Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the spring solar term in the Chinese calendar. In spite of the name for the festival we are still in the coldest period of the year. So it is appropriate that during this time of year we consume many of the foods preserved after the autumn harvest and hunting season during the twelfth month of the previous year.
It is then quite fitting that I am making dishes using the Chinese bacon I made last week for the Charcutepalooza February challenge. Chinese bacon has a wide range of uses. It can be used for main meat accompaniment for winter vegetables in a stir-fry dish or simply as flavor enhancer. Regardless of how it is being used the sweet cured flavor is definitely distinct and dominant. I love to use Chinese bacon not only because of the flavor but also as a reminder of the importance of meat preservation for year round consumption by our ancestors.
One dish that I’ve always enjoyed during the winter is a stir-fry of Chinese bacon with winter bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms. Winter bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms are two vegetables that are abundant during the winter period. They are often referred to as the “double winter” in Chinese cooking terms. Fresh winter bamboo shoots are currently available in New York’s Chinatown. To prepare them for cooking first cut the shoot in half lengthwise. Remove the fibrous outer leaves and retain only the tender heart of the shoot. Boil them in water for about twenty minutes then you are ready to use them in any recipe. As for the mushrooms I recommend that you use the dried variety. They have a much stronger flavor and will stand up to the Chinese bacon’s five-spice flavor.
So even though we still have to endure a little more cold weather, why not at least make it more tolerable by enjoying this delicious winter inspired dish.
Double Winter Stir-Fried Five-Spice Bacon (臘肉炒雙冬)
- 8 ounces five-spice cured bacon
- 6 ounces bamboo shoots
- 2 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms
- 6 oz. garlic greens (蒜苗) or leeks
- 1 red chili optional
- 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine (紹興料酒)
- Cut off the required amount of meat from a strip of five-spice cured bacon. Boil it in a wok with enough water to cover the meat completely. Cook for about 15 minutes. Drain the bacon and cool. Cut the bacon against the grain into slices of about 1/16 inch thick. Set aside.
- Rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms in warm water for about 30 minutes. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and cut them into halves. Set them aside. Cut the bamboo shoots into 1/16 inch thick slices and set aside. Remove the dark green portion of the garlic greens. Cut the light green and white portion on the bias into 1/8 inch thick slices and set aside. Cut the red chili on the bias into 1/8 inch thick slices and set aside.
- Swirls the vegetable oil into a hot wok to coat the bottom completely. Add the bacon to the wok and stir-fry until slightly crisp. Add the garlic slices and continue to stir-fry for another minute or so. Add the bamboo shoots, shiitake mushroom and cooking wine to the wok and continue to stir-fry for another two minutes. Add the garlic greens, red chili, salt and pepper and quickly stir-fry until the garlic greens are just beginning to wilt or about one minute. Plate and serve immediately.