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Adding meat


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A couple days ago I posted a technique for making stir fried green beans in a thread about Chinese vegetarian cooking. Wanted to revisit that same recipe and explain how to add meat.


After cooking the vegetables until they are barely done (still crunchy, not soggy) scoop them out into a dish. Fry the meat and add back the vegetables. That's the short version. Here's a little more detail, with focus on how to do these things in China, not in Dallas or London.

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This is a piece of pork loin. It's enough to make two dinner portions. I often cook for one, but always make enough for left overs to have the next day.

In the market it's called li ji/里脊。Don't need to specify pork, because most of what you see in the market will be pork, unless you're in a Muslim area. Beef costs over twice as much. This piece cost 8 Yuan. 一块儿里脊。It's real lean; if you prefer a cut with more fat, chose one of those instead.


Wash it under running water and blot it dry. Put it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so and it will be easier to cut. Don't actually freeze it. Make sure your knife is sharp. You can cut it in small slices 肉片 or you can cut it into slivers 肉丝。Here I've cut it into 肉片。It will be more tender if you remove any tendon or fascia before cutting it up. This tough membrane is sometimes referred to as "silverskin" because of its appearance. It's hard to chew. Butchers here call it 筋膜 jin mo. Tease and pull it off, using your sharp knife 菜刀。


Mix these thin meat slices with yellow cooking wine 黄酒 and corn starch. The best tasting yellow wine (not baijiu 白酒) is generally agreed to be from 绍兴 Shaoxing, in Zhejiang. It's made from rice and is aged. In the west you can substitute rice wine or sherry. In China, corn starch can sometimes be hard to find. Use xiao fen 小粉 instead. It's made from wheat and serves the same purpose. When mixed with 绍兴酒 and 小粉 and allowed to stand a few (10 or 15) minutes, the meat becomes very tender. The 小粉 also provides the beginning of a gravy when fried. It thickens pan juices.


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This third snapshot above, on the right, is the meat after it has marinated about 10 minutes with the xiao fen and yellow wine. It will cook really fast ( one or two minutes.) Overcooking will tend to make it tough. Adding salt before cooking will also make it tough, so don't do that. Put a couple tablespoons of good oil in your wok, get it hot, add the meat. Cook until most of the pink is gone, then add the vegetables and finish it off for a minute or two. Adjust the seasoning and serve. If using MSG, add it near the end and only use a little (on the order of a quarter teaspoon.) 


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You now have a tasty one-dish meal, with or without meat. Serve with steamed rice.

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The above post is already long enough, so I won't add to it. But I did want to mention that if you are in a rush, the butchers in the market will cut your meat up for no extra cost. The drawback is that it may not be as clean as if you do it at home. 


They used to do it by hand, but now usually use a machine. You can ask to have it ground fine like hamburger, and that is called 磨肉, or you can ask them to cut it into small slices, again with the machine. That is called 磨肉片。In my (Kunming) market, they will wash the meat first if you ask, but the washing water and washing basin are sometimes questionable. My older Chinese housewife friends recommend doing it at home.


Best not to buy ready-ground or already cut up meat, because it is usually made with undesirable scraps and left over bits, plus it may have been standing around for a while. Select the meat you would like, with the amount of fat you prefer, and then have it cut or ground to order or do it at home.


Along the same lines, addressing meat safety, my older Chinese housewife friends advise buying it early in the day. Meat that you buy in late afternoon has been outside on the butcher's wooden table all day getting ripe and being visited by inquisitive flies.

Shopping early is particularly important in the Summer. Yes, I realize I sound like your mother.

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#5 -- @gato -- "Reflect the fascia using blunt and sharp dissection." Haha!


Over and above just giving a recipe, what I had in mind by these recent cooking posts was to pass on some "How to survive and thrive in China" tips and advice.

Being able to buy fresh food in the market and then fix it in my own kitchen has made my life here much more enjoyable. Of course, not everyone has time or inclination to fool with cooking their own food. But if one does, it can work out favorably. Can improve the quality of your China experience.

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