Cooking…With Rice Wine
Now We’re Cooking…With Rice Wine
By Ed Shoenfeld
Having built my career on introducing American diners to different regional Chinese cuisines and making “food as art” accessible, there is no question that both traditional and modern Asian cuisines are easy crowd pleasers. This is reflected in the fact that Red Farm, the restaurant my team and I recently opened is generating a lot of excitement as venue offering all kinds of fresh ways to enjoy the flavors of Asia. The same holds true for our Manhattan dining concept FoodParc, which features a Red Farm stand and several interesting takes on traditional Asian flavors.
One thing that still surprises a lot of people about many Chinese dishes, however, is that they look and taste sophisticated, and often have a lot of whimsy, but are remarkably easy to prepare with fresh ingredients you can find at any good market. The spirit we’re using in this recipe is ShaoShing rice wine (*such as Qian Hu Brand Shaohsing Rice Cooking Wine), which brings out pork’s natural flavors beautifully.
Ants Climbing a Tree
(Sichuan-style Cellophane Noodles with Chopped Pork)
4 ounces cellophane noodles (4 small packages), soften in cold water to cover for 20 minutes then drain
4 ounces ground pork mixed with:
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 t Shaoshing rice wine or dry sherry
2 t cornstarch
2 t vegetable oil
2 t vegetable oil
1 T ginger, minced
½ T garlic, minced
½ t to 1 T chili paste with garlic, according to taste
¼ t Sichuan peppercorn powder
1 c chicken stock
1½ t Kikkoman soy
1 T dark soy (prefer Amoy golden label)
1 T Shaoshing rice wine or dry sherry
¼ t finely ground white pepper
1 t sugar
¾ t salt
¼ t MSG (optional)
Up to 1 cup additional chicken stock, as necessary
Just before serving mix in:
¼ c finely chopped scallion
½ t sesame oil
Sauté the pork and make the flavoring base. While doing this, preheat your wok until it smokes, and turn the heat to its highest level. Next, add two teaspoons vegetable oil and the seasoned chopped pork. Cook, stirring for 60 seconds using the back of your wok spoon to break the pork into small pieces. Add the chopped garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorn powder and chili paste to the wok, cooking stirring for 30 seconds more, then add the chicken stock and sauce ingredients.
Cook the noodles and finish the dish. First, bring the contents of the wok to a boil and add the soaked cellophane noodles. Cook over high heat stirring in a constant circular motion, until the noodles absorb almost all the liquid: two to four minutes depending on the strength of the fire and the properties of the particular noodles. Taste the noodles for doneness and seasoning (check for salt, soy and heat), adding more stock a little at a time so that the noodles are just done (tender) when the liquid is completely absorbed. Stir in the scallions and sesame oil and serve immediately.
Chef’s note: You can easily make Sichuan peppercorn powder at home!
Start by heating a small saute pan until it is moderately hot and add a couple of tablespoons of Sichuan peppercorn. Gently shake the pan until the peppercorns are fragrant (1-2 minutes) and just begin to smoke. Remove them from the heat and cool. Grind the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or spice mill (you can use a cleaver handle and a bowl too) then strain out and discard larger pieces.