Chengdu Flashback


I've been experiencing some serious nostalgia for Chengdu (my study abroad location in college) the past few weeks. First, it was our trip to the new Chicago gem, Fat Rice. I was transported back to China. I had to know how the chef created such authentic feeling and flavor. So, on a trip to the restroom I found the chef and quizzed him. Turns out, he studied cuisine in Chengdu! I was thrilled, and so felt reminiscent of the feeling of being back in China. Calling all Chicago readers: go before it gets too busy to get in!

Next, it was the amazing article I found on Saveur.com. After perusing a few Szechuan recipes, I stumbled upon this article, Capital of Heat, by Matt Gross. He delves into the bold and spicy food culture of Chengdu, capital of the Szechuan Province. Much to my delight, he provided recipes and ingredient lists to bring those flavors to life. Check it out yourself if you want to stock up on ingredients.

I dragged Brian to Chinatown the following weekend. I was on a quest to find chile oils, black vinegars, dark soy sauces, fermented beans, spicy peppercorns and Asian greens. Now that I have a cupboard dedicated to Chinese cuisine, it's time to do some major recipe testing. 

My first recipe was delicious, but didn't taste very Szechuan. I made pork necks braised in Szechuan flavors. After cooking for a few hours, I shredded the meat off the bones, and sauteed the meat in the braising liquid with Chinese broccoli. I wanted to post the pictures and recipes anyways, and get you all excited for the upcoming series.

Chinese Braised Pork and Broccoli

3 lb pork neck bones
1 large bunch Chinese broccoli
7 cloves garlic (minced)
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
3 tbsp Chinese red chile bean paste
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp black vinegar
3 tbsp Szechuan red chili oil
1 tbsp sesame oil + 1 tbsp
1 tbsp kosher salt  + 1 tbsp

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine pork necks, 1 tbsp salt, garlic, ginger, chili bean paste, sugar, dark soy sauce, black vinegar, red chili oil and 1tbsp sesame oil. Let marinade for 1 hour in the fridge.

Transfer all contents into a large Dutch oven, cover and braise in oven for 2 hours. Turn pork necks over half way through.

Remove necks to a cutting board, and transfer braising liquid to a hot wok or large saute pan. Trim Chinese broccoli and cut into 3 inch pieces. Add to wok with a small dash of salt.

Remove all meat from pork necks, in small pieces. There won't be huge pieces of meat, but just bits of delicious, tender meat. Be careful, because there are lots of bones in the neck. Transfer all meat to wok, and let saute for 5 minutes, until broccoli is wilted. Serve with rice, or by itself.

P.S. Do not throw the bones away. I have them in my freezer right now so I can make a stock for a delicious recipe like this one. Stay tuned...

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