Pork 26: Stir-Fried Pork Slices (炒肉片)

“For this dish, use a mixture of half lean and half fatty pork that has been sliced thinly and marinaded in soy sauce. Stir-fry the pork in oil. When the pork starts to crackle, add soy sauce, water, green onions, squash, winter bamboo shoots, and white garlic chives. Be sure to finish the dish by stir-frying over very high heat.”

持牲單::炒肉片
將肉精、肥各半,切成薄片,清醬拌之。入鍋油炒,聞響即加醬、水、蔥、瓜、冬筍、韭芽,起鍋火要猛烈。

A Thai dish called “Phat khi mao” (ผัดขี้เมา), which mean “stir-fried shit drunk“. It’s here because it contains pork slices and because Thai food is wicked. You also have to admit its name is pretty funny too. (Credit: Takeaway)

This describes a typical stir-fry recipe that easily falls into the category of “household dishes” (家常菜). These are simple dishes that anyone with a decent amount of cooking skill could prepare at home. Yuan Mei listed it probably because he liked it.

As usual, there were some ambiguous bits in this text the required some thought during translation. First, the part which I translated as “when the pork starts to crackle”, actually has the rather vague literal translation: “when you hear (it) making sounds” (聞響). But we all know that any ingredient “makes sounds” when you fry them, so one has to assume that this sound is pretty different from the usual frying pork sounds. And what sound would this be? My experience with frying pork is that sometimes it pops or crackles, thus my translation. Still, a more accurate translation may be: “when the pork starts to make some extraordinary sounds above what one expects to hear when frying.” I’ll leave it to whomever tries out this recipe to tell me what sound the pork actually makes.

Second is the ingredient “gua” (瓜), which I translated as “squash”. The word “gua” is basically used in Chinese to describe all manners of “vegetable fruits” under the Order Cucurbitaceae, which includes cucumbers, gourds, luffa, watermelons, and squashes. Papaya (木瓜), though not in this phylogenetic groups is also considered a gua due to its shape. As such, one has a world of possible gua to pick from from when cooking this dish. Personally, I think the edible varieties of the bottle gourd (瓠瓜), cucumber (黄瓜), or the miniature variety of wintermelon (毛瓜, Benincasa hispida var. chieh-qua) would all work well for this recipe. As for what “gua” Yuan Mei had in mind, heaven knows.

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