Whenever I pick up a strange vegetable or ingredient from a Chinese supermarket, my first port of call is the cookbook Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop, the British cookery writer who was the first westerner admitted to the Sichuan Culinary Institute’s cookery school in the 1990s. Her books concentrate on largely traditional Chinese recipes, often native to Sichuan Province, although with obvious omissions of the cuts of meat we might find less palatable (her memoirs include a humorous tale of her parents politely chewing on the rabbit ears she ordered in a Chengdu restaurant). The concise but informative 20 page glossary of typical ingredients (with photographs) is unmatched by the many other books on Chinese cookery I own. If you like cooking and eating the real food of China, then it’s a must-have cookbook in a genre where writers tend to lean in favour of “takeaway favourites” and better-known ingredients available in any local supermarket – the Chinese chives I bought this week hardly get a mention!
Of course, rather than stick to one recipe I amalgamated a few based on what I had to hand: namely, a pork loin chop. Thinly sliced, a small amount of meat can be stretched to feed two or three with a bowl of rice and a couple of vegetable dishes (like a cucumber salad). A nest of egg noodles, cooked and stir-fried would make it into a filling dinner for one.
Combine the cornflour, rice wine and salt and coat the strips of pork in the marinade – the rice wine helps tenderise the meat and the cornflour thickens any liquid remaining at the end of cooking. Leave to marinate while preparing the other ingredients.
In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil until smoking and add the ginger and chilli. Stir continuously until fragrant and add the pork strips. Keep stirring until the pork is beginning to brown and add the chives. Once the chives have started to wilt, pour in the soy sauce and once any liquid in the pan has been almost completely evaporated off, remove from the heat and serve.