Saturday, 29 March 2014

Flowering Greens, Steaming Dragon

Salsiccia Cinese con Choi Sam & Tagliatelle al Uovo, Piccante
Spicy Chinese Sausage, Choi Sam, & Egg Noodles

When it comes to cooking, I am always going to be the guy who follows his instincts and his own inquisitive nature more than the one that follows any trend out there... that's just the way that I am. If everybody is there making burgers, eating expensive steak or even slurping oysters... you can be sure that I will not be doing that! But you might find me preparing something like this here! :-)

The main reason that I made this is that I was given this beautiful, blossoming, yellow and green choi sam by Mrs. Wong as a gift today at the market hall- which was already wonderful enough- but what then finally clinched it, was that I asked her something I have been wondering about for ages... what does Asian sausage taste like, anyway?

She told me that her husband steams it and that it has a mild and sweet flavor... and that already had me intrigued! 

So I already had the lovely greens- which are basically young and tender collard greens... and the sausages were an absolute must when I happened upon them later at the Asian supermarket- as were their own made (apparently!) noodles. Into my bag they went and on my way home I went- and my journey of discovery had only just begun!

As I had been out a little bit longer than usual, I decided to try out something very quick and very easy. I washed  the hoi sam and spread it out in a bamboo steamer, then sliced up the sausage on a diagonal and laid it on top, together with some slivers of fresh ginger. Of course, I ate a piece of sausage raw- just to have an idea of what flavor lied in store for me...

...and was intrigued to find that it did indeed taste sweet, in the same way that Chinese barbecue pork tastes... you know, that vibrant red colored delicious stuff? Well that is exactly what it tasted of- which may be a little weird for our Western taste-buds, but was fun and interesting and already had me thinking...

I cranked up the heat on my saucepan of water to get the steam going, set the steamer on top and let it steam away for 10 minutes or so until the greens became a nice, even-more vibrant color and the sausage was cooked through. By the time it had cooked, most of the fat in the sausage had melted away and of course been absorbed by the greens, which together with the ginger made for a great flavor combination.

At that point, I removed the steam rack and dropped my single portion bundle of noodles into the boiling water to cook, returned the steamer and lid and let then cook away for 5 minutes... I told you I decided to do something quick and easy!

Once the noodles were done, I drained them off, added a light drizzle of sesame oil, a little light soy and gave them a quick toss before plating them up. 

Next came the greens, which I carefully laid on top and then the sausage slices and ginger- it all went on, it all smelled wonderful but I knew it needed more seasoning in order for it to taste really wonderful as the sweet sausage and strong-flavored greens needed something to bring them together harmoniously. So of course I reached for something nobody else would have... Thai shrimp-flavored chili flakes!

I love the color of these shrimp chili flakes and the rich flavor of the shrimp shells that is ground together with them, which makes them much more interesting to me!

The sausages happened to be made of beef, which would seem a strange thing to be sprinkling something that tastes of shrimp onto... but then again- "surf & turf" works for us- so why shouldn't this work for an Asian meal?

And the answer to that is of course that it does work- and beautifully so! As the dish still needed decent, basic seasoning still, I decided to use hoisin sauce to add the saltiness that was lacking and a lovely richness and depth that made everything simply work wonderfully together- there was no need to do anything more to the flavor- it was just delicious!

The bottom line is that yes, Chinese sausage does have a distinctly sweet flavor compared with what we are used to- so if you are a westerner like me, you may want to add more seasoning to it... I know that I did. I have plenty more of them in the freezer now for future use, but already have a few ideas of cool ways to use them- to make dumpling dishes with for example or to use in Spring rolls... we will see! But the soy sauce will be there at the ready!

The cool thing about this combination for me though, is that it is basically an Asian version of our "pasta con cime di rapa & salsiccia"- pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage in Italy- a classic dish that I somehow managed NOT to make last week. Bearing that in mind, you may try making this yourselves sometime... and you might even find you like it!

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