In my last trip to visit my family in Honolulu, I went to lunch with my Mom and sister in Chinatown and they ordered this dish that I never had growing up – shredded pork and pickled vegetables in rice noodles.
Now, the combination of pork and pickled vegetables is classic in Chinese cooking. There’s a popular Northern Chinese soup noodle dish that features these two ingredients, and my family would order pork and pickled vegetables as a stir-fry entree at Chinese restaurants. But this dish is a stir-fried rice noodles dish, similar to chow mein.
I loved the combination of the pickled vegetables with the thin vermicelli-style rice noodles, which I always find light to eat. But when visiting Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area, I couldn’t find this dish on the menu.
Making it at home
Since I couldn’t find this dish at restaurants, I decided to make it at home. But first I needed the pickled vegetables.
While you can buy packaged pickled vegetables (usually mustard greens) in vacuum packs from Thailand, they never taste as good as the fresh ones my Dad made when I was a kid. I recall how the cooked vinegar would smell throughout the kitchen, but we didn’t care because we knew in a few hours we could sneak a crunchy piece of pickled greens from the jar in the refrigerator.
So I waited until I could find mustard greens in the market to pickle my own. Finally, I’m starting to see them in Chinatown (apparently it’s a winter green here), so I pickled some recently and now I have the star ingredient for my rice noodle dish.
Pickled Mustard Green Recipe
Fresh mustard greens (left whole)
Apple cider vinegar
Szechuan peppercorns (optional)
Wash your mustard green to remove any dirt, especially hidden within the leaves near the base. Slice the mustard green in half right down the middle, then rub kosher salt all over (about a tablespoon). Let sit in colander for two hours, then rinse with water and set aside.
In a saucepan, cook the sugar, cider vinegar and water together until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. The portions of the ingredients depend on the size of your container that will hold the mustard green, but the ratio should be 1:1:1. That means if you need six cups of liquid to fill your container, then you would cook 2 cups of sugar with 2 cups of vinegar and 2 cups of water.
Place your mustard green into a glass container (you may need to squeeze it into the jar) and then pour the cooled liquid to cover the greens but leaving some air at the top. Add a few Szechuan peppercorns into the jar. Cover securely and place in refrigerator and let pickle for about two to three days before use.
Creating the rice noodle dish
To recreate the stir-fried rice noodle dish, I ended up using ground pork instead of shredded pork mostly because I can be lazy at home. I didn’t want to get a pork loin and chop away to get small pork shreds. So I used ground pork instead, but I admit it does make it harder to eat noodles with ground pork, which generally wants to stick to a sauce but there’s very little sauce in this dish because it’s a stir-fry. Still, I enjoyed the flavors that blended on the plate, and while not exactly the same as the restaurant, it was pretty good.
Note: This really is the type of dish to eat right away because of the crunch of the pickled vegetables and bean sprouts. It doesn’t really work that great as leftovers because reheating it softens the pickled vegetables. So I say make enough to eat in one sitting! Enjoy!
Pork and Pickled Vegetables Fried Rice Noodles Recipe
Makes 3 to 4 servings
6 oz. ground pork
8-10 oz. rice noodles*
1/2 t ground white pepper
1 T sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
1 T xiao hsing wine
1 t cornstarch
1 t fresh ginger, julienned into toothpick pieces
1 whole pickled mustard green (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups, chopped)
8 oz. bean sprouts (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1-2 T vegetable or Canola oil
2-3 T oyster sauce
*Use as much rice noodles that you feel would feed three people for this recipe. I can’t give a precise measurement because rice noodles come dried in packs, and I used two squares that were in my package. But the squares differ from pack to pack.
Soak your rice noodles in water until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside in colander. Tip: Using kitchen scissors, cut the noodles once or twice so they’re not as long when you’re cooking with it.
In a small bowl, combine pork with white pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce, xiao hsing wine, cornstarch and fresh ginger. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
In a wok or large skillet, warm oil over high heat and then add the ground pork and brown until nearly cooked. Then add pickled vegetables and blend well, and immediately add the rice noodles. Quickly mix the rice noodles with the ground pork and pickled vegetables (about 1 minute) and then add bean sprouts, again blending well. (Tip: as you blend, pull the noodles up to loosen.) Remove wok from heat and then drizzle with oyster sauce and mix into your dish to season. Taste and add more if needed. (Remember, the rice noodles are generally bland, so you may end up using a lot of oyster sauce.)
Plate and serve immediately.
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