Saturday, December 10, 2016

Choy Sum, Eggplant and Galangal with Fermented Black Bean Sauce

     Tasty Vegetarian Food!
     Vegetarian entrées can be a saving grace after feasting on large amounts of rich food during the holiday season.  After being loaded down with extra large holiday feast portions, a few extra pounds can be noticed while standing on a scale the next day.  Eating fast food or pizza the days after a big heavy holiday dinner will practically guarantee that shopping for clothes that fit a bigger waistline will be necessary.  
     Sooner or later, the body rebels after being fed one heavy meal after another and the body starts sending subconscious demands for lighter food.  Those who are sensitive enough to decipher their own cravings soon realize what has been missing from their diet and what kind of food will get the body back in tune.  Vegetarian entrées are the top choice for regaining a dietary balance after eating rich holiday food for days on end.  Seafood usually follows as a second option.     
     Many vegetables, like leafy greens and cabbage, actually help to shed excess weight.  If a shopper only purchases vegetables at a common grocery store, the chances are that the shopper will only see four kinds of cabbage and four kinds of leafy green vegetables in their lifetime.  This is because major grocery store chains tend to only stock mainstream fruits and vegetables that are easy to recognize.   
     There is an extensively long list of interesting leafy green vegetables that the world has to offer.  Some varieties of leafy green vegetables are considered to be exotic, but they are actually commonplace in foreign countries.  The only way to find a greater variety of leafy green vegetables is to shop outside of the box!
     A trip to an Asian food market can yield many more leafy green vegetable choices than what a mainstream grocery store is willing to offer.  A good suggestion for those who are daring enough to try new food items every chance that they get, is to just go ahead and purchase a bunch of unusual leafy greens at an Asian market.  Writing the Asian name of the leafy greens down while at the market will make it easier to research information about the vegetable later on.  
     At Asian markets, the food is not always identified with an English name.  As a chef or enthusiastic home cook, learning the food words in foreign languages comes in handy, especially if recipe research is necessary.  Using an internet encyclopedia to learn about newly found leafy vegetable greens or any newly discovered food item is good practice.  Encyclopedic food articles often provide traditional recipe names from many cultures.  
     Napa Cabbage is often called Chinese Cabbage in the western world.  Cooks in the Asian hemisphere sometimes refer to dark green Choy Sum as being Chinese Cabbage.  Choy Sum is not really in the the same family of plants that white cabbage or savoy cabbage are in.  Choy Sum is in the mustard plant family.    
     Choy Sum cooks quickly and it is usually prepared as a stir fried item.  The stems will usually become tender, before the leafy end overcooks.  If the leaf stems are extra thick, splitting the stems in half lengthwise, so they remain attached to the leafy end is a good idea.    
     Stir fry cooking usually involves adding a small amount of a sauce, after the vegetables begin to become tender.  The sauce quickly braises the vegetables as it adds flavor.  It is important to not let the vegetables boil in the sauce for too long, or the vegetables will become limp.  
     Choy Sum is best when it is cooked tender, yet it should still have a little bit of fresh crunch to the bite.  This is what Italians call "al dente."  
     Highly skilled Chinese chefs usually place all of the ingredients needed for a sauce in one small bowl, before the stir fry cooking begins.  Stir fry cooking can be so quick, that there is not enough time to add the sauce ingredients individually.  
     One of my favorite chefs is Martin Yan and he is one of the best at teaching traditional Chinese cooking techniques.  When I was a young teenager, before working professionally in restaurants, I learned a lot of good cooking skills by watching Martin Yan cook on television shows.  Any readers of this food website can certainly learn good stir fry cooking techniques or any traditional Chinese cooking method, by watching the Martin Yan cooking shows on the internet at the YouTube website.    

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large portion!

     Fermented Black Beans Preparation:
     Jars of fermented black bean paste or sauce are convenient, but the product can have a high salt content that can limit the amount of fermented black beans that can be added to a recipe.  
     Bags of semi dried fermented black beans are available at Asian food markets and this product tends to be less salty.  The semi dried fermented black beans do not require much soaking time for them to become tender.  It is best to only use a small amount of liquid when soaking the dried fermented black beans, because the soaking liquid will have a lot of good flavor. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of semi dried fermented black beans in a small container.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Step 2:  Place the container in a refrigerator.  
     Chill till the fermented black beans soften.  (About 1 or 2 hours.)

     Vegetable Preparation:
     Cut these vegetables stir fry style and keep them separated from each other.  Some vegetables are added early in the recipe and some are added late!  
     - 1 1/2 tablespoons of very thin sliced fresh galangal.  
     - 6 to 8 large bite size pieces of eggplant that are cut into thick rectangular shapes.
     - 1/4 cup of julienne sliced Bermuda Onion.
     - 8 thin slices of carrot that are cut into decorative shapes.
     - 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
     - 8 to 10 trimmed Choy Sum Leaves with the stems attached.  (1 small bunch)
     Stir Fry Sauce Preparation:
     Step 1:  Place the reserved bowl of fermented black beans and the soaking liquid on a countertop.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.   
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red chile pepper.  (chile caribe or chile japon)
     Add 2 pinches of coriander.
     Add 1 small pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Step 2:  Add 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing Wine.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1/3 cup of vegetable broth or chicken broth.
     Step 3:  Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.  
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Set the stir fry sauce aside.
     Step 4:  Stir the sauce again, just before adding to the stir fry.  

     Choy Sum, Eggplant and Galangal with Fermented Black Bean Sauce:
     Professional kitchen woks use a jet blast of heat that is controlled with a food pedal.  Pro wok cooks step on the gas pedal when heat is needed when stir frying.  Asian chefs are adept at timing when heat needs to be generated and they can gauge how much heat will maintain a certain temperature.  A professional kitchen wok takes a little time to learn how to use, but the skill is rewarding.  
     In a home kitchen, a wok, mini wok or sauté pan that is placed over a constant medium/medium high heat is best.  If the pan gets too hot, the pan can be removed from the heat for a few seconds.  When simmering is required during the last few steps of a recipe, the temperature can be turned down to a low heat range.  
     Eggplant absorbs a lot of oil, so be ready to add a little more oil if necessary.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan or wok over medium/medium high heat.  
     Add 3 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add the eggplant.   
     Briefly stir fry the eggplant till it just begins to cook.
     *Add a little bit more oil if necessary.
     Step 2:  Add the galangal.
     Add the garlic. 
     Briefly stir fry for a few seconds till the garlic and galangal become aromatic.
     Step 3:  Add the Choy Sum.
     Stir fry till the Choy Sum leaves wilt and the stems just start to become tender.  
     *Be sure to toss the ingredients in the pan often!
     Step 4:  Add the Bermuda Onion.
     Add the carrots.
     Briefly stir fry till the onion and carrot starts to become tender.
     Step 5:  Step Add the stir fry sauce.
     Stir the sauce for a few seconds, as it comes to a boil.
     Step 6:  Cover the pan or wok with a lid for about 20 to 30 seconds, so the steam finishes cooking the Choy Sum.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use tongs to bunch the Choy Sum leaves on a plate.  Try to arange the Choy Sum so the stems are on one side of the plate.
     Step 8:  Spoon the rest of the ingredients and the sauce over the Choy Sum and onto the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!
     Serve with steamed white rice on the side.

     Aromatic fresh galangal really wakes up the flavor of fermented black beans.  This is a tasty plate Choy Sum!  

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