Stir fry is delicious. Done properly, it consists of meat and veggies sliced paper thin, cooked in small batches in a screaming hot wok, then served and eaten immediately. The heat and the speed combine for tender meat and crispy veggies kissed with a lightly charred flavor that recalls the grill.
And this is the first problem with stir fry. It is a singularly smoky dish to prepare. Even if you have a high quality hood, expect your house to smell like a deep fryer for a couple days. Second, while the high wire act of running a series of ingredients through a scorching wok in small batches followed by immediate plating and eating can be fun, it requires a degree of timeliness and cooperation that isn’t always realistic, especially not on a busy weeknight.
A modest alternative: pork shoulder
But meat and veggies in a light sauce, served with rice, is a combination of such deliciousness that even a more laid back approach can yield incredible results. In this recipe sliced pork shoulder and onions marinated in soy sauce form the base, with a handful of kale added at the end to add just the right virtuous crunch. A slower, more forgiving saute means fewer dirty dishes and a meal that can be prepared amidst all the distractions of a busy day.
Pork shoulder is ideal because, sliced into strips, it is tender enough to cook relatively quickly, but it is also forgiving. It will be just as tasty after 40 minutes of cooking as after 20, so if you pause halfway through this recipe it won’t be a problem. Since the relatively slow cooking method used here doesn’t add as much flavor as cooking in a wok, the fact that pork shoulder is among the most richly flavored cuts of meat also works in its favor. You won’t believe how delicious it is with nothing but a splash of soy sauce and a sprinkling of sugar for sweetness.
Because this recipe is so simple, you can add almost anything to it, with the caveat that no other cut of meat will work as well as pork shoulder. I love topping it with crunchy chili oil, but a fried egg or gochujang would also be great. If you don’t like kale, use broccoli instead, allowing a little more time for it to cook. Serve it with rice, with noodles, or by itself.
Thin Sliced Pork Shoulder “Stir Fry”
- 1½ lbs pork shoulder Either shoulder steak or shoulder roast will work perfectly.
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 small onion
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 handful kale Feel free to substitute any other cooking green, like spinach
- Without being too picky, trim pork to remove bones, large pieces of fat, and connective tissue. Slice into strips.
- Cut onion into thin slices. Combine pork, onion, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir to combine. If possible, let rest for half an hour.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add pork and onions. Cook, stirring regularly until onions are deep brown, 20-25 minutes.
- While the pork and onions are cooking, pull kale from stems and tear into small pieces. When the onion has finished cooking, add kale to the pan. Cook until just wilted, but still a little crunchy.
- Serve with cooked rice. Optional toppings: Spicy pepper sauce, fried egg, ginger-sesame sauce, fresh chives, or whatever strikes your fancy.