Friday, January 30, 2009

Mon An Chay - Vegetarian Stirfry

Happy Chinese NewYear !!! Gong Hey Fat Choy !! Chuc Mung Nam Moi !!

This year I took the Monday (1st day of the lunar year) off to spend with my family. We visited a few temples to offer incents, and it was really nice feeling the New Year spirit all around. On the first, we followed our Mom to eat "chay" (vegetarian). I actually like to eat "chay" every now and then, I'm not too much of a meat person to start with, so I can easily afford to go vegetarian a day or two. Healthy, easy to cook, I like to share with you this simple vegetarian stirfry.

+ 1 pack of cubed fried tofu
+ 1 can whole straw mushroom, washed
+ 1 can bamboo shoot, washed and cut into thinner slices (see picture)
+ 1 cup baby carrots (or 1 medium carrot, cut into small finger-size pieces)
+ 1/2 cup soysauce
+ 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar , or to taste
+ 3 cups water
+ 3-5 cloves garlic, chopped.
+ 2 tbsp oil

Cooking Instructions:
+ Wash all ingredients, cut bamboo shoots into thinner slices, drain and put away in a container
+ Heat up the oil in a big wok, add garlic.
+ Add carrots, bamboo, and mushroom, tofu. Stir a few times to heat them evenly.
(I use baby carrots so I cook them at the same time as bamboo, mushroom, and tofu. If you use regular carrots and cut into smaller pieces, they will need to be cooked a little longer, therefore you should cook the carrots in the wok first for 2-3 minutes before adding other ingredients)
+ Add soysauce, water, salt, sugar. Mix up well and stir occasionally so that all the vegetable can soak up the sauce.
+ Let it cook for 20 minutes, stir and mix occasionally
+ Additional water, soysauce, salt, sugar to taste if needed. You do want to keep some sauce, the sauce is sooo good poured over rice :-)
+ Let it cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off heat and keep covered.

Served with hot white rice.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

water crest soup

This isn't a Vietnamese soup since I never had it growing up, at least not being cooked this way. My Mom has made salads and other main dishes using water crest, even water crest soup cooked with ground pork, but the taste of the soup broth is remotely different. This is a Chinese (Cantonese?) version that was introduced to me by the hubbie back when we were still dating. The soup broth is a bit "sweet". I've very soon picked up this one of his favorite soups as my fav also. Come to think about it, the hubbie is pretty easy going at eating since he has a...lot... of favorites.

This soup is earthy, healthy, yummy, and easy to make.

+ 2 bundles of water crest, washed.
+ 1 lb of pork ribs, cut into smaller pieces (remove the fat if you like)
+ (Optional) 20-30 dried almond seeds
+ 1 dried sweeten fig (see picture). This is usually sold in a plastic package at Asian grocery or herbal store like Wing Hop Fung
+ My "secret ingredient" :-) is a few small pieces of "tran bi`" (dried citrus peel). Some type of citrus peel is already sweeten, so you'll need to adjust the sweet-salty balance of your broth (for example: choose a smaller sized dried fig, add more water and salt to proportion out the extra sugar, etc.)
+ 2-3 tsp salt. Or to taste.

Cooking instruction:
+ Boil a pot of water
+ (Optional) if you have dried almond seeds, add them to the pot and cook from the beginning. These seeds are hard so it'll take a long time to cook them. By adding at the beginning, we give it more cooking time.
+ When boiled, add the pork ribs, 1 dried sweeten fig, and dried citrus peel into the pot
+ Let it cook in the broth for 1/2 hour. Scoop off the foam if any.

  • *Note* The dried fig should be pretty sweet (sometimes I scoop it out after I think I've got enough sweet taste to my soup - and let the soup continue to cook without it)
+ Add the water crest, and lower the heat to medium. Let cook for another 1/2 hour (the vegetable appears all soft) or longer if you want.
+ Add salt and sugar to taste at the end, before turning off heat.

I used to ask the hubbie why they cook until the vegies all soft, presentation wise, it doesn't look as nice, taste wise you can't "eat" the vegetable it pretty much melt in your mouth. This is alot different from the Vietnamese way of cooking, because in Vietnamese cooking at least you want to be able to bite on or chew on the vegetable to savoy its taste and texture. So according to the hubbie, chinese "loo fo" soups (literally translated to "old fire") emphasize only on the broth. That's why they usually cook for a very long time (hence, loo fo) so that all the nutrition and flavor can yield into the broth. All the ingredients that go in a soup (meat, vegetables, etc.) are meant to give nutrition and flavor up the broth and people would mainly drink the broth, sometimes don't even bother about the rest. Interesting concept. But then again, I thought its a little bit wasteful.