Garlicky pork noodles with pea shoots

Since I used up all the produce that had been festering in my crisper, of course I had to make another run to Fubonn for some Chinese vegetables. This week, I found some beautiful, verdant pea shoots (dou miao) and some other things that will surface as the week progresses. The pea shoots include the leaves (and the leafy stipules), the tendrils, and the stems. The leaves wilt down like any leafy green vegetable, but the stems and tendrils stay toothsome, a bit like celery. I think if they had been cooked within a day or two of being picked, they would’ve been more succulent.

Even though this dish does have pork, it is very lean, very thinly-sliced, center-cut loin. Can you believe they had whole loins for $15 instead of $40? Normally I don’t bargain-shop meat, but I couldn’t pass this up. My buddy Norm at Eat or Die grew up on a farm in Small Town, USA, and can’t figure out how a farmer can stay in business with those prices (government subsidies, that’s how). I shrugged off the guilt and butchered it into 20 really nice chops. The two ends went into tonight’s dinner.

After all the red meat, I wanted something fresh, garlicky and spicy, and crunchy, but noodly. So I made a quick marinade with splashes of good, dark soy sauce (laochou; a nice thick soy sauce), rice wine and white wine vinegar, and a glug of dark sesame oil; a couple heaping spoonfuls of sambal oelek, oyster sauce and hoisin sauce; 4 or 5 large cloves of garlic, smashed and minced; 2 heaping spoonfuls of grated ginger; a dash of my homemade seven-spice and 5 or 6 cracks of black pepper; a spoonful of sugar and corn starch, and a fat pinch of MSG. Yes, I keep a sack of MSG in my kitchen. It’s 100% pure umami!

Marinate the pork for at least 15 minutes (I was really hungry). Blanch the pea shoots to soften them up a bit. Stir fry the pork with a little sliced onion and cloud ear fungus until sticky (like 5 minutes), then add the sauce and pea shoots and toss to coat. Toss with cooked noodles of your choosing (I used fettucine, because it’s what I had) and sliced scallion. This would also be delicious as a vegetarian dish with tofu and shitakes. I included the cloud ear fungus for crunch, and because I keep a jar of them in my kitchen. Soak them in the cooking pasta water to soften.

I have more ideas for the other half of the pea shoots, so stay tuned!