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Recipes of China: Shanxi Fried Pork with Black Vinegar

By Clarissa Wei

Apr. 19, 2018
A plate with Shanxi fried pork with black vinegar from Lao Xi Noodle House
Shanxi fried pork with black vinegar from Lao Xi Noodle House

Foodie Clarissa Wei reveals how to perfect the smoky flavors of this tasty stir fry.

“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.”

Joe Tao pours Shanxi fried pork on a plate from a wok
Joe Tao, the owner of Lao Xi Noodle House

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.”

Joe Tao stir frying Shanxi fried pork
Black vinegar is the hallmark flavor of Shanxi fried pork

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

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pork loin, cut into quarter-sized strips
  • 1/4 cup onions
  • 1/4 cup garlic shoots
  • 1/2 inch knob of ginger, sliced finely
  • 1/2 cup rehydrated wood ear mushrooms
  • 5 tbsp black vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp of sweet potato starch
  • Canola oil
  • Water
For the marinade:

  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 4 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp sweet potato starch
Directions:

  1. Marinade the pork loin strips in the marinade sauce.
  2. Massage the meat until it is tender.
  3. Heat a wok on high fire. When the wok is hot, add about 2 cups of canola oil. Wait until it hits about 350 F.
  4. Briefly sauté the pork loin for just a couple of minutes. Note: this is not a deep fry dish, the pork should be gently cooked in the oil and taken out before it gets crispy.
  5. Scoop out the pork and drain the oil on a sieve.
  6. Empty the wok of excess oil, add about 1 tbsp of canola oil. Turn up heat to medium
  7. Throw in the onions, garlic shoots, and ginger and sauté briefly until you can smell the aromatics.
  8. Add in the pork, wood ear mushrooms, 4 tbsp of black vinegar, 2 tbsp of soy sauce, and 2 tsp of dark soy sauce.
  9. In a separate small bowl, mix 1/2 tbsp of sweet potato starch with 1 tbsp of water. Then add it to the wok.
  10. Add about 1/4 cup of water. Adjust accordingly, depending on how dry the stir fry is.
  11. Turn off the heat. Add 1 tbsp of black vinegar.
  12. Serve by itself or over noodles.

Lao Xi Noodle House: 600 Live Oak Ave, Arcadia, CA 91006

Hungry for more? Follow Clarissa’s journey through China as she uncovers authentic dishes and cultural insight.

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