Known for its bold flavors and liberal use of spices including the controversial Sichuan peppercorns, China’s Sichuan province is the birthplace of global favorites that include kung pao chicken and ma po tofu. Sticky Sichuan pork is meant to exhibit all those bold flavors and spiciness.
To make the dish, you’ll need Sichuan peppercorns and a few other seasonings and spices. Start by dry toasting and crushing the Sichuan peppercorns before rubbing on the pork along with salt and five-spice powder.
Next, heat a bit of oil in a wok, add the seasoned pork. Add ginger and star anise, and brown the meat on all sides to give the pork better texture and color. Browning also results in caramelization which will give the dish a richer and deeper final flavor.
Pour in broth, bring to the boil, cover the wok and simmer the pork until tender and there’s very little liquid left in the wok. You’ll need about a quarter cup of the cooking liquid to make the sauce.
Scoop out the pork and set aside. To the remaining liquid in the wok, stir in soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar. Reduce the mixture over high heat until thick and sticky. Watch the sauce closely as there is a very small window between sticky and burnt. It is best and safest to turn off the heat first before tossing in the cooked pork along with a bit of sesame seed oil.
Sticky Sichuan pork
- ½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 kilogram pork belly - cut into bite-size pieces
- ½ teaspoon five-spice powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon ginger - chopped
- 1 bird's eye chili - chopped
- 3 star anise
- 2 cups bone broth
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 6 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 drizzle sesame seed oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- scallions - snipped
- Dry roast the Sichuan peppercorns in an oil-free pan until fragrant. Cool a bit then grind (a mortar and pestle is useful).
- Place the pork in a bowl. Add the ground Sichuan peppercorns, five-spice powder and salt. Mix well.
- Heat the cooking oil in a wok, swirling to thinly coat as much of the cooking surface as possible.
- Add the pork and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
- Add the ginger and star anise. Continue cooking until the pork acquires a deeper color.
- Pour in the broth. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until the pork is tender and only about a quarter cup of the liquid remains.
- Scoop out the pork and transfer to a plate or bowl. Keep hot.
- To the remaining liquid in the pan, add the soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar. Cook over high heat until reduced, thick and sticky. Watch the sauce closely as there is a very small window between sticky and burnt.
- Turn off the heat. Add the pork to the sauce. Drizzle in the sesame seed oil. Toss to coat every piece of pork with sauce.
- Tip the contents of the pan onto a serving plate. Sprinkle the sticky Szechuan pork with toasted sesame seeds and snipped scallions before serving.