Saturday, 15 February 2014

Flowers from a Chinese Vegetable Garden

Choi San, con i Funghi Shiitake, Ravanelli & Sugo di Ostriche
Choi San, Shiitake Mushrooms & Radishes in Oyster Sauce

There are so many different kinds of "choi", or Chinese leafy greens that it is sometimes a challenge for a British-born, Sicilian guy to keep track... so I usually end up having to ask of course. Fortunately, if I ask at the market hall here in Frankfurt, I get not only locally grown greens but also good information from Mrs. Wong... lucky me!

So, as it happens, this pretty, green and yellow bunch of prettiness, turned out to be Choi San- which is also known as "flowering Tsai-Hsin" and is the Asian cousin of our Italian Cima di Rapa or broccoli rabe... and what beautiful yellow blossoms it had today!

I would say that the flavor of choi-san is best described as mix between a sweet, mild mustard and a gently earthy spinach flavor. Yeah- I think that describes it rather well!The pencil-to-asparagus stalk thick stems are sweet and juicy, but also tender enough that you can eat them raw in a salad or wilt them into a noodle soup... but this evening, I decided steam a flash-fry them along with some wonderful, fresh Shiitake mushrooms and radish to make a delicious, light, vegetarian dish. 

I thought that radishes would make a nice addition, as they also have a light mustard-like flavor and would add a nice touch of contrast and texture, which proved indeed to be the case- as well as a touch of color to brighten things up a little too :-)

The ingredients I used were very simple ones. A bunch of choi san, 2 handfuls of fresh Shiitake's, a handful of radishes, an onion, about 2" worth of fresh ginger, a little garlic, some 5-Spice powder and oyster sauce, sesame oil and some freshly ground Szechuan pepper.

And of course rice. Well ok, I suppose it could have been egg noodles. Or glass noodles. Or rice noodles. But it wasn't- it was plain and simple rice, which was the first thing I started cooking, in my rice cooker, so that I could forget about it and concentrate on the rest... and that was all easy to prepare too...

I washed the choi-sam and cut off the ends of the stems as well as any leaves that were damaged, and popped it onto a steam rack and into a saucepan with a little water, where it could spend the next 5 minutes whilst I quickly prepare the mushrooms. 

Next, I rinsed the Shiitake's under the tap, giving them a good rub, then cut away the ends of the stems and cut them in half. I popped them into a hot frying pan with just a little sesame oil, then quickly crushed a clove of garlic and added half of it, finely chopped, along with about 1" worth of ginger which I cut into really fine slices. I sautéed  these for 1-2 minutes and then added enough water to cover the base of the pan and popped on the lid :-)

After a couple of minutes with the lid on, most of the water had evaporated away and this was the time to add the onion and about 1 level teaspoon of 5-spice powder. Seasoning came in the form of a splash of soy and little chili powder.

By now the choi-sam was done, so I drained it, added the other half clove of crushed garlic, a little sesame oil and a drizzle of oyster sauce and tossed it gently, then let it sit in the warm saucepan until the mushrooms were done- which didn't take long- all that needed to happen was for the water to evaporate away and for the onion to turn translucent.

I served the choi-sam up first on a bed of rice, then added the juicy, rich mushrooms on top. Whilst I was doing that, I added a splash of sesame oil into a small frying pan and quickly began to sizzle that handful very thinly sliced radishes with as pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. I added these to the mushrooms and greens along with a last few drops of sesame oil and oyster sauce, to make sure everything was juicy and delicious.

The finishing touch was a nice sprinkle of freshly ground Szechuan pepper, to add a bit of "zing!" and the result was pretty terrific! Again, nothing to get too excited about, but good, honest food, with a hint of Asian flavor and a little hat-tip from me ;-)

I hope you enjoy it!

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