Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking
It’s easy and it’s flexible. And once the marinade is made in advance, it’s a 20-minute job.
This is a very simple dish that only sounds daunting because it has a foreign name. But all chow mein means is fried noodles, and in fact you don’t even have to fry them.
We’re going to make it with the kind of noodles you just have to expose to hot water for a while. You can even buy them ready, moist and sealed in a bag. We’re going to stir fry some chunks of pork, quickly cook some vegetables and a few mushrooms and that’s it.
For your dish to qualify as chow mein, it needs to contain noodles, that’s all. That’s the carbohydrate, instead of pasta, potatoes or rice.
For the vegetables we’re using pak choi (also known as bok choi). Again it might sound fancy but it’s just a kind of cabbage.
Equipment is important for this. If you don’t have a wok but do have a big frying pan, that will do. A wok makes it easier to toss the stuff as it’s cooking, whereas with a pan it just sits there at the bottom, but if you make this quickly there shouldn’t be a problem.
Chunks of pork (ideally tenderloin, or cut up some chops or steaks)
Spices (just get some ginger root and cinnamon – if you buy a jar of five-spice you’ll probably have it in the cupboard for the rest of your life)
Red or green pepper
In advance (if you can), take a plastic storage box and pour in a large splash of soy sauce. Grate a piece of ginger about the size of a thumbnail and add that, then some crushed garlic and a couple of shakes of cinnamon powder. Mix it up and load the box with the chunks of pork. Put the lid on and give it a good shake so all the meat is coated. Leave it in the fridge to marinate for as long as you can – a few hours would be good but 10 minutes is better than nothing.
Slice the mushrooms thinly and chop the pak choi. You can use the stalks as well as the leaves – they’re not tough.
Peel another chunk of ginger and chop it into tiny sticks like grains of rice.
Slice a pepper.
Why not grate the ginger this time?
Because a little piece of ginger in your mouthful of food is a lovely burst of flavor, whereas grated or powdered it blends into the whole dish.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions. It should only take a couple of minutes. Put some chicken stock in the water for extra flavor.
Heat a little oil in the wok or pan.
Take the pork out of the box and keep the rest of the marinade. Quickly fry the pork (but make sure it’s cooked) and add the mushrooms and ginger, then the sliced peppers. Keep it moving. The slivers of mushroom will be done in a minute or two.
Throw in the pak choi and let it wilt. Put the noodles on top – this is like adding a lid, which will ensure the pak choi is done and the pork is thoroughly cooked.
Once the pak choi has collapsed, pour on the rest of the marinade, make sure the whole meal is hot and serve.
As usual, this recipe is only a guide. You could use chicken instead of pork. You could just use the mushrooms, so it’s suitable for vegetarians. You could chop up some carrots (small, because they won’t get as much cooking time as normal) or celery. Sugar snap peas would work very well.