush sets in.
Creamy Italian sausage and pumpkin manicotti
Serves 6 to 8
For the manicotti:
1 (8-ounce) package manicotti pasta shells
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, bulk or casings removed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
7 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 cup pumpkin purée, from a 15-ounce can
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
For the pumpkin sage béchamel sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
10 fresh sage leaves, very finely chopped
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (the remainder from the manicotti recipe)
salt and pepper to taste
For the manicotti:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the manicotti according to the package instructions. Cook the manicotti about 2 minute less than the recommended cooking time. Drain the manicotti and rinse thoroughly with cold water to prevent sticking.
While the water is boiling and the manicotti is cooking, crumble the sausage into a large skillet and cook over medium high heat, breaking it up with a spatula, until it begins to brown. Add the onion and 1/2 cup of water and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the sausage is cooked through and no longer pink and the water has evaporated. Stir in the garlic and chopped sage and cook for two more minutes. Add the ricotta and pumpkin and stir until the filling is creamy and smooth. Stir in the parmesan cheese until melted. Leave the filling to cool to room temperature while you make the sauce.
For the pumpkin béchamel:
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, then whisk in the flour until you have a loose, smooth paste. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook over medium until the sauce is creamy and thickened. Whisk in the nutmeg and chopped sage. Stir in the pumpkin purée until combined and cook until lightly bubbling. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spread about 1/2 cup of béchamel sauce over the bottom of a greased 9 by 13-inch baking pan, to prevent the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stuff the manicotti shells with the filling and lay them over the sauce in the pan. I admit, I am a bit of a manicotti cheat – I cut the shells open with a pair of scissors, place a line of filling down the center, roll it up, and place it seam side down in the pan. If you have some leftover filling, tuck it in around the noodles.
Spoon the béchamel sauce over the noodles and gently spread it out to a thin layer covering the noodles. Sprinkle the 2 cups of shredded mozzarella over the top of the manicotti.
The manicotti can be covered and refrigerated several hours or overnight at this point. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the manicotti for 40 minutes, until heated through and bubbling. If the cheese begins to brown, loosely cover the pan with foil.
Related post from The Runaway Spoon: Pumpkin cornbread
You could argue that every day is food day, since finding your next meal is a daily problem that every person on the planet faces every day.
Food Day (Oct. 24) in the United States aims to raise awareness around issues in our food system – from growing to transportation to consumption – and create sustainable solutions for the challenges it faces. It is a grass-roots movement created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to promote healthier diets, support sustainable food systems, reduce hunger, improve the environmental standards of factory farms, and support fair working conditions for food and farm workers.
Thousands of students on more 250 college campuses in 46 states are participating in Food Day on Oct. 24. On-campus events range from cook-offs and movie screenings to public demonstrations and local food banquets. Food Day is being co-coordinated by Real Food Challenge, the largest national student organization committed to building a just and sustainable food economy, and CSPI.
CSPI has also created away for you to participate right there as you sit at your computer. Take their "Do You Eat Real?" quiz at http://www.foodday.org/quiz to become more aware of the food you put on your plate and the impact it has on the environment around you.
Or use their dinner party kit, complete with games, trivia, and recipes from notable foodies (such as, Rick Bayless, Mark Bittman, and Lynne Rossetto Kasper) to invite friends and family to think beyond their dinner plate.
To join or find out about a Food Day activity happening near you, go to http://www.foodday.org/all_events and type in your zipcode.
We’ve often talked about our love for Chinese food, which for us is the ultimate in comfort food. In the last year or so, our adventures have led us away from our friendly old favorites in the kitchen, but some recent enjoyable dinners in Chinatown, and a memory of past pleasures, put it front and center for us again.
This dish came together due to a fortuitous combination of impulse purchases, pantry staples, and a memory of other Octobers. Please note that in this recipe, I am talking about true chestnuts, from chestnut trees – not water chestnuts, which are the corms of an aquatic sedge. Think walking down the rue de Rivoli, at just this time of year. It’s evening, there’s a bit of chill in the air, the street is thronged with people, and you are dawdling along in your light wool coat, glancing into the gleaming windows and the faces of strangers, holding a paper cone of hot, roasted chestnuts you just bought from a street vendor and wondering where you’ll go for dinner.
This dish nods to Paris in the fall, but it primarily pays a visit to Asia, with aromatic ginger and garlic, spiciness from chili paste and hot bean paste, the warm, naturally sweet taste of soba noodles and everything stir-fried together.
When you’re in a mood that is part Arrondissement, part Chengdu, this just might help. It would make a very nice fall dinner. In the ancestral versions of this, the noodles are first boiled, then drained and fried in the same pot in which you make the pork, but this time I found it easier to sauté them separately until they were lightly gold, then introduce the two parts during plating.
Pork chestnut kale stir fry with fried soba noodles
1 pound pork, cut into 2-inch-long ribbons (I used boneless pork chops)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoons ginger, crushed and minced
2 to 4 tablespoons chili paste (to taste)
A 6- or 7-ounce package of roasted, peeled chestnuts, cut or broken in half (see Kitchen Notes)
8 to 10 stalks of kale, ribs removed and the leaves torn into small pieces
12 to 14 ounces dry soba noodles
4 scallions, roots trimmed, cut into rings
Marinade for the pork:
2 tablespoons soy sauce (reduced sodium preferred)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon dry sherry [*editor's note: the sherry may be left out with little affect on the marinade]
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon hot bean paste
4 tablespoons dry sherry [*editor's note: the sherry may be substituted with 4 extra tablespoons of soy sauce]
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoon cornstarch
Cut the pork into ribbons about 2 inches long. Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl, add the pork, stir to mix everything and set the pork in a cool place. It should marinate for about 15 minutes.
While it is marinating, prepare the remaining ingredients. Put a pot of water on to boil, to cook the soba noodles. Combine the ginger and garlic in a small ramekin. Measure out the chili paste in another ramekin. Prepare the roasted chestnuts and tear up the kale. Mix the sauce ingredients in their own bowl.
When the pot of water comes to a boil, add the soba noodles and cook until al dente (probably about 6 or 7 minutes). Drain and rinse well in hot water.
In a nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil. Add the drained noodles, stir and toss them so they are coated with the oil, then continue sautéing them. The goal is to make them nicely, lightly golden.
Drain the pork and discard marinade. In another nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil oil to medium and add the ginger and garlic. Sauté for 90 seconds, then add the pork ribbons and turn the heat up a little. Cook, stirring and turning the pork ribbons, until they are no longer pink. Don’t worry if the ginger and garlic darken – they will taste good.
When the pork loses its pink color, add the chili paste. Toss and stir to spread it thoroughly. The amount you add depends on how spicy you want this dish to be. I ended up adding 4 tablespoons, which was twice as much as I expected to add but, in the end, it did not seem that hot. It depends on your palate and how fiery your chili paste seems on the day.
At this point, add the chestnuts and gently stir everything together. Turn the heat down.
Meanwhile, you are also keeping an eye on the noodles in the other skillet. Golden, not crispy, is your mantra.
When the noodles look sufficiently golden, turn the heat low under that pan. Give everything in the pork pan a light stir. Then add the kale, stir all together, and pour the sauce over all. Immediately start stirring and scooping everything together. It will start thickening immediately – keep the liquid moving so it does not stick. If it seems too thick or if you would like greater volume, top up with a mix of soy and stock.
When the kale wilts but is still bright green, this is ready. Serve by plating the noodles and dishing the pork on top; or stir everything together in one pan to incorporate it all. Sprinkle with the scallions and then serve.
Make it vegetarian. For the sauce, omit the chicken stock and substitute additional 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1/2 cup water. Instead of pork, use extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes and marinated without the cornstarch. And when choosing tofu, select a good quality brand and not the cheap stuff. Avoid the kind in the cardboard box – spend a few more cents for a far better result. Sauté the tofu until it is golden on all sides; after that, handle with care so it doesn’t break up.
Packaged chestnuts. Roasted, peeled chestnuts are now widely available. We used Trader Joe’s, which come roasted and vacuum packed from France. Asian and international markets often carry roasted, vacuum packed chestnuts from China. I like this product because I have never been very good at handling fresh chestnuts, what with the cross-cuts and the peeling and the high temperatures and all – I am always afraid I am going to chop off a hand (mine). So this product is welcome at our house. It’s not exactly fresh roasted, bought from a cheerful North African vendor over by the Rue des Halles, in a cone made from a bit of Le Monde, but it’s pretty darn good.
Related post from Blue Kitchen: Chinese sesame asparagus salad