“Everyone in Shanxi knows how to cook this,” Joe Tao insists. Tao is the owner of Lao Xi Noodle House in Arcadia, California—an ode to the plethora of noodles that hail from the Northern Chinese province of Shanxi. While noodles can be found all around China, Shanxi is known for its variations (there are up to seven different types of wheat noodles in the province alone) and its love of black vinegar.
Tao and his wife, Ellen, have generously shared a recipe for their Shanxi fried pork (过油肉). It’s a thoughtful stir-fry that’s simple to make at home.
“While stir-fried pork can be found everywhere in China, our provincial version leads with black vinegar,” Tao says. “That makes a big difference.”
It’s a dish that originated from the Ming Dynasty and historically reserved for the aristocratic. Traditionally, pork loin used to be the most expensive cut of meat and was hard to come by. Today, pork is a commodity but, in order to do this dish justice, Tao insists on using only the tenderest parts. Aromatics like onions, ginger, and garlic shoots give the pork flavor, and the wood ear mushrooms add another depth of texture. Tao says bamboo shoots or sea cucumbers are other ingredients that can be thrown in for good measure, but are completely optional.
“The richer families would put in sea cucumber. Seafood was a sign of wealth,” he notes.
But it’s the black vinegar that carries this dish home. Black vinegar in Shanxi is aged and known for its malty and smoky aroma. It’s a condiment that has been in the region for nearly 4,000 years and has become the hallmark flavor note for Shanxi. In fact, the term lao xi’er (which the restaurant is named for) means “vinegar addict.”
The quantity of vinegar can be adjusted based on personal taste. Spoon the final product over a fresh bowl of noodles or on white rice. Noodles, though, should be the preferred carb of choice. Here are the instructions:
Shanxi Fried Pork with Black Vinegar
Cooking time: 10 minutes to prep, one minute to fry
Lao Xi Noodle House: 600 Live Oak Ave, Arcadia, CA 91006