Pass me dat jicama and pork stir fryOctober 8, 2006
Stir fry over noodles. Is there anything better? Sure, some contrarians might say “yes.” (Argh. Stupid contrarians.)
But there’s certainly nothing faster. And as I’ve mentioned before, my agenda is to eat good food NOW. Stir fry fits that bill to a T. This particular stir fry has the happy quality of being fast, delicious and exotic to boot.
Indeed, that sauce covered stick-like vegetable above is actually jicama. It qualifies as exotic because it’s new and mysterious to me. Not, however, because it’s super sexy or super flavorful. In fact, it looks a little like a misshapen potato and tastes like crunchy, slightly sweet … water. But that’s just me. And that’s just a first tasting.
In this stir fry, however, jicama contributes its wonderful crunch to a spicy, complex and deliciously savory meal. I loved it. Pork stir fry over noodles? With jicama, too? Sign me up. Read on for my husband’s recipe…
Coming from a smaller city in the Midwest, one of the things my wife and I love about living in DC is the international feel the capital has. I know many New Yorkers feel that way about their city, and I suspect many others in large cities do, too. When my wife and I lived on Capitol Hill, it was great to walk through Eastern Market — an enclosed and open air farmer’s market and flea market — on the weekend to enjoy the food and the people. It wasn’t unusual to hear a half-dozen languages being spoken or to see a group of students from nearby Gallaudet signing to each other.
As a foodie, this international flavor is also reflected in the ingredients available in DC. Things I once considered uncommon are now normally found at our local grocers, especially ingredients from Latin and Southeast Asian cuisine. It wasn’t until we moved here that I saw lemongrass sold anywhere outside of a specialty Asian food mart.
It is also the first place I saw jicama. Jicama, like the dragon fruit I’ve written about before, is a native to South America, but has also found a home in Southeast Asia and in Asian cuisine. My wife describes its flavor merely as “crunchy.” Indeed, that textural adjective seems apt, because there isn’t much to jicama. In my mind, if a potato, a waterchesnut and an apple got together and had a big baby, it would be jicama.
Before I get to the recipe, I want to give a little technical advice. Stir-fry is about very, very, and (yes!) very hot cooking and very, very and (yes!) very quick cooking. You need to have all your ingredients ready to cook. And once you have them in the wok, you want to keep them moving. You can’t walk away. Otherwise, you will find things nice and black when you come back.
Finally, I want to impart a piece of advice for the benefit of those of you who wear glasses, as my wife does. Have a little bit of eyeglass cleaner nearby when you stir-fry. The heat will kick up a lot of oil and moisture, and your eyeglasses are a prime location for these airborne vapors to land on. Happy stir-frying!
Jicama and Pork Stir Fry
1 lb thinly sliced pork chop (about four chops)
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin
1/2 large onion (diced)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 one-inch segment of fresh garlic (minced)
1 tsp. fresh cilantro (chopped)
1 tsp. hot chili sauce
1/2 tsp. five spice powder
1/2 tsp. red pepper flake
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 large jicama (julienned)
6 green onions (chopped)
1 two-inch segment fresh ginger (diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
4 tbsp. sesame seed oil
1 tbsp. white sesame seeds
1 tbsp. black sesame seeds
1. Trim the fat on the pork and cut into strips. (You are not trimming the fat for health reasons; the meat is already lean. Here, the fat is removed because you are quick frying and the fat will become unpleasant to eat.)
2. In a large bowl, mix the marinade and add the pork strips. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or, if you like, overnight. Fortunately for those short on time, the pork will not need much longer than an hour because it is in small pieces.
3. Prepare all the ingredients for the stir fry. This is quick cooking, and you will not have time to do your prep work during cooking.
4. Toast the sesame seeds over high heat in a small non-stick pan. To prevent burning or uneven toasting, keep the seeds moving by flipping or stirring. When they become fragrant, remove them from the heat.
5. Place your wok over high heat. Let it get hot — really hot. Yes, hotter than you would heat any other cooking implement. About 2 minutes.
6. Add 2 tbsp. of sesame oil to the wok. Let the oil heat for about 5 seconds, then add the pork (do not add the marinade; it can now be discarded). Cook for about 3-4 minutes or until cooked. Remove the pork and any accumulated juices to a plate or other vessel.
7. Time to quick clean the wok. While it’s still scorching hot, add about a quarter cup of water. It will go crazy with its sizzling. Swirl lightly and then dump out the liquid. I do this over the sink and just use the water from the tap. (Wife’s tip for the more cowardly: To clean a hot wok, moisten a cloth with water. Grasp wet cloth with your kitchen tongs and use it to wipe out the wok. There’s more steam and less spitting water, this way.)
8. Return the wok to high heat and let it get back to blazing atomic hot.
9. Add remaining 2 tbsp. sesame oil to wok. After about 15 seconds, add the ginger and cook for 30-40 seconds. You are letting the ginger flavor the oil and get a head start on the rest of the ingredients.
10. Add the garlic and cook for 15 seconds.
11. Add the jicama and cook for 2-3 min.
12. Add the green onion and cook for 1 min.
13. Return the pork to the wok along with its collected juices and cook for about 1 min.
14. Turn off the heat, add the sesame seeds and let cook for about 2 min. using the remaining heat in the wok.
15. Serve over noodles or rice. Add a dab of hoisin or fresh cilantro to taste. Enjoy.