- Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
- Pork lo mein
An article in the Washington Post by Matt Bonesteel noted that Google had released its map of each state's most uniquely searched Super Bowl food. In the February 2 piece, titled "The 2021 Super Bowl Food Map is a Deep Dive into America's Weird Culinary Underbelly," Bonesteel does caution that the "results should be taken with a giant grain of salt."
He goes on to poke fun at the apparent Super Bowl menu preferences of several specific states, including Vermont. According to Google search data, many Vermonters are planning to celebrate Sunday's big game between Kansas City and Tampa Bay with … drum roll … pork chow mein.
Bonesteel appears unenthused about this Chinese-American restaurant classic, but he does give a backhanded shout-out to the state's craft brew reputation.
To quaff with our pork chow mein, he notes that Vermonters will likely select "a nano brewed beer produced by a bearded man in a shed."
I remember pork chow mein as a perfectly good takeout restaurant dish, though it was far from the Super Bowl choice of my household (firmly in the chicken wing camp). But I have never cooked it at home and found little direction in my extensive cookbook collection.
I'm afraid I added to the statistical case against us by googling it.
Pulling from a few recipes I found on the web, plus one in my 2008 edition of the Middlebury Congregational Church Cookbook and another from the back of the China Bowl Select Chinese noodles package, here is what I came up with using local pork and both Napa and red cabbages from our CSA share.
One caveat: This is more in the lo mein vein, so-to-speak, as I opted not to deep-fry the noodles as true chow mein requires.
Seeking the perfect Vermont nano brew to pair with it, I emailed Reverend Col. Jeff S. Baker II, co-author of Burlington Brewing: A History of Craft Beer in the Queen City. He recommends pairing it with a high-carbonation wheat beer like Queen City Brewery's hefeweizen.
The citrus notes from the German yeast, he explains, will "fold in nicely with the pork, ginger and soy while the snappy bubbles help refresh your palate" between bites.
No, it's not your typical Super Bowl meal but, maybe this year, when New England fans are watching their longtime treasured quarterback play for someone else, it's time to mix it up.
Pork Chow (really Lo) MeinServes 4
Note: although not part of the traditional recipe, my family agreed this was good with a kick of heat from sriracha or other chili sauce.
- 1 (10-ounce) package Chinese lo mein noodles
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil or neutral cooking oil
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry, optional (sub: just use a bit more chicken stock)
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock, plus a little more as needed
- About 10 scallions, thinly sliced, reserving darkest green parts for garnish
- 1 pound pork tenderloin, sliced into thin strips
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 5-6 cups assorted vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, celery or mushrooms, thinly sliced; snow peas or snap peas, whole or halved
- Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a large, shallow serving bowl and toss with a couple teaspoons of the oil.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, cooking wine, ginger and chicken stock.
- In a large wok or sauté pan set over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until it shimmers. Add the scallions and the pork. Cook, stirring a couple times, for a couple minutes. Pour about ½ cup of the sauce mixture into the pan and stir. Cook, just until the pork is cooked through, about another 2 minutes. Remove the pork and scallions to a plate, doing your best to scrape out as much of the sauce as possible, and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan set over medium-high heat and cook the vegetables with the garlic, starting with the sturdiest ones, like red cabbage or carrots, and adding them with the most tender ones last. Cook, tossing, until they are all softened, and then pour in the remaining sauce.
- Turn off the heat but leave the pan on the stove while you toss the vegetables with the sauce, then add the noodles to the pan and toss well to combine. Finally, add the pork and toss.
- Transfer everything to the serving dish and garnish with the reserved dark green scallion tops.