Signature dish of Sichuan cuisine, shredded pork with garlic sauce delivers a sophisticated and addictive taste: tangy, spicy, sweet & sour.
Since the start of my blog, many of my readers expressed an interest in Sichuan cuisine. Today, I’d like to share its signature dish which is believed to be the most ordered delicacy in Sichuan restaurants: Yu Xiang Rou Si (鱼香肉丝, also known as shredded pork with garlic sauce).
“Fish-flavoured” dish without fish
“Garlic sauce” is actually a term invented by Chinese restaurants in the West. It doesn’t indicate the sophistication of the seasoning used in Sichuan shredded pork. Essential ingredients include Sichuan pickled chilli, rice wine, black rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and generous amounts of garlic, ginger and spring onion. They create a tangy, spicy, sweet & sour taste known as “Yu Xiang (鱼香)” which literally means fish fragrance.
Don’t be surprised not to find any fish (or fish-related items) on the ingredient list. It is believed that the seasoning used in Sichuan shredded pork was inspired by the way fish was traditionally prepared in Sichuan. Popular dishes like Yu Xiang Aubergine (鱼香茄子), Yu Xiang Tofu (鱼香豆腐) call for the same set of ingredients.
Substitute for the key ingredients
If you wish, you may replace pork fillet with chicken breast for this dish. Beef can be an option too as long as you choose a cut ideal for quick stir-fry (e.g. flank steak or skirt steak).
Sichuan pickled chilli (四川泡辣椒) is the soul of Sichuan shredded pork with garlic sauce. It gives the dish a sharp spicy taste as well as an unique fragrance. I guess some of you might find it difficult to get this special ingredient. Living outside China for many years, I understand very well the frustration of not being able to find the “right” ingredients for Chinese cooking. The good news is I’ve found substitutes which don’t affect the flavour of this dish very much. You may use other type of pickled chilli (e.g. Spanish ones) or simply use fresh chilli (In fact I often use both of them when I don’t have Sichuan pickled chilli in stock). Make sure you mince the chilli very well to release its full flavour.
Tips on julienne the pork
As you might have realised, there is lots of chopping involved in preparing Sichuan shredded pork with garlic sauce. Every ingredient is either cut into thin strips or finely minced. This seems a labouring job. But believe me, finely chopped ingredients does make a difference to the final taste. The most challenging part has to be julienne the pork fillet. You first need to slice it then cut into thin strips.
Here are my three tips:
- Freeze the meat for a while. It’s much easier to slice a more solid piece of meat. If possible, freeze the pork fillet for a couple of hours beforehand (time may vary depending on the size).
- Make sure the cleaver / knife is sharp. Not only a blunt one makes chopping time-consuming, but also it increases the chances of injury.
- Wet your cleaver / knife with water when cutting to avoid sticking.
Be creative with the vegetables
In any “authentic” version of Sichuan shredded pork with garlic sauce, wood ear (木耳, black edible fungus commonly used in Chinese cuisine) and bamboo shoots are indispensable. They are rather plain in flavour yet provide a crunchy texture to the dish. Personally, I like being a bit more adventurous with the vegetables. Carrot, bell pepper, asparagus, baby corn and celery are on my list of choices. Please feel free to adjust the recipe according to the availability of certain ingredients and of course your own preference.
Volià! Another classic dish for Sichuan cuisine lovers. Tell me what other recipes you are looking for by leaving a comment below. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog (in the sidebar) if you’d like me to keep you posted of upcoming recipes!