By Emily Kemme
In the 1974 cookbook, The Good Food of Szechwan, author Robert Delfs makes a case for “the hearty and down-to-earth cooking of China’s Szechwan Province,” and aligns the cuisine with Western appetites and tastes. Focusing primarily on vegetables and scant meat portions, Delfs’ sauces — or what Delfs calls, “seasonings” — are often blends of soy sauce, salt, sugar, and either stocks, rice wine, or rice vinegar. The cooking techniques, like Szechuan cuisine itself, are straightforward.
To expand on his recipes, I’ve typically increased the protein portions, although not substantially. These are still veggie forward recipes. Where possible, I’ve reduced the amount of cooking oil. My adaptations increase the number and variety of vegetables, reflecting the fact that there is greater abundance and variety of produce available to the home cook today.
Szechuan Pork with Eggplant and Mushrooms recipe
- 1 pound package brown rice noodles, cooked according to package directions
- FOR SAUCE
- 4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp suar
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock or water
- 1/3 cup safflower oil (or other high heat oil like grapeseed or sunflower)
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 large Japanese eggplants, cut into 2″ lengths, then quartered
- Note: if the Japanese variety aren’t available, sub with globe eggplant and slice into strips, leaving skin on
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 small shallot, diced into 1/2″ pieces
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp chili garlic sauce
- Note: there are many brands available in most larger grocery stores, or take a field trip and explore an Asian market’s shelves
- 2 cups white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed, diced into 1/2 ” pieces
- 1/3 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon pure sesame oil
Cook the recipe:
Prepare brown rice noodles according to package directions. Set aside.
Combine sauce ingredients in small bowl, whisking to emulsify.
Heat 1/4 cup oil over high heat in wok or large skillet. Add eggplant segments and cook until lightly browned and tender. Remove to paper towel lined plate.
Add 3 tablespoons remaining oil to wok and brown pork over medium high heat until no longer pink, chopping into crumbles. If you haven’t discovered this cooking tool, I highly recommend sourcing a Pampered Chef consultant to order a Mix ‘N Chop. It makes the task of crumbling ground meats that much easier on your wrist.
Toss shallots, ginger, and garlic into wok, lower heat to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add chili garlic sauce to wok and stir fry, coating vegetables, cooking for 1-2 minutes.
Add mushrooms to wok and cook for 4 minutes, or until browned, tossing occasionally to prevent burning.
Pour sauce into wok, scraping to break up browned bits and coating mushroom pork mixture. Cook about 2 minutes, then reduce heat to simmer and return eggplant along with basil to wok. Cook covered on low heat for about 2 minutes. Stir gently to incorporate vegetables and sauce.
Drizzle pure sesame oil over dish before serving.