Quite a Gift!

Family tradition going back generations places a tangerine at the tip of each Christmas stocking.  As such, it’s the last treasure children (and other lucky recipients) extract that happy morning.  There are practical reasons for the gift, maybe, in that citrus is in season late December, but where’s the holiday magic in that?

The real reason for the tangerine is that it’s a bright burst of summer sunshine just as winter’s shadows lengthen, carrying promise of a better future.  Of course, gift-givers in our bountiful modernity often buy tangerines, clementines, etc. by the case, inspiring questions of what to do with all the citrus, besides enjoying it out-of-hand, naturally.

Fortunately, Bon Appetit offers a good suggestion in its November/December 2009 issue, which is to make Pork Tenderloin Stir-Fry with Tangerines and Chili Sauce.  Today’s example uses the clementine instead, but it’s the same thing really, just without all those pesky seeds.  They’re both varieties of mandarin oranges, after all.

The dish is loaded with exuberant flavor, and the citrus only is the beginning.  There’s the crispy freshness bok choy greens provide, as well as the mildly spicy kick of sweet chili sauce, a staple found in most larger supermarkets’ Thai or “international” aisles.  Nonetheless, the real superstar is the clementine, which has a sweetly tart flavor that compliments pork so well.

With a stir-fry, rice is an obvious companion for tangerine pork, though the circumstances (Christmas bounty, by chance?) call for a little something extra.  Those bright flavors make coconut rice a perfect option.  As luck has it, this journal offered just such a preparation back in May.  Not much of a “recipe,” really, just add a bit of coconut cream to the rice as it cooks.

This is a great use for all that citrus, a relief to “Santa”s everywhere, who just bought a crate of tangerines.

By the way, Merry Christmas to the audience!  To those of you not so inclined, Happy Holidays!  Talk to you next as we prepare to flip calendars to 2020!


Pork Tenderloin Stir-Fry with Tangerines and Chili Sauce

  • 1 and 1/4-pound pork tenderloin, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds, then into 1/2-inch wide strips
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 clementines or small tangerines, cut (with peel) into 3/4-inch wedges
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (*1)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder (*2)
  • 6 baby bok choy cabbages, tough base end removed and cut crosswise into 1-inch strips
  • 5 scallions, white and light green parts cut thinly on the diagonal, divided

Place pork strips in a medium bowl and toss them with the corn starch and freshly-ground pepper.  Set them aside.

Heat a wok, or large skillet, over a medium-high flame.  Add one tablespoon of the oil (*3) and swirl to coat.  Add the ginger and stir for 30 seconds, (*4)

Add the pork strips and stir frequently until it loses its pink color, about three minutes.  Toss in the tangerine pieces and cook, stirring often, for 30 seconds.  Stir in the chili sauce, the soy sauce and the five-spice powder and cook for another minute.

Stir in the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil, the bok choy and half the scallions.  Cook until the cabbage just begins to wilt, about a minute or so.  Season to taste with salt and freshly-ground pepper.  Divide into individual servings, garnish with the remaining scallions and serve with rice if desired.


1 – As mentioned in the text above, you can find sweet chili sauce in most larger supermarkets’ Thai or “Asian” sections.  If not, use a more common chili sauce, like sambal or even sriracha, and add a tablespoon of sugar.  Not the same, but close.

2 – As with the chili sauce, five-spice powder hangs out in the “international” aisle.

3 – Most recipes, the original inspiring this one included, instruct the cook to heat the oil and the wok together.  However, follow the teachings of Martin Yan, who advises, “Hot wok, cold oil, food won’t stick.”

4 –  Another of Yan’s dictums: “It’s stir-fry, not stare-fry!”


39 thoughts on “Quite a Gift!

  1. Got me curious about the tangerine, seems St Nick used to carry gold so it represents that … but I like your idea of a burst of sunshine better 🙂

    hmmm poor piggy! Certainly looks delic 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Kate! Never heard that before, about St. Nick’s gold, though it makes sense.

      For a while, I thought the tangerine in the stocking was a WASP custom, but increasingly, it seems limited to our family. My grandparents spoke of receiving the gift when they were children. Either way, a most welcome present, providing a vibrant burst just as winter thinks it caught us.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Merry Christmas! I wish you an excellent end to your year. 🙂

    So, we’re not the only ones who do the citrus in the stocking thing then, eh? Though, my unfortunate stocking stuffer typically gets stuffed to the side in favor of things that could never be mistaken for something healthy…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Likewise – Merry Christmas to you too, Rachel!

      Oh, your family does the tangerine thing too? Well, I’ll be…darned!

      At first I thought it was a WASP thing (a description which may or may not apply to your family). Then, when no-one else in my immediate circle seemed to be familiar with the habit, I began to think it was a “Just My Family” thing.

      From nowhere, though, your story emerged. How many others are out there? Maybe we need to start a club or something.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Huh. I never really thought about it before, but I can’t think of anyone else doing it either… Though, there are many gaps in my knowledge in general, and I haven’t ever had much of a chance to compare and contrast with other families’ traditions.

        And speaking of gaps in my knowledge, I have no idea whether WASP applies or not… Or exactly what it means. 😅

        But, you can never go wrong with a club. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. An acronym for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. In short, those of British ancestry

        There, numbingly boring lesson over, let’s talk about citrus. Until reading everyone’s responses, I thought Tangerine-in-the-Stocking was limited to my immediate family, but now it seems as though many people got in on the action.

        So, most of you actually do know what I’m on about? Cool!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jenn – you too! Your blog shows you’ve found much to delight and thrill, particularly now. May your “Santa” have been paying attention when you published you gift ideas (wish list?) a few entries ago.

      The tangerine is as welcome now as it must’ve been in the Victorian era. A means, at least for a few hours, of stopping winter cold (as it were). Not so fast, buddy!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks delicious and easy to make. Will have to try this. My favorite thing to do with Clementines though is to dip half of the segments into chocolate… so simple but always a crowd pleaser when we make them at work. 😋

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No doubt. There is something sublime about watching the snow fall, cozy in the knowledge the pantry is well-stocked and there’s nowhere you have to be. Of course, how often does that happen? Once every couple of years or so?

        Meanwhile, you enjoy your palm trees and greenery about 250 times as often. Not even close to balancing out, is it?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely meal! My family also used oranges and tangerines as stocking fillers. Some years, it would be an apple instead. Since the stockings were lined up next to a large (very hot!) space heater, the fruit worked out much better than the year my mom filled the stockings with chocolates. What a melted chocolatey mess we woke up to that Christmas morning! Many jokes were made about the reindeer needing to make a pit stop. Hahaha

    Liked by 3 people

      1. The “laughing” part, definitely.

        Throw your tantrum , Winter, Your peak already has come and gone. Counting the weeks now until the equinox makes the spring thaw irresistible. Before much longer, people won’t remember you ever existed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Just to be clear, Tamara, my comments were directed at “Winter,” not to you!

        On the contrary, you most definitely are memorable, whether or not that’s your intention. Unlike winter, thoughts of you exceed the season, and only will blossom as the months accumulate.

        It’s mortifying to consider you thought I was writing about you! No, no, not at all!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Awe, thank you, TA. I was having a “sensitive moment”. I apologize for taking it personally. Your words are always so kind to me; how could I have thought, otherwise? I beg your forgiveness…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice combination, Monica!

      It finds that elusive balance, contrasting savory with sweet, substance and lightness.

      We eat not just to survive, but to enjoy. How many glorious experiences await yet?


    1. Ah, a literary simile! Quite a compliment indeed!

      If there are any leftovers, put them in the freezer instead of in the refrigerator. You see, citrus tenderizes meats, which is delectable at first.

      Unfortunately, it keeps going, and eventually citrus breaks down the meat. In the fridge, the process slows but it still continues. In the freezer, though, the dish is preserved in peak condition.


  5. There you go with that pork again and the chili sauce.

    But that beautiful Christmas story of tangerines and their “bright burst of summer sunshine just as winter shadows lengthen.” How poetic is that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, but Summer’s and Winter’s dance creates the poetry, doesn’t it?

      I merely have eyes to observe it. Having eyes – now there’s an exacting qualification. A standard only 99.987% of people attain.


      1. Don’t be coy. Take the compliment. What you say about the seasons is true, but (and I meant to say this the first time) your words for the observation is quite a gift.

        Liked by 1 person

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