One-pan meals don’t have to rely on a pound of ground beef and a boxed mix. This traditional Sichuan dish comes together even more quickly using ground pork – seasoned with ingredients you likely have in your cupboard – and veggies served over fresh Asian noodles that cook in just a few minutes. It leaves enough time to mix together a quick batch of coconut shortbread.
3/4 lb thin fresh Asian noodles
canola oil, for cooking
3/4 lb (375 g) ground pork
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp (15 ml) grated fresh ginger
3/4–1 cup (185–250 ml) chicken stock
2 tbsp (30 ml) rice vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 ml) tahini, almond butter or peanut butter
2 tsp (10 ml) brown sugar or honey
2 tsp (10 ml) chili-garlic sauce or chili sauce, or to taste
1 cup (250 ml) packed baby spinach
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped peanuts or almonds
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (60 ml) packed brown sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) coconut or vanilla extract
1 cup (250 ml) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) shredded coconut
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook for 3–4 minutes, or as the package directs, and drain well in a colander.
When you set the water to boil, set a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of oil. Add the pork and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
Add 3/4 cup of the chicken stock and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the stock reduces by about half. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, tahini, brown sugar and chili-garlic sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until the mixture thickens, then add the spinach to the pan and stir until it wilts. If the sauce is too thick, add the remaining 1/4 cup of stock.
While the sauce is simmering, make the shortbread dough. Beat the butter, sugar and coconut extract in a medium bowl for about 2 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add the flour and coconut, and stir by hand or on low speed with an electric mixer just until you have soft dough.
Hand roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and place a couple inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Press down on each to flatten with the heel of the palm of your hand.
To the pan of cooked down sauce, add the drained noodles and toss to combine, or spread the noodles out on a platter and top with the pork mixture. Serve immediately, topped with chopped peanuts and green onions.
Set cookies in the oven to bake for 12–15 minutes, or until pale golden. Makes a perfect finish to the meal.
866 calories, 38.6 g fat (19 g saturated fat, 14.1 g monounsaturated fat, 5.5 g polyunsaturated fat), 91.5 g carbohydrate, 152 mg cholesterol, 32.5 g protein, 6.2 g fibre.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, Feb/Mar 2015.