There is a lot of China bashing going on right now. This may be because of fear of the Covid 19 virus or it may be because of fear of a Chinese ascendency in a globalised world, or both. For now, sitting here in Ireland, half way between the US of A and China, I really don’t care which is the cause, give it a rest please. We are here to try a delightful dish inspired by the flavours of Sichuan, particularly the Sichuan peppercorn. It really is not a peppercorn. It doesn’t add any heat to dishes. But, it adds a fantastic flavour combined with a lip numbing effect. Lovely! So, with the politics out of the way, let’s get on with the cooking.
This recipe is for a Sichuan style Rabbit and Peanut Stir Fry. In truth, I wonder if rabbit is worth the trouble. It is significantly more expensive than chicken. It is more fiddly to prepare with a lot more waste relative to the meat and runs a real risk of being as dry as a camel’s footprint in the Sahara desert. Having said all that, this was a cracker. It provides a generous meal for two people.
- 1 rabbit*
- 500ml of good quality chicken (or rabbit ) stock
- 2 tablespoons of Sichuan peppercorns
- 3 tablespoons of peanuts
- 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of black vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of rice wine or sherry
- 2 tablespoons of fermented black beans
- 4 or 5 spring onions
- 6cm of good quality root ginger
- 1 tablespoon of crispy chilli in oil or two fresh chillis
- Flour for dusting the rabbit
*Here in the west, we tend to not get our hands on the rabbit heads. In Sichuan, they are a particular delicacy. A friend who owns a Sichuan restaurant gets them occasionally as a treat for his chefs.
The first thing to do is to reconstitute the black beans in some hot water. While this is going on, dissect the rabbit into bite sized pieces.
Slice the ginger and spring onions as in the picture above. Dust the rabbit with the flour and fry it in a large wok until nicely browned. Meanwhile, dry fry the peanuts to get their flavour intensified and to make them a bit more crunchy. Add the ginger and spring onions to the rabbit. Stir fry this until aromatic.
Remove any seeds and spiky bits from the peppercorns (this is a tedious enough task that requires a deal of patience. Just do it.
Place them in a mortar along with most of the peanuts. Bash the bejasus out of them so you end up with a fine powdery paste. Add this to the frying.
Add in the rice wine and flame off the alcohol. Add the black beans, soy sauce, black vinegar and chilis.
Stir fry this until the the sauce reduces to a nice consistency. The rabbit should be cooked by the time the sauce has thickened.
Serve this over a nice bowl of white rice. Sprinkle the remaining peanuts and some chopped spring onions over the top. Why not double the ingredients and invite an American and a Chinese friend over for dinner? Whatever the politics of the current world order, this flavoursome dish will unite anybody at the table. If you use enough of the Sichuan peppercorns, they will not be able to speak anyway. Enjoy.