Pork Slivers and Vegetables in Black Bean Sauce over Double-Gold Chow Mein Noodle Cakes: One Pork Shoulder, Many Meals

By Charleen - May 05, 2020

In the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown, I was lucky enough to get a 10-pound pork shoulder, cut in half, from a local farm that normally supplies several sustainable area restaurants. The inaugural meal from this shoulder, delectably tender strips of pork stir-fried with zucchini and purple carrot, crowned my family recipe for crispy-on-the-outside, tender-in-the-middle Suzhou-style chow mein noodle cakes.

Shortcut to the gallery of dishes: "One Pork Shoulder, Many Meals", 

The stay-at-home lockdown orders has certainly changed the way I cook. First, I was lucky enough to be able to stock up on fresh chicken, pork and even a bit of bacon from Goodness Grows Farm, along with lots of fresh or salted/fermented/dried vegetables, noodles and rice from the Chinese market. Secondly, my daughter challenged us to two weeks of vegetarian cooking. Had to start over a few times after realizing that just because it's tofu doesn't mean it's vegetarian (fish sauce, oyster sauce, Worchestershire sauce). Thirdly, online MasterClass with Gordon Ramsay. While I have always loved mushrooms, I did not ever expect that I could cook them in a way that makes them taste like bacon. And the ones that are starting to dry out in the paper bag in the fridge have a head start. Plus, the way he uses every scrap of food ("I see it as another portion", "all the flavor's in the peel") and raves about the cooking liquids most people would discard ("you simply cannot buy this kind of flavor"). That and becoming Instagram friends with the @foodwastefeast sisters (after meeting Irene at Boston's MeiMei on our trip to cart my daughter home from college) has completely legitimized my tendency for saving all sorts of scraps and cooking juices for reuse in other dishes. 

Before I knew it, 6 weeks had gone by and I had not even touched the $60 worth of meat that I bought when the lockdown began. This past weekend, I thawed one of the pork shoulder halves, cutting off 14 ounces to use in a stir-fry while the rest of the shoulder was still mostly frozen. It's easier to slice meat when it is partially frozen, and once sliced, it thaws very quickly in marinade.
The front piece of this 5 pound half-shoulder yielded 14 oz after trimming off the thicker areas of fat.
I planned to use this stir-fry to serve on top of Suzhou-style double gold panfried noodle cakes. Ever since I posted my family recipe for this, my sister has been going through boxes of Quon Yick noodles, which she kindly shipped to me from California. She had been pairing it with all sorts of delectable creations of her own -- tomatoes, mushrooms, ground lamb or shredded pork with snow peas and bamboo -- and posting the photos on Facebook. 

My dad always served this with a pork, cabbage, bean sprouts stirfry, as the soft centers of the noodle cakes soak up the sauce even as the golden outer crusts remain crisp and crunchy. This give rise to a delectable eating experience: something that neither deep fried ultra thin egg noodles nor oil-tossed lo mein noodles can do.  I, however, had pretty slim pickings for vegetables -- I had used up all the broccoli, cauliflower, leafy green beet tops, the rest of the cabbage, all of the mushrooms, baby bok choy, spinach. So inspired by the photo of Helen Chen's pork and cucumber stir-fry in Breath of a Wok by Grace Young, I figured I could at least make the zucchini look like cucumber slices.
Marinating pork, sliced zucchini, purple carrot and garlic, rinsed and smashed Chinese fermented black beans.
I cooked the noodle cakes first. While my Dad always cooked one huge noodle cake, flipping the entire stainless steel pan up in the air, I found that individual sized noodle cakes could easily be flipped with a regular spatula, once the bottom had crisped up. The trick is to not peek too early, which causes the fragile early crispy layers to flake off the noodle and stay stuck to the pan. 

I was completely floored by how delicious the stir-fry came out. The pork was unbelievably tender -- I've made lots of pork stir-fries over the years but the flavor and texture was truly superior even in just an ad hoc stir-fry using ingredients at hand.  I now get what Michael Pollan said, that once you have tasted "better-raised" meats, it actually makes you want to eat meat less often. When the pandemic is over, I will no longer be buying grocery store meats raised in factory farms. Not sure why it took me so long, given that my kids had long been able to recognize when the chicken that I cooked came from the local farm instead of the supermarket...

After dinner, the shoulder was thawed enough to be broken down. The majority of the meat was cut into 1 inch thick strips and marinated overnight to make Chinese barbecue pork - another Grace Young recipe, this time from Stir-frying to the Sky's Edge. I was not too concerned with getting everything off the bone, as that would be frozen to make future homemade ramen. The fat trimmed from the meat was rendered slowly with the assistance of some water to make tasty cracklings, which we immediately ate before I could take any photos, and lard, frozen for future pastries. 

Click here to view the gallery of dishes: "One Pork Shoulder, Many Meals", which will be updated as the rest of this shoulder is used. 

Love2Chow Pork Slivers & Vegetables in Black Bean Sauce  

12-14 oz pork (butt, country ribs, chops), cut into ¼-inch matchsticks
½ Tbs. Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
½ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. toasted Asian sesame oil
½ tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch or potato starch

1 Tbs. neutral oil (safflower, sunflower, canola, corn, peanut)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. fermented Chinese black (soy)beans, rinsed, drained and smashed with a spoon
Optional: 1 square of baked five-spice dry tofu 五香豆腐乾, sliced thinly OR 3-4 dried shiitake caps, rehydrated, sliced into ¼ inch strips

1.5-2 cups of sliced vegetables
For example: 
¼ head of cabbage, shredded 
OR ½ medium zucchini (sliced lengthwise and then into angled ¼-inch slices) or one carrot sliced into angled 1/8-1/4 inch slices 
OR 1 red or orange bell pepper cut into ¼ inch wide strips 
OR bean sprouts and scallions/Chinese chives 韭菜
3 Tbs. water
¼ tsp. sugar

1.       Marinate pork slices in rice wine, salt, sesame oil, soy sauce and starch.
2.       Heat a 14-inch wok or a 12 inch frying pan over medium high heat until a drop of water evaporates in about 1 second. Add 1 Tbs oil and tip pan to distribute. Arrange pork and garlic in a single layer and allow to brown undisturbed for 1 minute.
3.       Add the black beans and stir. Add the optional dry tofu or mushrooms. Stir-fry until pork is about ¾ browned, with pink areas still visible. Transfer back to its marinating bowl.
4.       Add another Tbs oil to the hot wok. Stir-fry the vegetables, starting with the carrot or other firm vegetables that require longer cooking. Cook until vegetables are done to your taste (take a few out and taste them).
5.       Stir in pork, water and sugar for 1-2 minutes until pork is done. Serve immediately with brown rice or ladled over double-brown noodle cakes.

May 4, 2020

Note added 28 Dec 2022: Just made this again upon my daughter's request using pork, red-stem swiss chard, mushrooms, yellow pepper, and shredded cabbage-carrot mix. Absolutely delicious!  See Instagram Post for more photos. 

🐾    Bring water to boil while preparing the mise en place for the stirfry. Turn it down to simmer until ready. Return to boil and cook noodles using the recipe for Double-Gold Chow Mein Noodle Cake两面黄炒麵: https://www.love2chow.com/2019/08/suzhou-double-gold-chow-mein-preserving_20.html. If you choose to make several small noodle cakes, they can easily be flipped using a regular spatula. 

🐾    If serving with rice, start brown rice in the Instant Pot before beginning to prep ingredients or start white rice in a regular pot. Both will be done within the half hour needed to prepare the stir-fry.

Tag @love2chowblog and hashtag it #love2chow

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