As you know I’m mad for anything Sichuan and this time around it’s Sichuan Pork Tenderloin.
A recent post on Sichuan Chicken Wings (see here) was a big hit. All due to the fiery spiced Sichuan marinade my friend from Shanghai passed on to me which I now consider a building block of Sichuan cookery. It not only works beautifully with chicken, but with pork, beef, and fish as well.
Rather than resorting to the usual wok stir frying that tends to turn even the tenderest of meats into rubbery strips I opted for the western approach of high temperature roasting that produces a succulent tender juicy flesh. The pork Tenderloin is roasted along with cabbage and apples and sauced with a marinade reduction that delivers an easy Sichuan meal with all the refinement of a Michelin starred restaurant in China coming right out of your own kitchen.
A friend of mine who had tasted the Sichuan chicken wings at a dinner party at my house was all ready to try making the wings at home until he read the recipe and decided “it was just too complicated.” Actually it is not at all complicated and I urge you not to be discouraged by the list of perhaps unfamiliar ingredients. With the ingredients on hand the marinade can be made in five minutes. All the ingredients are available in your nearest Asian market and in some cases supermarkets. Once the ingredients are stored in your pantry you are ready for an extended adventure with Sichuan cookery.
Sichuan Pork Tenderloin – East meets West serves 4 to 6
- 2 pork tenderloins approximately 16 0z/450 g each
- 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, lightly toasted
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly toasted
- 5 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 5 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine
- 4 tablespoons Chinkiang black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon red chile oil (see note)
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried red chile flakes
- ½ teaspoon five spice powder
- cabbage and apples (recipe below)
- Sichuan pepper sauce (recipe below)
Lightly toast the Sichuan peppercorns and cumin seeds together in a small pan over low heat. Once aromatic remove from the heat and promptly transfer to a mortar and set aside to cool. When cool coarsely grind and set aside.
In a bowl combine the ground Sichuan pepper and cumin seed mix, soy sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine, Chinkiang black vinegar, red chile oil, garlic, ginger, white pepper, and chile flakes. Whisk the ingredients together and stir in the 5 spice powder.
Set aside half of the marinade to use later to make the sauce.
Select a bowl large enough to hold the pork tenderloins snugly. Pour the remaining half of the marinade into the bowl and add the pork tenderloins. Press the tenderloins into the marinade while massaging the marinade into the flesh. Turn the tenderloins over and press them firmly into the marinade until they are completely covered, stirring in a little water if needed. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for several hours.
Remove the marinated tenderloins from the fridge and bring to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 475 f/245 c with the rack set to the second level from the bottom of the oven.
Select a roasting pan large enough to hold both the pork tenderloins and the cabbage and apples.
Place tenderloins in the center of the roasting pan lengthwise without touching. Place the cabbage and apple mixture around the tenderloins and spoon marinade over and around the tenderloins. Place the tray in the oven and roast for about 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the tenderloins reaches 140 f/60 c. Do not over roast! Promptly remove the tray from the oven, loosely tent with foil and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Cabbage and Apples:
- 1 large head of green cabbage
- 4 firm apples
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut the head into quarters lengthwise. Remove the cores and thinly slice the cabbage and place in a large mixing bowl.
Peel the apples and quarter lengthwise. Remove the cores and slice each quarter into very thin slices then divide the slices in half and add to the bowl of cabbage. Toss together until the apples are evenly mixed into the cabbage. Drizzle the olive oil over the mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the lemon juice over all and toss until well combined. Set aside until you are ready to place it around the pork tenderloins for roasting.
Sichuan Pepper Sauce:
- reserved marinade
- 1 ½ cups stock
- 2-3 small dried red chilies
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons corn starch
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons cold water
Place the reserved marinade in a saucepan and add the stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a rolling simmer. Add the dried chilies and simmer until reduced by about a third.
Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and stir into the cold water until the cornstarch is completely dissolved.
While stirring the sauce slowly start adding the cornstarch mixture and continuing to stir. The sauce will begin to thicken within a minute or so. When the sauce has the consistency of thin glaze you can stop adding the cornstarch mixture. Continue to stir another minute.Then remove from the sauce from the heat and set aside until you are ready to serve.
Reheat over low heat jut before serving.
Transfer the roasted tenderloins to a cutting board and using a very sharp knife thinly slice each tenderloin diagonally across the grain of the meat.
Spoon portions of the cabbage and apples onto individual plates and lay 4 to 5 slices of tenderloin overlapping atop the cabbage.Spoon the warm Sichuan sauce over the tenderloin slices and garnish with the red chilies if you like for visual effect. These chilies are very very HOT and should only be eaten by those are fearless chile fiends.
Recommended: serve with Thai Jasmine rice scented with kaffir lime leaves.
Note: Red Chile Oil:(hong you) which means red oil in Mandarin is sometimes available in Asian markets, but if not you can easily make your own.
Place ¼ cup of coarsely ground dried red chile flakes or small whole dried red chilies in a small stainless bowl. Heat 1 cup olive, peanut or corn oil over medium heat until nearly smoking. Turn off the heat and let the oil cool for a couple of minutes and then pour the oil over the chilies, which will sizzle at first. Stir and set aside to cool. Once cool transfer the mixture to a bottle or jar and seal with the lid. Store in a dark place for a week or so to infuse the oil with the essence of the chile. Refrigerate for long term storage.