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Sichuan Pork With Peppers And Peanuts

This is another recipe, adapted from Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge by Grace Young (Simon & Schuster 2010), for when you have just one egg white to dispose of. I've doubled the scale of the original recipe so it will serve four for dinner and accommodate a single large egg white (2 tablespoons); the oil is slightly less than doubled, as oil doesn't scale the same way as other ingredients. Young notes elsewhere in her wonderful book that it's very important not to use too much egg white when you're velveting pieces of meat, as they won't absorb the coating well if there's too much. I prefer 2-inch-long (1/3-inch wide) strips of pork and pepper to cubes, but either will work.

T. Susan Chang for NPR
Sichuan Pork With Peppers And Peanuts
T. Susan Chang for NPR

Makes 4 main-course servings with rice

2 pounds lean pork shoulder or butt, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 tablespoons egg white, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine* or dry sherry

4 teaspoons cornstarch

4 teaspoons minced, plus 2 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 tablespoons soy sauce

4 teaspoons Chinkiang* or balsamic vinegar

3 1/2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1 cup diced red onions

3 or 4 teaspoons chili bean sauce*

2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares

1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts

In a medium bowl combine the pork, egg whites, 2 tablespoons of the rice wine, cornstarch, the 4 teaspoons minced garlic, sugar, 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Stir to combine. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, vinegar and the remaining 4 tablespoons rice wine.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil, add the red onions and the remaining 2 tablespoons sliced garlic, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 1 minute or until the onion wilts. Push the onion mixture to the sides of the wok, carefully add the pork and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the pork begin to sear. Add the chili bean sauce and stir-fry 2 minutes, mixing the onion and pork back together, or until the pork is lightly browned but not cooked through. Transfer the pork to a plate.

Swirl the remaining 2 tablespoons oil into the wok. Add the bell peppers, sprinkle on the remaining teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, reduce the heat to medium and stir-fry 2 minutes or until the bell peppers begin to soften. Return the pork with any juices that have accumulated to the wok, increase the heat to high, swirl the rice wine mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, or until the pork is just cooked through. Stir in the peanuts and serve.

*Shaoxing rice wine is the wine used to marinate protein in practically every Chinese stir-fry. It is available at Asian markets and some well-stocked supermarkets. However, dry sherry works just as well. Chinkiang vinegar, or "black" vinegar, is a type of fermented rice vinegar. It's also easily found at Asian groceries. Balsamic vinegar is a possible substitute, but by no means an exact one. For chili bean sauce, check the ingredients: Ideally, the first two will be chilies and "broad beans" or fava beans. Chilies and soybeans — an easier-to-find combination — are fine, too. If you cannot find any kind of chili bean sauce, use your favorite chili paste.