A Culinary Trip Down Memory Lane
In the picturesque resort town of Liberty, NY, the Cantonese pork chops: A salt and pepper”p experience defined my formative years. Each month, as our white Chevrolet station wagon made the two-hour pilgrimage to Manhattan’s Chinatown, a palpable excitement filled the air. These excursions were reminiscent of chapters from a vintage novel, but instead of an old Western town, the vibrant avenues of Chinatown played host to our adventures. Our day was predictable yet thrilling: savoring dim sum, familial chatter and laughter at our grandparents’ snug abode, followed by a shopping adventure in the local stores bursting with novelties. And the day’s crowning moment? A sumptuous Sunday feast, with the much-awaited Cantonese salt and pepper pork chops taking center stage.
Perfecting the Dish: A Flavorful Tradition
Every time we dine in a classic Cantonese eatery, we can’t help but order Salt and Pepper Pork Chops. While there are myriad ways to prepare this dish, the Cantonese style has always stolen our hearts. It’s a matter of setting the right culinary expectations. Just imagine craving a signature dish from a favorite restaurant, only to be served something that tastes different. Delicious, yes, but not the nostalgic flavor you yearned for. This dish shines brightest when the pork is juicy, with the right amount of fat. And while restaurants often serve them bone-in and thinly sliced, our homemade version opts for boneless cutlets for ease of preparation.
Recipe for Sizzling Cantonese Pork Chops
For the Pork and Marinade:
- 1 pound pork shoulder, sliced about 1/3 inch thick (approx. 4-5 inches across)
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 ½ tablespoons Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/8 teaspoon five spice powder (optional)
For the Batter:
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons oil
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 cups peanut oil (for frying)
- 3 cloves garlic (finely sliced)
- 3 long hot green peppers (sliced into thin rounds)
- 1 long hot red pepper (sliced into thin rounds)
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground white pepper
- In a large bowl, marinate the pork with the ingredients listed under ‘Pork and Marinade’. Ensure each piece is well-coated. Allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes.
- Shift the pork to a side of the bowl, then blend in the batter ingredients to create a smooth mixture. Make sure the pork slices are uniformly coated with the batter.
- Warm the peanut oil in a pot until it reaches 250 degrees. Fry the garlic until slightly golden (30 seconds). Transfer the garlic to paper towels, ensuring it doesn’t turn too brown to avoid a bitter taste.
- Elevate the oil temperature to 380 degrees. Fry the pork in portions until it takes on a golden hue. Let them drain on paper towels.
- Preserve 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok, heating it until it smokes slightly. Stir-fry the peppers, salt, and white pepper until they release a tempting aroma (around 15-30 seconds). Incorporate the fried pork chops and garlic, giving it a good toss. Serve piping hot with a bowl of steamed white rice and enjoy the explosion of flavors!