Chinese New Year 2013 ushered in the Year of the Snake. For us, it was another excuse for several prolonged family feasts. There was a lot of sitting around a table laden with food, picking away at morsels and waving zai jian (goodbye) to our collective resolutions to get healthy, eat less and do more exercise. Mi brought her home-made achar (spicy pickles) which is eaten with freshly deep-fried prawn keropok (crackers). Her secret ingredient is top-quality Malaysian hei bi (dried shrimp) which gave it a really savoury dimension.
My contribution to the CNY table is a traditional auspicious dish, the 8-treasures stir-fry. 8 in Chinese sounds like the word for ‘fortune’; that’s what I’ve been told. (My command of Chinese is so haltingly bad, even my 4-year-old niece refuses to put up with it.)
My version of the 8-treasures vegetables is borrowed from Kylie Kwong’s Recipes and Stories. This is all done quickly in a very hot wok, so most of the effort is in getting the ingredients ready.
This is such a simple dish, and there doesn’t appear to be any rules to this, so be creative, and use what you like to eat. Choose between the various mushrooms (fresh, canned or dried), tofu, vegetables (lotus root, baby corn, water chestnuts, bamboo shoot, asparagus, snow peas) and even lily buds. The idea is to get a range of textures and flavours.
The recipe below makes enough for a crowd, so halve the ingredients for 6 diners.
1 Tbsp oil
2cm ginger, sliced
1 can bamboo shoot halves (or whole)
1 can straw mushrooms
10 fresh or dried shiitake mushroom
2 pieces dried beancurd sticks
1 cup white fungus (also known as snow fungus)
1 cup black wood ear fungus
200g oyster mushrooms
½ pkt of bean thread vermicelli
4 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
1 tsp sugar
200mL vegetable stock (or make with stock powder)
2 tsp black vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
Soak the dried ingredients for 30 minutes or more until completely rehydrated. Kitchen shears are ideal for cutting these into even sizes. Slice bamboo shoots.
Heat oil in a hot wok. Fry the ginger slices for 1 minute, then add in shiitake mushroom, beancurd sticks, bamboo shoots and straw mushrooms. Stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Add soy sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine and sprinkle on the sugar, stir for another 2 minutes. Put in rest of the ingredients; wood ear fungus, white fungus, oyster mushroom and bean thread vermicelli. Add the vegetable stock, and simmer for 2 minutes. Splash in the black vinegar and sesame oil and toss to coat well.
Taste, and adjust saltiness by adding more soy if desired. Serve hot.