Friday, 22 October 2010

Choy Sum (Chinese Flowering Cabbage) with Garlic Oil and Oyster Sauce

Healthy instant fast-food: that's what this is.

So simple and quick that I think it barely qualifies as a recipe, this classic Chinese method of preparing leafy greens not only takes all of two minutes (20 seconds if you already have garlic oil on hand!) but provides pure unadulterated deliciousness in a prettily-coloured package bursting with nutrition, all with only three ingredients. Here, less is really much more :)

To non-Chinese speakers, choy sum is also known as "Chinese flowering cabbage" and typically features crunchy green stalks, thick green leaves and little yellow flowers. You may freely use pak choi/bok choy (similar to choy sum but with fatter whiter stalks), kai lan (Chinese broccoli/kale with thicker stems) or any other variety of leafy Chinese greens if preferred. My little Paint image below might help you distinguish them better than I can explain (pictures compiled from Google-no copyright infringement intended, sorry if they belong to anyone!):

Come to think of it, garlic oil and oyster sauce taste good on most vegetables so I wouldn't hesitate to drizzle them on Western broccoli or beans too. Who says instant meals can't be good for you!

Choy Sum with Garlic Oil & Oyster Sauce
Serves... well, about 2 I think? Quantities provided totally not set in stone :)

Finely mince 2 cloves garlic and stir-fry over medium heat in about 1 tbsp oil until golden brown and crisp. Dish out and set aside.

*If desired you can make a huge batch of this at one go, and store in a jar for future use. It's fragrant and so delicious as a simple drizzle on vegetables!

Trim the stems of 3-4 large bunches of choy sum, slice into two (for easier eating) and wash thoroughly. Bring a pot of water to boil and chuck your vegetables in to blanch for about 20 seconds (not minutes)- DO NOT OVERCOOK! The leaves should only be wilted ever so slightly, with their strong bright green hue still intact.

Drain completely, arrange on a plate and drizzle with oyster sauce (if you're vegetarian, you can find varieties made with mushroom extract) and garlic oil.

TA-DAA, DONE! :) Serve immediately with hot steamed rice.

*If preferred, feel free to steam for a few minutes instead of blanching- it takes a tad longer but preserves even more nutrients.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Penang Char Kuay Teow (Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles)

I initially blogged a version of this sinful Malaysian favourite, most famously from the island of Penang, back in April 2009. Since then, after some extensive R&D (by that I mean making Arivind my taste test guinea pig until he gives it the thumbs up) we have decided that you should ignore the old one and use This Perfected Recipe instead!

Truthfully the only change is that the seasoning has been tweaked to contain both dark and light soy sauce in 3:1 proportions, as well as a touch of sugar. The literal meaning of "char" in Chinese is to stir-fry briskly over high heat (in this case until it is actually "charred" as it means in English), so the crucial key to success still lies in a super hot smoking wok, a large open flame and a very quick hand. Sorry but it has to be a wok and it has to be a flame; an electric stove and a normal Tefal or any other frying pan just won't provide the essential smoky "wok hei" (the fragrance imparted by a hot wok)- trust me, I've tried. You must also:

a)Make sure all the individual ingredients are already sliced/ washed/ chopped/ prepped before you start any cooking, ready to be tossed in fast-and-furious style. Too slow and stuff will burn!

b)Ventilate- put your cooker hood on at full blast, open all your windows etc to avoid setting off your smoke alarm (which I've done several times).

c)Use fresh hor fun/kuay teow where possible. As they usually come quite stiff and stuck together, make sure to soak in boiling water first to loosen the strands (don't just try to pry them apart as they will break). If you only have dried noodles, use less as it expands once boiled and cook according to the packet instructions first.

d)Make sure to drain the soaked hor fun/kuay teow thoroughly. Wet noodles beget soggy char kuay teow that won't char!

e)Fry single portions at a time to get the right texture and ratio of noodles to the other ingredients.

f)Put aside any concerns about healthy eating- if you're on a diet, char kuay teow and it's tasty lardy deliciousness are NOT for you :)

g)Be prepared for your entire house to smell like a hawker centre. I'd recommend closing off your bedrooms/any other areas you'd like to protect.

Happy cooking!

Penang Char Kuay Teow (Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles)
*Makes 2 medium servings*

  • Pre-preparation
Soak 300g fresh hor fun/kuay teow in boiling water until noodles are softened and separated (if using dried noodles, cook according to the packet instructions first). Drain until as dry as possible using a colander or sieve.

Stir together 3 tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 tbsp light soy sauce and 1/2 tbsp sugar in a small bowl to form the seasoning sauce and set aside.

Finely chop 2 cloves of garlic.

Peel, devein and wash 8-10 medium prawns.

Thinly slice about 75g fishcake and 1/2 a stick of lap cheong (Chinese sweet dried sausages) into 8-10 pieces each. Some people use char siew (barbecued pork) or shredded crab meat too- do whatever you fancy.

Slice the green part of 2 stalks of ku chye (Chinese chives) into short lengths (roughly 3cm). Or if you don't have any, use spring onions instead like I did.

Rinse 2 small handfuls of beansprouts. (Tip: once you've opened a pack of beansprouts, store them soaked in cold water in the fridge. For some reason they'll last a few days longer that way!)

Place 2 eggs, your white pepper, your salt and your jar of chilli oil with shrimp within easy reach.

I'm not a fan at all but if you're really hardcore/can even find them, scrub a handful of si hum (blood cockles) until clean, blanch them quickly in boiling water to open then deshell them.

You are now ready to "char"!
  • Frying the Char Kuay Teow
Heat 2 tbsp of oil (or lard for a more authentic albeit more detrimental version) in a large wok over high heat until smoking.

Throw in the rest of the ingredients in the following order and fry briskly:

Half the pre-chopped garlic (1 clove)
4-5 prawns
4-5 slices each of the fishcake, lap cheong or char siew
1 heaped tbsp chilli oil with shrimps- get lots of bits not just the oil, and be prepared to start coughing as everything smokes up! Most people use normal chilli paste/sambal but I really favour the added kick and depth of shrimpy chilli oil.
Half the drained hor fun/kuay teow (should be about a large handful)
2 tbsp of prepared soy sauce-sugar seasoning
Dash of white pepper
Dash of salt

Push the noodles to the sides of the wok and break 1 egg into the middle. Scramble quickly and toss to mix.

Chuck in a small handful of fresh beansprouts.

Throw in half the sliced Chinese chive/spring onion strips.

Give everything a good last few tosses, then dish out onto a plate. Repeat the entire process with the remaining ingredients.

Serve immediately.