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Recipe: Yunnan-style lotus root and pork

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Editor's note: Roz Weitzman has been working in China for seven years as an international school principal. An avid cook, Roz is in the process of epublishing a cookbook called "Secrets of Chinese Comfort Food – Simple Everyday Cooking."

Since moving to Kunming she has begun to explore the cooking traditions of Yunnan. GoKunming will be posting her Yunnan-inspired recipes every other week for the remainder of 2012. More of Roz's recipes can be viewed on her blog (requires proxy) and she can be reached at roz[at]candismail[dot]com[dot]cn. Bon Appétit.

The lotus is revered in China for its beauty, nutritional value and health benefits. Every part of the plant is used, either in Chinese cooking or Traditional Chinese Medicine. It contains many vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. The lotus root is a long, round, beige vegetable with a crunchy texture and tangy-sweet flavor. It is most visually appealing when sliced into rounds that resemble wagon wheels.

The lotus root dishes served in Beijing provided the inspiration for this dish. I have added dried chilies for more of a Yunnan flavor. In some restaurants around Kunming the dish is served with fresh chilies for more heat, and you can also add Sichuan peppercorns for a numbness factor.

Ingredients

5-6 inch piece of lotus root, peeled and cut into ¼ inch or thinner slices.
200 grams of pork (any cut will do, but I recommend pork tenderloin), cut into thin slices
1 one inch piece ginger, cut into matchstick slivers
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons and ½ cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons and ½ cup cooking oil
2-5 dried red chilies, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ red pepper and ½ green pepper, diced
½ small carrot, cut into matchstick slivers
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt to taste

Method

Submerge lotus root slices in a bowl of water with one tablespoon of rice vinegar added while you are preparing the other ingredients. This will prevent the lotus root from turning a dark, unappetizing color.

In a small bowl, mix together pork, ginger, cooking wine, soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside to marinate and tenderize for 15 minutes.

Heat the wok, add three tablespoons of oil and heat the oil. Add the chilies and reduce the heat to low. The number of dried chilies you use will depend on the amount of spice you want for the dish. When the aroma of the chilies has been infused into the oil, remove them from the oil to a bowl.

Add the pork mixture to the chili-scented oil in the wok and stir fry to cook the meat – about 5 minutes. Remove the pork from the wok and place in the same bowl as the chilies. Reserve the oil in the wok.

Place the remaining cornstarch in a bowl. Remove the lotus root from the water – no need to rinse. Place the lotus root into the bowl with the corn starch and lightly coat, shaking off the excess.

Reduce the wok heat to low and add 4-5 slices of lotus root at a time to the reserved oil. Fry on either side until light golden brown – the slices should still be crunchy. Remove cooked slices to a bowl and repeat until all of them are finished.

Using the remaining oil in the wok, stir fry the garlic, red pepper and carrot until crisp yet still brightly colored – about 2 minutes. Next place the pork, chilies and lotus root back into the wok. Add the chicken bouillon granules and sesame oil and heat for one minute. Toss in cilantro and stir fry for one more minute. Salt to taste.

Serve hot with steamed rice. Makes four servings.

Enjoy!

Images: Roz Weitzman

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