Perfection Does Exist

OMG, this Sichuan Stir-Fried Pork in Garlic Sauce immediately garnered a spot on the short list, the VERY SHORT list! We came across the recipe on Cook’s Illustrated website and knew immediately we wanted to dine on this deliciousness. Now I know the prep is a bit time consuming and uses quite a few bowls for a weeknight meal, but it is SO worth it!

To re-create the succulent pork found in the best restaurant stir-fries (usually achieved by low-temperature deep frying), the pork is soaked in a baking soda solution, which tenderizes and moisturizes the meat, and then it’s coated it in a velvetizing cornstarch slurry, which helps it retain moisture as it cooks. And the secret to the sauce’s silken texture and rich flavor? Ketchup (not kidding) and fish sauce, both high in glutamates.

Meat soaked in a solution of baking soda and water? I admit it sounds pretty unappetizing, but there’s a good reason for it. Fact is, alkaline baking soda makes the meat more tender by raising its pH. According to Cook’s Illustrated, the tenderizing effect is twofold: First, as the meat’s fibers break down, its texture softens. Second, since the meat’s looser consistency retains water better, it’s less likely to contract and expel moisture when heated, ensuring that the meat stays juicy throughout.

Ingredient Notes: If Chinese black vinegar is unavailable, substitute 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar. If Asian broad-bean chili paste is unavailable, substitute 2 teaspoons of Asian chili-garlic paste or Sriracha sauce. Pork loin, the usual stir-fry choice, is lean and dry. Instead, use boneless country-style spareribs, which are fattier (they’re cut from the blade end of the loin) and more tender.

Serve with steamed white rice. The original recipe indicates it serves 4-6 people. We beg to differ. We only got 3 decent size portions, so keep that in mind when making.


Sichuan Stir-Fried Pork with Garlic Sauce

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 4 tsp. Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tsp. ketchup
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch


  • 12 ounces boneless country-style pork ribs, trimmed
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 2 tsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch


  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 scallions, white parts minced, green parts sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp. Asian broad-bean chili paste
  • 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin
  • 2 celery ribs, cut on bias into 1/4-inch slices


  1. FOR THE SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; set aside.
  2. FOR THE PORK: Cut pork into 2-inch lengths, then cut each length into 1/4-inch matchsticks. Combine pork with baking soda and water in bowl. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse pork in cold water. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Whisk rice wine and cornstarch in bowl. Add pork and toss to coat.
  4. FOR THE STIR-FRY: Combine garlic, scallion whites, and chili paste in bowl.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large wok over high heat until just smoking. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 2 to 4 minutes.
  6. Add celery and continue to cook until celery is crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer vegetables to separate bowl.
  7. Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil to now-empty wok and place over medium-low heat. Add garlic-scallion mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer 1 tablespoon garlic-scallion oil to small bowl and set aside.
  8. Add pork to wok and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes.
  9. Whisk sauce mixture to recombine and add to wok. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and pork is cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes.
  10. Return vegetables to wok and toss to combine. Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with scallion greens and reserved garlic-scallion oil, and serve.


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