While today’s effort, Stir-Fry Snow Peas with Pork, is simpler than most else of what’s featured on these pages, its companion sticky rice is even more of a pleasant surprise. For those like me to whom sticky rice is unfamiliar, it tends to cluster, hence the name, and as such bite-size clumps are torn away by hand to sop up all kinds of sauces and dips. Sticky rice serves Southeast Asian cuisines much in the same way that bread does others. Preparing it takes some time, but it’s an unexpectedly accessible task. More about this shortly.
The main entrant is a Cambodian interpretation of stir-fry pork. Much like Khmer culture itself, the original idea was Chinese, filtered through generous Indian influence, and adopted to make it uniquely Cambodian. Like so many prior recipes on these pages, this one started on Mylinh Nakry’s wonderful site, Khmer Krom Recipes.
Garlic, scallions and onions (or here, shallots) help to modify pork’s gaminess. While they provide a certain zing, the bulbs’ influence is a subtle one. The other vegetables’ sweetness also balances pork’s richness and onions’ bite. Snow peas exert a uniquely vegetal influence that brings to mind rolling pastures. Their crunch also is a nice textural contrast to the other softer ingredients.
Bathing all this is a rich yet light mixture that hints of the salty notes soy and oyster sauces add. Infused with all the flavors it hosts, the sauce satisfies with a collection of savory, sweet, salty and green notes. This is exactly the sort of tasty medley sticky rice is meant to absorb. It’s best to let the rice soak for a day (or more) ahead of time, and from there the cook steams it, as illustrated below:A bamboo steamer and cheesecloth are necessary parts, and a cooking ring (seen just below the steamer) is a great tool that allows the cook to use a saucepan , not a wok, filled with water. Not only is this option simpler and more compact, it also frees up the wok for other tasks more vital to the meal: This way, the wok will do the sir-fry, or whatever else is in preparation, while the steamer makes sure there are piles of sticky rice to absorb all those great flavors. Just soak it, then steam it. It’s that simple to produce rice that’s similar to, yet so much better than, what usually is on our tables. It’s basic Food Prep 101.
Stir-Fry Snow Peas with Pork
(Sach Chrouk Char S’det)
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar (*1)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (*2)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 yellow onion, sliced (*3)
- 1/2 pound lean pork meat, sliced thinly (*4)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
- 1/2 pound show peas, with tips cut off
- 1 red bell pepper, with seeds removed and sliced
- 2 scallions, white and light green parts, cut into 1-inch lengths
In a small bowl, mix the water, corn starch, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Set aside mixture.
Meanwhile, heat a wok over a medium-high flame and add the oil. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic, onion and pork. Season with salt and pepper and stir regularly until meat is tender, about eight minutes.
Add the snow peas, bell pepper and scallions and stir well. Stir in the sauce you prepared, and let it reduce until thickened, about four minutes. Serve with rice.
1 – “Regular” granulated sugar is fine, but I still have some palm sugar in the fridge, so why not? It’s more authentic and healthier this way, though the supply dwindles. Time to buy more.
2 – Actually, peanut oil goes better with most East Asian cuisines, and in this particular case it nicely approximates a pig’s diet, so it’s a perfect compliment.
3 – Naturally, I substituted shallots. Three medium bulbs equal one large onion.
4 – Try to slice your pork perpendicular to the grain, as it’s much more tender that way.