This is characteristic of a yin-yang stir-fry, so called because it combines cooling ingredients (such as cucumber) with the heat of others (in this case, garlic and ginger). Garlic mellowed by frying is the main seasoning here; some of the oil used for the garlic is then incorporated in the dish. It’s best to use an instant-read thermometer to gauge the temperature of the oil.
Pork shoulder or butt doesn’t usually come in small amounts. Ask your butcher to cut down a larger roast; freeze what you don’t use for this recipe.
Serve with steamed rice.
Servings: 2 - 3
- 1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil
- 3 to 5 large cloves garlic
- 12 ounces boneless lean pork shoulder or butt (see headnote)
- 2- to 3-inch piece ginger root
- 1 large (seedless) English cucumber
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cold water
Line a plate with paper towels. Heat the oil in a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or small saucepan over medium heat, or as needed, so the oil reaches a temperature of 280 degrees. (Make sure the tip of the thermometer does not touch the wok or saucepan.)
Coarsely chop the garlic as needed to yield 3 tablespoons. Trim off and discard any fat from the pork, then cut the meat into 1/4-inch or bite-size slices (to yield about 2 1/2 cups). Peel the ginger and cut it crosswise into 8 coin-size slices, then use the broad, flat side of a knife to smash each one. Trim off the ends of the cucumber, then use a vegetable peeler to cut away long strips of peel, creating a striped effect. Cut the cucumber on the diagonal into 1/4-inch slices (to yield about 3 cups).
Add the garlic to the hot oil and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the garlic is just golden. Use a metal skimmer to transfer the garlic to the paper towel-lined plate. Strain the oil into a heatproof container.
Combine the pork, cornstarch, half of the soy sauce (1 1/2 teaspoons), the sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl; toss to coat evenly. Combine the remaining soy sauce and the water in a separate small bowl.
If you used the wok to heat the oil, wash and dry it thoroughly before placing it over high heat. Or heat a 12-inch skillet (not nonstick) over high heat. When the wok or skillet is hot, add a drop of water; the heat is sufficient when the water vaporizes within 2 seconds.
Swirl in 2 tablespoons of the reserved garlic oil, then add the ginger. Stir-fry for 30 seconds or until the ginger becomes fragrant. Push it to the sides of the wok or skillet, then add the pork in a single layer. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute so the pork sears, then stir-fry for 1 minute, until the meat is seared but not fully cooked through.
Add the cucumber and stir-fry for 30 seconds, making sure it is well incorporated, then sprinkle on the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the soy sauce-water mixture. Stir-fry for 1 minute or until the pork is cooked through and the cucumber has begun to wilt.
Stir in the reserved garlic and remove from the heat. Divide among individual bowls; serve immediately.
Adapted from Grace Young's "Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge" (Simon & Schuster, 2010).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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