Fork tender zucchini and minced pork slathered in a flavourful oyster soy sauce. Ready in 30 minutes! I serve this with freshly steamed rice as a weeknight staple for the whole family!
I’m definitely all about comfort food and I have a weak spot for saucy soy based dishes you can pour over a hot steaming bowl of rice. There is something very nostalgic for me. I often remember going out to Chinese family dinners and loving the act of spooning the contents of 7-8 different dishes in my too-small rice bowl. My favourite part was the rice at the bottom swimming with all the different sauces. Sounds gross (I know) but somehow all the flavours meld beautifully and it was the tastiest thing I’ve ever eaten. It also made eating rice with chopsticks easier cuz somehow I was never allowed to use a spoon??? (mom’s orders)
This zucchini pork dish reminds me of those meals – fluffy rice? (check), soy based? (check), saucy goodness? (check) This dish is cooked in Chinese “brown” sauce, which I never knew was a thing until I started searching online what to call this dish. To me it’s a soy based sauce thickened in corn starch, something my mom did without fail every night for dinner. So if you like that flavour profile, then this dish is for you! I also have a recipe specifically dedicated to this sauce which you can check out here.
My inspiration for this dish is based off of a traditional Chinese dish called fuzzy melon and minced pork (something I grew up eating). Fuzzy melon a.k.a hairy gourd is a vegetable with a prickly pear skin found in most Asian super markets. It has a firm texture, mild flavour and used a lot in stir frys, braised vegetarian dishes and soups. I love it personally but my kids don’t. I guess the texture didn’t work for two toddlers with new baby teeth. Anyhoo, I swapped my beloved Asian vegetable for mild zucchini which also shows up a lot on my kid’s daycare menu – not a coincidence and I trust that they know what’s kid friendly. So then this dish was born!
I also shamelessly make this meal on a weekly basis because #1 – it’s fast, #2 – cooked in one pot and #3 minimal prep. I especially like that I don’t have to mess with slicing protein and can dump the minced pork in a bowl and add seasonings. Don’t ask me why but I resist handling protein over cutting veggies any day.
Marinate the Ground Pork
This dish starts off by marinating the minced pork with soy sauce, salt, corn starch and a bit of rice wine. Definitely do this step first to allow 10-15 mins for the pork to marinate. I find the saucy base of this dish more than makes up for the minimal marination time. You can do this step the night before to save time on the day of cooking as well!
Chop up the Veggies
Cut up the zucchini in cubes, mince the garlic and onion. Do this all before cooking. This dish comes together FAST in one pot (or wok) so you want to make sure you have everything ready to go when you turn on the stove. I tried to cut the zucchini while the onions were cooking to save time…and I learned the hard way not to do that…
Throw it all in the Pot (or Wok)
Heat a pot (or wok) on medium high heat and then add the oil. Put in the onions, grated ginger, a pinch of salt and cook for 2 mins until starting to turn translucent. Then add the pork and garlic. The pork might stick to the bottom of the pan but don’t worry! We will deglaze it with liquid after. If you do notice the bottom of the pan starting to burn or brown too quickly, turn down the heat to medium. A bit of browning at the bottom of the pan is good because this will add flavour to the dish! Make sure your pot is hot when cooking this or else your dish will lack flavour.
Once the pork has all changed colour and starting to brown, add light soya sauce, dark soya sauce, white pepper, fish sauce, brown sugar, chili flakes (if using) to the pork mixture. Finally add the cubed zucchini, mix and deglaze with broth or water. Mix the contents again, making sure to loosen any browned bits at the bottom of the pot.
Cover the pot and let simmer for 5 minutes stirring once in between. While your dish simmers, I also mix up the corn starch slurry that will act as the sauce thickener for the dish. After 5 mins, uncover the pot to check if the zucchini is done – it should look a little translucent, still keeping its shape and easily pierced with a fork.
Make Delicious Brown Sauce
Once done, add 1/2 of the corn starch slurry. Mix well and see how the sauce looks. It should coat a wooden spatula nicely. If you find it too thin, add the remaining slurry bit by bit and mixing until you get the consistency you desire. Add a bit of water if you find it too thick.
Once done, add the sesame oil and oyster sauce and mix again to finish. Take a quick taste test and add a pinch of salt if you’d like. Spoon over hot rice and ENJOY!
Let me know if you tried this recipe and add your comments below! I’d love to hear from you!
Ground Pork and Zucchini with Brown Sauce
For Minced Pork
- 1/2 lb minced lean pork
- 2 tbsp rice wine (or Shaoxing wine) – See Note 1
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp salt
For Remaining Dish
- 3 medium zucchinis
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp ginger grated (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
- 1 small white onion chopped
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 2 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp chili flakes optional
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 3/4 cup water/broth of your choice
- 3 tsp corn starch mixed with 2 tbsp water
- 2 tsp oyster sauce (or hoisin sauce) – see Note 2
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- salt to taste
- grapeseed oil for cooking (or vegetable oil)
- chopped green onion optional for garnish
- Combine minced pork, rice wine, corn starch, light soya sauce and salt in a bowl. Mix well and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients
- Peel and cut zucchini into cubes about 1/2 inch thick
- Heat a wok or stainless steel pot on medium/high heat. Add a little oil once hot
- Add chopped onion, grated ginger and a pinch of salt to heated pot. Sautée onions until a little translucent (approx. 2 mins)
- Add marinated minced pork and minced garlic, stir and cook for 3-5 mins until pork has almost entirely changed color and starting to brown. Make sure the bottom of the pot isn't burning, lower heat to medium if necessary. If the pork sticks to the bottom of the pot, don't worry, we will deglaze with liquid in the next step.
- Add light soya sauce, dark soya sauce, white pepper, fish sauce, brown sugar, chili flakes (if using) and cubed zucchini
- Mix everything thoroughly and add water/broth to deglaze (the brown bits at the bottom of the pot is flavour!)
- Cover and lower heat to low/medium. Cook for 5 mins stirring halfway
- While your dish simmers, mix the 3 tsp of corn starch with 2 tbsp of water to make a slurry
- Uncover the dish after 5 mins and pierce zucchini with fork to check if cooked. The zucchini should be slightly translucent but still keep its shape. Cover and cook an extra 2 more mins if you want the zucchini softer (based on your preference)
- Once the zucchini is cooked, the dish should be a bit watery which we thicken to make a yummy sauce! Switch heat to low, mix and add 1/2 the corn starch slurry and stir the dish gently. The mixture should start to thicken. If still too watery, add remaining corn starch slurry a little at a time and stirring until desired thickness. If too thick, add a little water
- Add oyster sauce and sesame oil to finish
- Top with chopped green onion and an extra pinch of salt (optional). Enjoy over steamed rice!