Shredded pork with garlic sauce, or Yu Xiang Rou Si, features tender pork strips stir fried with an array of colorful vegetables, brought together with a rich sauce that is sweet, sour, savory and spicy. Try this dish for an authentic Chinese restaurant experience in your own kitchen!
I think the English name “Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce” does not justify this dish. Yet, the explanation of its Chinese name is a little long-winded.
Yu Xiang Rou Si (鱼香肉丝) directly translates as “fish fragrant shredded pork” in Chinese. It might sound confusing because there’s nothing fishy about this dish.
What is Yu Xiang
The Yu Xiang, or fish fragrant flavor, is one of the major flavor profiles in Sichuan cuisine. You might have experienced the Mala (麻辣), or numbing spicy, in the famous Mala Chicken or Mapo Tofu. The Gai Wei (怪味), or strange flavor, in the Chicken with Spicy Sesame Sauce. The Suan La (酸辣), or sour spicy, in the hot and sour noodle soup. The Yu Xiang flavor is another signature one that is commonly used in dishes such as Yu Xiang Eggplant, or this dish, which we loosely translate as “shredded pork with garlic sauce”.
To create the flavor, an appropriate ratio of vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, Shaoxing wine, doubanjiang (fermented spicy bean paste) and plenty of aromatics is used to create a rich yet balanced symphony of flavors. It results in a spicy, savory sauce that is also sweet and sour. All four flavors are balanced and none stands out too much, yet it’s bursting with fragrance.
In the US, you might find this dish in authentic Sichuan restaurants under the name shredded pork with garlic sauce. And the sauce tastes much more complex than the plain brown sauce that’s sometimes also referred to as garlic sauce.
The ingredients for shredded pork with garlic sauce
Shredded pork with garlic sauce uses thinly sliced pork and vegetables to create a special texture – tender, crisp, and very richly slathered with the sauce due to the cutting method. Yes, it does take a moment (or a few!) to prepare the ingredients. But the result is beyond rewarding.
Doubanjiang (豆瓣酱), also known as spicy fermented bean paste and broad bean sauce. It is a key ingredient in dishes like mapo tofu. And it has a strong fermented savory, salty and spicy taste, which adds complexity to the sauce.
Try to find “Pixian Broad Bean Paste” at an Asian market. Pixian is a small county in Sichuan province that produces the best broad bean paste. If you’re using this brand, you’re already halfway there. You can also purchase this brand on Amazon here.
Shredded pork with garlic sauce always uses various vegetables for their color, texture, and taste. The most commonly used are bamboo shoots, carrots, wood ear mushrooms, and sometimes peppers.
The wood ear mushrooms do not add a lot of flavor, but the soft yet crunchy texture works so well with the crisp vegetables and their subtle earthiness works beautifully with the sauce.
The carrots are semi tender and crisp and have a nice sweet taste.
You can skip one vegetable or replace it with your favorite. But I highly recommend sticking to the recipe for the authentic experience.
TIP: you can use a julienne peeler to slice the carrots to save time, as the knife work can get tedious.
How to cut the pork
You can either use pork loin or tenderloin for this dish.
- If using pork loin, you should slice the big piece of pork down the middle to create a smaller long piece first.
- Then slice the piece into thin slices.
- Half stack the pieces, then further slice them into strips that are just a bit bigger than matchsticks.
If you find the pork too soft and hard to slice, placing it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes helps a lot.
Mise en place
Once you’ve done the prep, your table should have:
- Marinated pork
- Mixed sauce
- Minced garlic and ginger
- Sliced bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, and carrots
- Sliced pepper
I like to group my ingredients by when they’re used in the recipe, so I can use fewer prep bowls and make the cooking process clearer.
How to cook shredded pork with garlic sauce
- Stir fry the pork until just cooked through, then transfer it to a plate
- Cook the aromatics with doubanjiang to release the fragrance
- Add the vegetables that take longer cook
- Add the cooked pork and sauce back into the pan
- Stir everything together
That’s it. Now you can serve the shredded pork with garlic sauce over steamed rice to make a delicious, beautiful, and balanced meal.
Yu Xiang Rou Si, or shredded pork with garlic sauce, is a very popular dish in China. It was one of my favorite Sichuan dishes growing up, just like Kung Pao Chicken. It is not quite as spicy as some other famous Sichuan specialties like Dan Dan Noodles, so it’s a great dish to introduce someone to Sichuan food if they do not like lots of spiciness. And it’s a dish that many kids love.
I was initially hesitant to share this dish, because the cutting requires a lot of effort and time. But it’s too delicious to miss! I hope you take the time to prepare it and experience how great it is.
Other delicious Sichuan recipes
- Ma La Xiang Guo (Sichuan Mala Dry Pot, 麻辣香锅)
- Shui Zhu Yu (Sichuan Boiled Fish, 水煮鱼)
- Mapo Eggplant (麻婆茄子)
- Chinese Bang Bang Chicken (棒棒鸡)
- Stir-Fried Pea Shoots with Garlic (蒜蓉炒豆苗)
- Sichuan Spicy Wonton in Red Oil (红油抄手)
Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce (鱼香肉丝, Yu Xiang Rou Si)
- 8 g (scant 1/4 cup) dried wood ear mushrooms (yields about 1 cup after soaking)
- 8 oz (225 g) pork loin
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 1 teaspoon peanut oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Prepare the dried ingredient
- Add wood ear mushrooms to a medium-sized bowl and hot water to cover. Soak until the mushrooms turn tender throughout, 20 to 30 minutes. Once done, rinse the mushrooms and gently rub them with your fingers to remove any dust. Drain, cut into thin slices, and set aside.
To marinate the pork
- Slice the pork loin into round, 1/8” (4 mm) thick pieces. Stack the slices and further cut into 1/8” (4 mm) thick strips. Add the Shaoxing wine, peanut oil, salt, and white pepper. Mix with your fingers until the wine is fully absorbed. Then add the cornstarch and mix again until evenly coated. Marinate for 15 minutes while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
For the sauce
- Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir to mix well and set aside.
To make the stir fry
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot. Add the marinated pork while separating the pieces, so they do not overlap too much in the pan. Cook without touching until the bottom turns golden. Flip and cook the other side until just cooked. Transfer the pork to a large plate.
- Turn the heat to medium-high and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the garlic, ginger, and doubanjiang. Stir and cook for a minute or so, until the aromatics are evenly coated with the doubanjiang.
- Add the carrots, soaked wood ear mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. Cook and stir until the carrots begin to wilt, about 1 minute.
- Add the peppers and cooked pork. Stir the sauce to dissolve the cornstarch again and pour it into the pan. Immediately stir everything together until the sauce thickens, 30 seconds or so. Transfer everything to a plate.
- Serve hot over steamed rice as a main dish.