Pulled Pork Szechuan Style – No BBQ Sauce Needed!

5c-Chinese-pulled-pork copyI don’t know this for fact, but I would think that some form of slow cooked and shredded pork butt has got to be a staple in cultures that eat pork (or at least it would be if I were King).  This is in no way an ‘authentic’ recipe.  (I have to take exception with any food at this point in the evolution of cuisine that calls itself ‘authentic’, but I’ll save that rant for another time.) This was dish inspired by a Chinese bao bun that I had not too long ago.  The pork is first marinated in soy and Szechuan peppercorns, browned over high heat, and then slow cooked with indirect heat. Put this on a King’s Hawaiian Sweet Roll with some fresh chives, cilantro and a special crushed peanut topping… gosh, I’m so hungry!

Szechuan peppercorn is not a pepper at all, but the berries from the prickly ash tree. Szechuan peppercorn has a fairly floral fragrant aroma. However, the really cool thing about them is that they cause  a numbing sensation around the mouth and tongue.  I often talk about chilies and that they are not just for heat, but that each chile has an actual flavor. When you combine Szechuan pepper with chilies, many chefs believe that the numbness that the pepper causes actually reduces the heat from the chile and allows the fruity or grassy flavor of the chile shine through.

Notes: If you have a good Asian specialty grocery near you, the Szechuan peppercorn should be available unless it is a primarily Japanese market.  Whole Foods carries them, but they are ridiculously expensive; ridiculously. There are plenty of choices here on Amazon.com. As for the Shaoxing wine, dry sherry will give you basically the same smoky flavor profile or sake can be used as well, but it is sweeter and doesn’t have that smoky under tone. Chinese 5-spice powder is generally available in the Asian section of larger supermarkets or here. Finally, when you get ready to make the sauce MISE EN PLACE! Have all your ingredients ready to go; it happens fast and there will be no time to grab something.

Szechuan-Style Pulled Pork

serves six to eight

For the pork:
3 pounds pork butt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
1 Tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground

For the sauce:
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
1 Tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1 Tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Fresno chile or Serrano chile, seeded and minced
1 cup pork, chicken or vegetable stock
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water (called a slurry)

For crushed peanut topping:
1/4 cup salted peanuts, crushed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder

For Serving:
King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls or slider buns, split
Chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Fresh cilantro springs
Sriracha chili sauce

Extras:
Bull Cast Iron Grill Humidifiers or metal bread pan

Grilling method:
Direct, then indirect heat

Place pork butt in a large zip-top bag. Stir together the marinade ingredients until completely combined; pour into bag with pork. Squeeze air from bag and sea; marinate in refrigerator overnight or at least 4 hours. About an hour before cooking, remove from fridge and let come to room temperature .

Set up grill for direct high heat and make sure you have enough gas in the tank. Brush and oil the grates and then brown the meat well on all sides – a little char is good! Now this step is totally optional, but I think that it really enhances the flavor. After all, if you were cooking a roast in the oven you’d brown it, right?

Remove the roast from the heat and set up the grill for indirect cooking with medium-low heat. Return the pork, fat side up, back to the grill and place humidifiers or bread pan along side. Fill humidifiers with water, leftover stock and/or Shaoxing wine (I used stock and wine). Close the grill cover and stabilize the temperature around 300°F. Total cooking time will be 4 to 6 hours depending on the size of the roast and how often the grill cover is opened. The pork will be ready and falling off the bone tender when the internal temperature reaches 195°F. Remove the roast from the grill and wrap in aluminum for for 15 to 20 minutes.

For the sauce: Remember mise en place! Heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in a large saucepan (or small wok) over high heat. Just when it begins to smoke, add the Szechuan peppercorns, ginger, garlic, and chile; stir fry for 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and that’s it.

For the crushed peanut topping: Crush the peanuts, brown sugar and 5-spice together in a mortar and pestle until crumbly… a mini-chop, food processor, or a zip-top bag and a skillet work just as well!

Unwrap the pork and remove the the fat cap and any pieces of skin. Using your hands or a couple of forks, pull meat apart into strands 1/4- to 1/8-inch wide and a couple inches long. Transfer pork and any juices to the saucepan and stir to combine. Now go build yourself some deliciousness!!

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9 responses to “Pulled Pork Szechuan Style – No BBQ Sauce Needed!

  1. Pingback: Camping meal recipes | campingmealideas.net·

  2. Pingback: Accidental Locavore: Labor Day Grilling: Szechuan Pork Chops·

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