Secrets of Stir Fry: Long Hot Peppers & Pork 小椒炒肉丝
Today’s dish of 小椒炒肉丝 (xiǎo jiāo chǎo ròu sī) stir fried long hot peppers with shredded pork is a homey stir fry with many regional variations across China. I’m sharing all the secrets to perfect stir fry in any home kitchen. The meat strips 肉丝 remain flavorful and tender, like the best Chinese restaurant versions. The peppers retain their crunch, a perfect contrast to the tender meat.
These stir fried long hot peppers are one the most famous 小炒 (xiǎo cháo) or home-style stir fries. There are only a few ingredients; the seasonings and aromatics are all from my essential ingredients series.
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Perfectly Tender Meat Threads 肉丝
There are a few good options for cuts: boneless pork loin and pork tenderloin are my top choice. Whole boneless pork loins or tenderloins from Costco are both economical and tender for stir fries. For extra tender and flavorful pork, splurge on 黑猪肉 (hēi zhū ròu) Berkshire aka Kurobuta pork.
For beginners, pork is easier to stir fry than beef. However, if you don’t eat pork, try beef loin flap (flap steak). Beef sirloin is slightly tougher, but it’s the next best choice. You could also use boneless chicken thighs.
Have you ever ordered takeout stir fry and been disappointed by tough, chewy meat? In Chinese, we call that unpleasant fibrous texture 柴 (chái), literally “firewood”. Fear not! Read on for all the steps to achieve perfect stir fry: the meats are golden on the outside, yet soft and tender 嫩 (nèn) on the inside. If you follow these steps, you’ll never have tough stir fry again.
Julienne Meat Strips
This recipe is a perfect opportunity to practice your julienne knife skills. Slicing meat is always much easier if it’s still partially frozen: frozen enough that it’s still solid but soft enough to cut through. Thawing in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours works out well for a 6-12 oz portion; if using fresh meat, put it in the freezer for about an hour.
Cut 6 oz (170g) meat into 3mm thick slices, and then slice against the grain into 3mm strips. It’s important to cut against the grain, or the direction of the muscle fiber, in order to reduce the length of these fibers. This is the first step to perfectly tender shredded meat!
Marinate Julienned Meat
If you’re using beef, particularly sirloin, you can tenderize it by soaking it in 1/4 tsp baking soda with 3 Tbsp of water. Let is sit for 10-15 minutes, then rinse off the baking soda and lightly squeeze out the excess water. If you’re using pork or chicken, skip this step and marinate directly.
The marinade is a very traditional Chinese marinade for stir fry. Add 0.25 tsp kosher salt, 0.25 tsp dark soy sauce, 0.25 tsp of light soy sauce, 0.25 tsp white pepper, and 1 tsp of Shaoxing cooking wine. Then stir vigorously until the liquid is fully absorbed. Shaoxing tenderizes the meat and eliminates any gaminess, while the soy sauce adds flavor and color.
When the liquid is fully absorbed, add 1 tsp of corn starch and stir well to coat. The light coating of corn starch prevents the meat from scorching. Finally, 0.5 tsp of of cooking oil in the marinade keeps the meat threads from sticking to each other in the wok. Do not skip this step!
Let the meat marinate for 15 minutes. In the mean time, prepare the remaining ingredients. Mince a small piece of ginger (1.5-2 tsp minced) and 2-3 cloves of garlic.
The Peppers 尖椒
I’ve been buying peppers labeled “long hot peppers” from a few different sources, and the spiciness varies considerably. At the Asian market, look for 牛角椒 (niú jiǎo jiāo) “cow horn” peppers. My favorite source in the NYC area has been Freshgogo for relatively spicier peppers.
This dish is also known as 尖椒炒肉丝, where 尖椒 (jiān jiāo) means “pointy peppers”, or 青椒炒肉丝 (qīng jiāo) “green peppers”. You can use any sizable, thin-skinned pepper.
While the meat is marinating, prepare the peppers. Remove the stems and cut the peppers into thin (2mm) slices on the bias. Long hot peppers are tender, so if you can take the heat, there’s no need to remove the ribs and seeds.
Stir Fry Equipment and Technique
There are a lot of misconceptions about the mysteries of stir frying at home. Chinese restaurant gas burners output more than 10x the heat of a home stove, but that’s no reason to give up before we’ve even get started. With the right equipment (budget-friendly!) and technique, it is possible to achieve that elusive “wok hei” 锅气 (guō qì) — the slightly smoky flavor imparted by high heat wok cooking. Read on…. delicious stir fried long hot peppers with shredded pork are well within reach.
Must Have Equipment for Stir Fry 必备厨具
The tossing technique 颠勺 (diān sháo) necessary to achieve tender, flavorful stir fry is much easier in a wok. Carbon steel is the key to attaining authentic stir fry flavor, among other benefits:
- thin and reacts quickly to changes in temperature
- safe to use on screaming high heat
- practically indestructible
- yet after seasoning (or frequent use), it’s very nonstick
And a high-quality flat-bottom carbon steel wok will set you back less than $50! Size wise, 14 inches is the perfect size. It’s roomy enough for 1 – 4 servings but not heavy, and it’s also the right size for a home stove. If you want to cook more, it’s better to cook in batches. Home ranges don’t have the heat output necessary to achieve wok hei with large quantities. This recipe features close to the maximum I’d recommend for this setup.
The best utensil to use with a wok is a wok spoon, which is a shallow, long-handled ladle. The round bottom won’t scratch the surface or break up delicate ingredients. Stainless steel is the best material.
Traditional Chinese stoves are high-powered gas burners. I live in an apartment without gas, so I totally understand the impossibility stir frying on an anemic electric range. Enter a quality portable induction burner like Duxtop, an apartment-friendly, budget-friendly kitchen upgrade you can bring with you. I’ve talked about induction before as the cooktop for my tiny outdoor kitchen. Induction’s magic for stir fry is multi-pronged:
- instant temperature changes = responsive like gas
- magnetic field = doesn’t require constant contact with the bottom of the wok to produce heat
- ultra high efficiency = high heat output without high power
If you’re trying to stir fry in any other type of pan, I cannot recommend trying a carbon steel wok more highly. And if you’re frustrated by cooking on an electric range, an induction burner is life-changing. Together, these two pieces are the best investment you can make for high quality Chinese cooking without tearing down your kitchen.
Stir Fry PPE for Weak Range Hoods 炒菜防护装备
If your range hood is wimpy like mine, I have a small secret for “stir fry PPE”. It lets me cook peppers without crying, and stir fry without my hair smelling like lunch for the rest of the day.
To prevent accidentally rubbing hot pepper juice in your eyes, wear a plastic food service glove while cutting hot peppers. And although this dish isn’t super spicy, high heat + hot peppers – quality range hood = crying / coughing misery. So I wear a non-medical KN95 respirator when cooking spicy foods! Also,
To keep aerosolized grease and smoke out of my hair, I will either cook on the patio or wear a disposable shower cap. It looks a bit silly, but I promise my stir fry PPE is very effective!
Wok Tossing Technique 颠勺
Traditional stir fry in Chinese restaurants uses a round bottom wok sitting on a wide ring directly above the gas burner. This shape is conducive to flipping the contents of the wok in the air, a technique known as 颠勺 (diān sháo, “spoon toss”) or 颠锅 (diān guō, “wok toss”). I’ve slightly modified the technique for flat bottom woks, which are the only wok option for induction / electric and much better for home gas ranges.
The key to efficient stir frying technique is establishing a rhythm between the non-dominant and dominant hand. Your non-dominant hand holds the wok handle to push and pull the wok. Your dominant hand wields the wok spoon to stir the ingredients and keep them in the pan.
Check out my video below for a detailed demonstration of stir fry technique, featuring long hot peppers with shredded pork!
If you’re interested in traditional round-bottom wok technique, this video by Chongqing Chef Cai shows it in detail.
My favorite wine for fresh, spicy dishes like these Long Hot Peppers with Pork is sparkling rosé. The effervescence highlights the crispness of the peppers. The non-Champagne sparkling wines of France, known as crémant, are a refreshing and budget-friendly choice. Look for méthode traditionelle, sometimes labeled méthode champenoise, meaning a natural secondary fermentation in the bottle gives the wine its bubbles. Two good choices are Cremant d’Alsace, from Northeastern France on the border of Switzerland and Germany, and Cremant de Limoux, the originator of sparkling wine in the Languedoc region.
Did you try this dish?
How do you feel about your stir fry technique? If this video and post were helpful to you, please let us know in the comments below. And as always, if you try a recipe from The Rice Lover, we’d love to know how it went! Please tag us on Instagram #thericelover and @thericeloverblog to share your creations.
Stir Fried Long Hot Peppers with Pork 小椒炒肉丝
- 6 oz pork loin or pork tenderloin cut against the grain in 3mm julienne, 猪里脊肉 180克，切丝
- 8 oz long hot peppers cut on the bias into 2mm slices, 青椒 225克，斜刀切片
- Add ingredients up to white pepper, and stir vigorously until liquids are fully absorbed. Add corn starch, and stir still fully dissolved and each strip is coated. Add oil, and toss to combine. Let marinate for 10-15 minutes.腌肉：将肉丝，生抽，老抽，绍兴，盐，胡椒抓匀至水分全部吸收。加入淀粉，再次抓匀。最后洒上油，略微搅拌。
carbon steel wok to 300°F / 150°C (Duxtop induction 5.5). Add 1 Tbsp of cooking oil. When the oil is heated, add marinated meat strips, and minced ginger. Cook, stirring continuously until the surface is no longer pink.将碳钢炒锅少至150°，加入菜籽油。油温升起后，加入腌制好的肉丝和姜末。不停翻炒至肉丝断生。
- Add garlic. Turn the heat up to high 450°F / 230°F. Add sliced peppers. Stir fry, tossing continuously, until the peppers are cooked. Add salt, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir to combine. Drizzle Chinkiang vinegar down the sides of the pan. Toss continuously until fully combined, about 15 seconds.加入蒜末，油温升到高温（230°）。加入尖椒丝，不停翻炒至断生。开始调味：加入生抽，盐，糖，并且翻炒均匀。将香醋从锅边淋入，翻炒至醋酸味挥发即可出锅装盘。
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