Yuxiang Pork Julienne (鱼香肉丝 Yu Xiang Rou Si)
November 6, 2021  Print
As promised in my previous post Sautéed Pork Julienne with Sweet Bean Sauce (京酱肉丝), today I will be making Yuxiang Pork Julienne (鱼香肉丝), also known outside of China as Shredded Pork With Garlic Sauce. The Chinese name for Yuxiang (鱼香) translates into fish flavor, yet this dish does not use any actual fish. Instead, various seasoning herbs, such as ginger and garlic are stir-fried together with pickled peppers in a sauce made with a combination of sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce to create a fragrant fish flavor.
Yuxiang Pork Julienne has quite a unique and addictive flavor. It’s got sweet, savory, acidic, and spicy all at the same time. The spiciness is not supposed to be strong, unlike some other Sichuan dishes. Even though it’s from Sichuan province, it’s immensely popular elsewhere in China. So it was always my family’s top choice when eating out at homey local restaurants in Beijing while growing up. After I moved to the US in my teens in the late 1990’s, every time I got homesick, I would try to find a restaurant that sold Yuxiang Pork Julienne. There were actually quite a few restaurants in New York City that had this dish on their menu. But no matter how many times I tried, it never had that specific taste that I craved. And I always ended up being disappointed. So after a while I just gave up looking for it. In fact, I have not tried it in a Chinese restaurant in the US since from fear of being disappointed.
The first time I made it at home, I was really worried that it would not taste the way I remembered. But to my surprise, it actually tasted quite similar to what I remembered. And it wasn’t difficult at all. There are some key seasonings that can’t be omitted. And once I nailed down the correct ratio for the various condiments used for the sauce, the rest was really easy.
There are actually two versions of Yuxiang Pork Julienne. One is a more traditional version where pickled whole peppers are used as the key source of spiciness. Another one is more modern where Pixian Douban is added alongside of pickled whole peppers to add more color and umami to the dish. If you ask a local from Sichuan, he/she will probably say the one with Pixian Douban is not as authentic. I’ve tried both, and they are both very tasty. The one I’m sharing below is the more traditional version.
As I mentioned in my Tender Pork Julienne post, I usually precut my pork tenderloin into pork julienne and store them in the freezer for later use. But for this particularly recipe, you can actually use pork shoulder instead and cut the pork into even thinner pieces.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 2 – 4 people
- 1/2 lb (~225g) pork tenderloin or pork shoulder 1
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- pinch of ground white pepper
- ~3 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 medium carrot 2
- 1 medium green bell pepper 2
- 3 to 5 black wood ears 2 黑木耳 (pre-soaked)
- 1 1-inch long piece of ginger
- 5-8 garlic cloves
- 2 green onions
- 4 tablespoons pickled pepper (剁椒) 3
- 1-2 teaspoons Pixian Douban (郫县豆瓣) (Optional) 3
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar 4
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce 4
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon water
- First make the pork julienne by following steps 1-4 from my previous Tender Pork Julienne recipe. (For this particularly recipe, you can cut the pork to even thinner pieces than normal. Add a pinch of ground white pepper along with the salt as the marinade. Make sure the pork julienne is only cooked to 80% doneness. Set aside.
- While marinating the pork julienne, prepare the other ingredients. Peel and julienne the carrot into thin sticks. Remove the bell pepper seeds and veins and julienne the bell peppers. Chop the black wood ears into small pieces. Peel and mince the ginger and garlic cloves. Cut the green onions into short chunks.
- Make the Yuxiang sauce by adding all the ingredients under the “sauce” category, including 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons of Chinese Black vinegar, 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of corn starch, and 1 tablespoon of water. Mix well.
- Heat a small sauce pan with water. Once the water boils, add the carrot and black wood ear pieces. Blanch for 1 minute and immediately transfer out and drain well. Set aside.
- Once the pork julienne has cooked, heat a large wok or skillet under medium-low heat. When the pot is getting warm, add the pickled pepper, minced ginger, and minced garlic. Toss and stir to let the fragrance slowly come out. Add the pork julienne, carrot, bell pepper, and black wood ear pieces and stir for a few seconds. Raise the heat to medium-high or high and add the Yuxiang sauce (mix again before adding) slowly while stirring at the same time. Keep stirring and tossing until the sauce is evenly distributed. Add the green onion chunks and turn off the heat. Stir for a few more seconds and transfer to a plate. Enjoy while warm!
- For Yuxiang Pork Julienne, pork shoulder is actually better than lean pork tenderloin. You can also cut the pork into even thinner pieces. I didn’t show that here since mine was cut previously and stored in the freezer for general use.
- The choice of vegetables is pretty flexible. The most traditional version calls for black wood ears and a specific type of bamboo shoot that is local to Sichuan province. But due to the scarcity of this type of bamboo shoot, other veggies such as carrots, bell peppers, and stem lettuce (莴笋) are often used instead outside of Sichuan.
- The most authentic version calls for whole pickled peppers (泡椒), which is a Sichuan specialty. I have a hard time finding whole Sichuan pickled pepper in the US. I normally use chopped pickled peppers (剁椒) instead, which I think has a similar taste. The one I used here is from Tan Tan Xiang (坛坛香), which is not that spicy in my opinion so I usually use 4 tablespoons. If you use Lao Gan Ma Pickled Peppers (老干妈风味糟剁椒), you might want to reduce it to 2 tablespoons due to its higher heat and salt content. If you want a modern version with more color and flavor, you can also add 1 to 2 teaspoon of Pixian Douban (pictured below) along with the pickled peppers, ginger, and garlic.
- I used Chinkiang vinegar (镇江香醋) here which is not gluten free. If you are gluten free, you can use balsamic vinegar instead and reduce the sugar to 2 teaspoons. Use gluten free soy sauce or tamari as well if you are gluten sensitive or intolerant.
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