Thursday, June 23, 2005

VeG Me OuT

I have been itching to try my hands in making this vegetarian dish, Loh Hon Chai (Chinese for mixed vegetables) for quite a while and recently my mother had time to give me a real crash course on making it. We used to have this dish on the first day of Chinese New Year and my mother will put all things nice in it. However in recent years, we don't have that tradition anymore since she now spends her Chinese New Year in Singapore. Maybe since I now know how to make it, I will try and revive this tradition next year.

It's up to you what you want to put in this dish as there is no limit of all the yummy stuff you wish to add. In fact, we missed out some stuff from this version i.e. the gingko nuts, the straw mushrooms, the dried oysters, the fatt choy and etc. There is also quite a lot of preparation work involved for the ingredients as they are usually dry ones so you will need some advance time to soak the dried lily bulbs, dried black fungus and dried Chinese mushrooms. You can buy the foo chook (Chinese for bean curd sheet) and tofu puffs ready fried or you can fry it yourself if you have the time. If you get it ready made, ensure you boil it in water for a few minutes to clean it and remove the excess oil within. I have not included the proportions of the ingredients as it's up to you to add it in depending on what you like to eat.

Loh Hon Chai
5 cm ginger
2-3 cloves garlic
Chinese Cabbage (the long type)
Dried Lily Bulbs
Dried Chinese Mushrooms
Dried Black Fungus (Wan Yue)
Dried Glass Noodles (Fun See)
Canned mushrooms
Deep fried Foo Chook
Deep fried Tofu Puffs
3-4 pieces of fermented bean curd (Nam Yee Beancurd)
1 tsp sugar
Oyster Sauce

To prepare the dry ingredients, start a day ahead. You will need to soak the Chinese mushrooms for approximately 4 hours. During the soaking time, wash them twice under a running tap and change the water the mushrooms are soaking it. Ensure your bowl is big as these mushrooms will expand. Once ready, you can put it in some liquid and keep it in the fridge until the next day when you cook it. For the dried lily bulbs, soak it for approximately 2 hours in water, again ensure your bowl is big enough as it expands. Once done, squeeze out the water and take out the hard bit on one side. Tie the lily bulbs in a knot. (It tastes better if you do the knot thingy) With the black fungus, also soak it for approximately 2 hours in a big enought bowl. Once done, squeeze out excess water. Trim out the hard bits and shred it into medium size bits.

On the day you wish to cook your dish, slice the ginger and garlic. Cut the Chinese cabbage in small pieces, approximately 1 inch in size. Boil your deep fried foo chook and tofu puffs in hot water to clean the excess oil. Squeeze dry and set aside.

Heat up the oil and fry your garlic and ginger till fragrant. Add the Chinese cabbage and toss them with the oil, ginger and garlic. Leave it for a while and cover. The cabbage will give out excess moisture. Take out about 3 to 4 pieces of the fermented bean curd and mash them into bits so it is easier to mix them in. Pour in the cabbage and toss to ensure evenly distributed. If the wok is dry, add a bit of water so your cabbage can cook down. Ensure your wok is big enough as you will find it diffcult to toss the ingredients if it's too small. Add the Chinese mushrooms, lily bulbs, wood fungus, red dates, tofu puffs and bean curd inside the wok. Add one teaspoon of sugar also, toss the ingredients to mix it and add a bit of water to cook it down. When using preserved items, you must add sugar to the food to complement it. Soak your glass noodles in some water to soften it. Taste the mixture to see if salty enough and if it needs extra fermented bean curd. Mix about 1 tablespoon oyster sauce in some water and mix it in. When almost ready, add in the glass noodle and mix it well. Dish up and serve with hot rice.

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