Stir-Fried Cucumber and Pork with Golden Garlic

Two home runs in a row! This dish (p. 73) came out superb.

I was a little wary of this one what with the deep-frying of the chopped garlic as a first step. Both the garlic-infused oil and fried garlic are used in the dish, so the step could be considered necessary. I decided I would use my wok to do the frying. Apparently frying foods is a good way to help the patina develop which is something I greatly desire.

Pork loin, English cucumber, garlic, and ginger.

So, I broke out the trusty thermometer, put some oil in the wok and fired up the burner. I wasn’t sure whether to put the oil in before or after the wok had heated, but I guess it didn’t much matter. The oil became hot very quickly, shooting well beyond the 280º mark in a what seemed like the blink of an eye. I tried to let it cool off a bit and lower the heat, but eventually became impatient and dropped the garlic in anyway.

I let it cook for about 45 seconds, which ended up being too long. After letting it cool, I had a little taste of a bigger piece of garlic and it had formed a very bitter taste. Definitely overcooked. Rather than despair, I just chopped up more garlic and decided I would stir-fry it in with the ginger slices at the very beginning of the dish. This turned out very well and I don’t think I missed out on too much garlic flavor due to my error.

Caution: Deliciousness at work.

After that, it’s on to cooking the pork. Here I made another deviation by using pork loin rather than pork shoulder. This made trimming fat and cutting a bit easier. It turned out to be a fine choice, as the meat was tender and flavorful.

Once the meat is mostly browned, it was in with all that cucumber. I’d never used English cucumber before, so this was something I had looked forward to tasting. It wilted down beautifully, almost taking on a translucent quality while still holding it’s form. I also made little stripes on the skin with a vegetable peeler, as I had seen in the cookbook. It made for a very pretty end result.

When all was said and done, this dish turned out excellent! A definite candidate for a repeat meal.

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What I Would Do Differently

  • Keep a much closer eye on the deep frying temperature and really nail that 280º mark. I’d also only cook the garlic for about 30 seconds so as not to burn it.
  • I would peel the ginger before slicing. When I prepared it, I left the skin on figuring they’d be easy to pick out of the dish. The reality is that they blend right in after cooking and it’s easy to get a chunk of skinned ginger in a mouthful. I rather enjoy eating ginger, but not so much the skin.

Next on the Menu: Stir-Fried Garlic Eggplant with Pork

Stir-Fried Curried Beef

This one is going to be tough. I don’t think I have a sufficient vocabulary to describe how awesome this dish (p.86) was. It was good, mkay?

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The supporting cast. Conspicuously absent is curry powder, the real star of the show.

When I took the above photo, I figured those items were the primary ingredients. My mistake. The aromas coming off this dish as it was cooking were pretty epic, especially after adding the healthy dose of curry powder. Man, did that kick things up. The beef and onions turned a glorious bright yellow hue and I knew this was gonna be a good one.

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Red onion and garlic.

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Beef marinated with ginger, soy, rice wine, cornstarch, salt, and pepper.

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Curry explosion!

After the onions and beef fully incorporate with the curry, it was in with the tomatoes and peas.

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After a brief stir-fry, we stir in our mixture of chicken broth, dark soy, and rice wine to finish the dish.  Upon tasting the finished product, I was blown away. The flavor was immense. The beef was tender. The curry sauce sublime. Easily one of my favorite recipes so far. Will definitely make again for family or friends.

What I Would Do Differently

  • Cut the beef slices a bit smaller. They were a little long in the end, which made some bites a bit unwieldy.
  • Allow less time in the wok for the tomato portion to maintain their structure. Some of them just disintegrated.
  • I’d have some friends over to share in the deliciousness… wait. On second thought, leftovers!

Next on the Menu: Stir-Fried Cucumber and Pork with Golden Garlic

Spicy Orange Chicken

Another game night. Another adventure. Tonights entertainment: Settlers of Catan.



Settlers of Catan is a crazy popular and fun strategy board game of territory and resources. You build roads and settlements, which eventually become cities, all the while collecting resources to spend on expansion or development cards that gain you Victory Points. The first to 10 points wins the game (which I epically failed to do tonight). It’s a great game. Family friendly and good for ages 10+. You should check it out, if you’re into that sort of thing.

This game night was again held at my friend Sara and Darren’s place. If you read the last game night entry, you’ll remember that it was bit of an adventure cooking at their place.  Tonight, a different adventure awaits us as we cook Spicy Orange Chicken (p. 119)! The exclamation mark is deserved. This was very, very good.

Not the best ingredients picture, I know. Orange zest, marinated chicken, cornstarch slurry, chili garlic sauce. Not pictured: scallions, tomato

Not the best ingredients picture, I know. I was having an off day. Orange zest, marinated chicken, cornstarch slurry, chili garlic sauce. Not pictured: scallions, tomato


As for the adventure… well… I sort of, um… forgot my wok. Ugh. But all was not lost! I had remembered the rice maker! Eh. Not that helpful.

Fortunately, our hosts had a large skillet that, although far from perfect, was serviceable for our current situation.

Sear, baby, sear!

So this recipe calls for a brief marinade of the chicken in a mixture of ginger, rice wine, soy, sugar, and some pepper (including Sichuan peppercorn). You could really taste the marinade in the final dish. The first step is briefly stir-frying some ginger and then carefully add the chicken, allowing it to achieve a nice sear. In with the zest and bean sauce (chili sauce) and stir-fry another minute. Add tomatoes and combine. In with the slurry and finally finish with scallions.


Even with the absence of the wok, we all thought this turned out really well. We accompanied it with rice and roasted brussel sprouts, which were excellent.


And there you have it. Spicy Orange Chicken! The flavor was very nice and the ginger and chicken really come through. I would definitely try this again.

Mmm, mmm, good.

What I Would Do Differently

  • Hmm, nope. Can’t think of anything. I definitely didn’t forget anything important. No, no, nothing at all.
  • On a serious note, I would definitely try this with the chili bean sauce next time around to see how that might add to the already bold flavors of this dish.

Next on the Menu: Stir-Fried Curried Beef

Stir-fried Eggs with Tomatoes

I really like the idea of this dish (p. 138). I love tomatoes. I love scrambled eggs. I love shallots and garlic. Pretty much all ingredients in this dish. But somehow, the reality of it just didn’t deliver.

Egg and basil, tomato, garlic, shallot, rice wine.

Egg and basil, tomato, garlic, shallot, rice wine.

From the outset, I was concerned whether this would have too much liquid involved. As such, I carefully deseeded the tomatoes and removed as much juice as I could by hand. The only other deviation from the recipe was using basil instead of cilantro, since I had it on hand and it goes well with eggs and tomatoes in general.

Basic procedure is to briefly stir-fry the garlic and shallot, add tomatoes and rice wine. After a minute or so, in with the egg and cilantro mixture (or basil, in this case). Cook just until the eggs are done.


Cook, damn you!

Unfortunately, even with my tomato cleaning, this still ended up being a runny mess. I did my best to salvage it by spooning it over some toast, but any real flavor remained trapped by the liquid in the bowl.

I’m pretty proficient with eggs and breakfast in general, so this was a disappointment. I could perhaps do a couple things differently, but I think that overall this is probably not something I’d try again.

Le sigh.

Le sigh.

What I Would Do Differently

  • I would let the tomatoes sit in a colander to really drain every ounce of liquid then dry them with a paper towel. The liquid here really was excessive and killed the dish.
  • Maybe use less tomato in general.
  • Pray.

Next on the Menu: Spicy Orange Chicken

Classic Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp

I love shrimp. Truly one of my favorite things to eat. I can easily eat a whole pound of shrimp with just cocktail sauce. You won’t find me more than 5 feet away from the shrimp tray at any party.

So I get pretty excited when I see a shrimp recipe coming up. The Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp (p. 166), was no different. And I had every right to be excited. It was delicious.

It was also super simple to make. Stir-fry minced ginger, garlic, and jalapeño for about 10 seconds. Add shrimp to sear. Finish stir-frying with a little added oil and a mixture of salt and fresh ground sichuan peppercorn. Voilà!


I put in a little more jalapeño than was called for, but it still turned out fairly mild. It was, however, packed with loads of flavor from the garlic and ginger.

My apologies for not having an in-progress photo. I simply forgot. Just imagine shrimp cooking in a wok.

I made this with some brown rice. Although the shrimp turned out great, there was little in the way of sauce because it is a dry fry. I had to bolster the rice with a bit of soy sauce. Still, I was very pleased with how this turned out. I’ll likely make it again.


What I Would Do Differently

  • If serving with rice, I’d recommend trying to inject some flavor into the rice itself. Maybe use chicken stock instead of water along with some salt. Or add some spices to the water before cooking.
  • I think this recipe is perfectly fine, but if I were in the mood for more of a spicy kick I might incorporate some red pepper flakes.
  • Maybe a touch less salt. Perhaps the salt baths at the beginning were enough.

Next on the Menu: Stir-Fried Eggs with Tomatoes

Stir-Fried Ginger Beef

The first beef dish. Finally. I’ve been waiting for this.

The preparation for Stir-Fried Ginger Beef (p. 71)  was really very simple, as you can probably see from the picture below. It mainly consisted of marinating the meat in a mixture of corn starch, rice wine, soy sauce and ginger. Then some scallions chopped into 2″ lengths along with chopped pickled ginger and an oyster sauce mixture.


The smell of the searing meat was awesome. The ginger really fills the air. I’ve been growing partial to these recipes that have a heavy dose of ginger in them.


Once the meat is seared, it’s in with the oyster sauce, followed by the scallions and pickled ginger. Stir-fry until the meat is done.


I thought this recipe was good, but it wasn’t my favorite. I think the oyster sauce slightly overtook the ginger leaving the dish slightly one-noted. Still, the sear on the meat was good, texture was good, and the overall flavor was good. It just wasn’t jump-out-of-your-chair-and-punch-a-nun good.


What I Would Do Differently

  • Perhaps stir-fry an additional tablespoon of fresh ginger before adding the beef. This might help the flavor compete better with the oyster sauce.
  • On the same note, perhaps more pickled ginger. Although, I probably wouldn’t try adding more of both.
  • I’d cook the scallions a bit less so they maintained their texture a bit more.

Next on the Menu: Classic Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp

Stir-Fried Garlic Spinach

This is an extremely simple recipe . Probably the easiest in the book from what I’ve read so far. It is also very tasty. You’ll find it on page 202.

As the first dish that I made in my wok, it was still a little bit hectic with getting all the spinach in before the garlic burned. I initially thought that I did just that, but most of the garlic survived and imparted a nice flavor to the spinach.


This would be perfect as a side to any of the other recipes in this book or otherwise. I served mine with some forbidden rice and sautéed salmon. It was delicious. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of this.


Definitely one of my favorites so far. I can see myself making this as an easy side in the future.


What I Would Do Differently

  • The second time around, I added a bit more salt than I should have. I recommend sticking strictly to the recipe here so you don’t accidentally mess it up.

Next on the Menu: Stir-Fried Ginger Beef

Yin Yang Beans

I’ve been trying to get around to this one for over a week. The wait was worth it. This is a simple recipe with few ingredients that just compliment each other wonderfully.


There are a few places I deviated from the recipe (p. 206), but I don’t feel they really took anything away from the result. In some regards they added to it. The dish was full of taste and texture from start to finish.

The first deviation was a total lack of scallions. I simply forgot to get them. The second deviation is that I decided to make this as a main dish, so I used 4 oz of ground pork rather than the 1 oz  that the recipe calls for. The third is that I tripled (at least) the dried chili flakes that the recipe calls for. You know that I like things spicy by now.


This turned out extremely well. I really loved it. Almost on the level of the Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms that I previously made. Intense flavor. Great heat. Just delicious.


What I Would Do Differently

  • Next time I make this I’ll be sure to include the scallions. I think they would provide some flavor and texture that this may have lacked with just the pork.
  • Although I was very happy with the pork level I chose for a main, if I were to make this as a side dish I’d definitely cut down on it. Most would probably be happy with the 1 oz the recipe calls for. I’d probably do 2 oz for a side.

The Wok

I’ve decided that it would be kind of cool to document the changes in my wok. I wish I had done this at the start, but I think we’re early along in the process for there to be noticeable changes.  A wok is supposed to be treated like a cast iron skillet. Over time, it develops a patina — a sort of blackened, non-stick coating. This imparts a lot of the flavor that Grace Young describes as wok hay (“the breath of the wok”) in her cookbooks.


I was a little concerned with my wok’s advancement up until this point, but after cooking today’s recipe I noticed a difference. The silver scratch marks at the bottom of the wok had started to diminish and were beginning to darken. Maybe this is the first stage in the development of the sought-after patina that Grace describes. Here’s to hoping.

Next on the Menu: Stir-Fried Garlic Spinach

Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum

So, this is the second time that I’ve made this dish (which you can find on page 180 of Grace Young’s awesome Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge). The first try went well enough, but I had a few drinks beforehand and simply forgot to take pictures of it. This is a shame, because I didn’t really care much for this recipe the first time around. I felt that it lacked flavor and personality. Also, I generally don’t feel that ketchup should be used for anything outside of hot dogs and BBQ sauce.


When I first made this dish, I figured the lack of flavor was probably due to not using enough salt. I doubled the salt the recipe calls for on this go around. The other thing I have to confess is that I used shrimp that were pealed and de-veined rather than having the shell on. It’s just what my local store had and it was convenient. You could argue that having the shell on would impart more flavor, but I doubt it would make much of a difference. The shrimp flavor came out fine in both attempts. It was other balancing flavors that were lacking.



So, there it is. I doubt I will be making this dish again. But if I did…

What I Would Do Differently

  • Even more salt. The recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon after you cook the shrimp for 30 secs to a minute. I doubled that when I made it the second time. Maybe adding more salt when you add the vegetables would improve things. For what it’s worth, I doubt it.
  • I’m unfamiliar with Trinidadian food, so I don’t really know whether they like their stuff spicy or mild. I would like more spice in this. As such, I would put a bit of my own twist on it with something totally uncalled for. That’s just how I do.

Next on the Menu: Yin Yang Beans

Kung Pao Chicken

I made this dish for the inaugural evening of what I hope will become a monthly or bimonthly game night. Tonight’s menu: Carcassonne.



And also Kung Pao Chicken (p. 113)! The evening started off with the intention of a quick stir-fry dinner so we could get to the gaming as soon as possible. Given the common wisdom about good intentions, you’ve probably guessed that the cooking didn’t go 100% according to plan.


Subtle foreshadowing…

First was the rice. I brought a new bag of white rice that nobody was familiar with. The idea was to get the rice cooked first and then proceed with the stir-fry. My hosts were also planning to prepare sauteed chard from their garden to go along with it. Needless to say, the new rice provided a sticking point. Wrong rice-to-water ratios and a failure to wash the rice ahead of time resulted in a botched first go. Wet and gummy. No bueno.


The ingredients.

This wasn’t the only do-over of the evening. Cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen can sometimes be an adventure. Sometimes that adventure involves pepper-spraying your hosts. With the best of intentions, of course.

This particular recipe calls for dried red peppers and crushed szechuan peppercorns. When it came time to begin the stir-fry, I heated the wok on the burner as per usual. Upon adding the peanut oil there was a great deal of smoke. I moved forward anyway, adding the pepper and szechuan peppercorn to the smoking oil. This created a great plume of peppery smoke within the kitchen, choking all those within, including myself. It was basically pepper spray.

I immediately removed this from the burner and into the sink. The peppers were charred black after just 5+ seconds in the wok. The heat potential of this stove was clearly far greater than what I had gotten used to at home.


When a problem comes along, you must wok it.

The lesson here: If your oil smokes, your wok is too hot. Apparently this is possible.

And so, with irritated eyes and heavy hearts, we began again. This time with much better results.


Before the chiles in too long, you must wok it.


Now wok it.


Into shape.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Kung Pao Chicken. I think it’s the peanuts. And also that I’ve only ever had it from heavily Americanized Chinese take-out restaurants. This recipe was different. The peanuts seemed much more subtle, adding just a bit of texture without overpowering everything. The flavor balance of the dish itself was great. We all really enjoyed it. And the chard was an excellent side. I’d go into more detail on that, but I drank too much wine and frankly forget what they did. I think some garlic was involved.


Shape it up. Get straight.


Go forward. Move ahead.


Now do a taste test. It’s not too late.

I will absolutely be trying this again. This recipe has won me over to Kung Pao Chicken… as long as I’m the one making it.


To wok it. Wok it good!

What I Would Do Differently

  • Try not to burn the hell out of everything.
  • More spice. I couldn’t make it to the asian market, so I substituted chile de arbol for the dried peppers. Most of the chiles sold in market here are of the Southwest or Mexican varieties. I’m not sure these carried the same amount of spicy kick. Next time I make this I’ll be sure to get the real deal so I can achieve the level of heat I crave. Or just double down on the recommended dosage.

Next on the Menu: Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum