Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Zhai Choy (Vegetarian Vegetables)

I'm so pleased to feature another guest post and this time, it's by my aunt Dorothy. I call her Ah Yee (meaning Auntie in Cantonese) and I'm so glad that she has joined the blogging world. My Ah Yee's blog, Life's Little Treasures, showcases her passion for Singapore's fading old-world architecture as modern lifestyles and landscapes take over. She also shares little bits and pieces of her everyday life with us, such as cooking Zhai Choy, this wonderful dish that my Grandma (Por Por) used to make during Chinese New Year. This is one of my favorite dishes, one which brings back so many fond memories of my Por Por and being with my family during the New Year.

I'm glad to share this recipe with my niece as we had this on every first day of the Chinese New Year. I hardly had a chance to cook her this dish when she was back here for a visit. This is a very special dish and it brings me great pleasure that she is trying out this dish my mom used to cook. I am sure this dish will bring back a lot of memories of her grandmother and the times we were together. I hope we continue to cook this traditional dish on every New Year because it a dish full of auspicious significance. This is our family version and we love it to the max.

Zhai Choy (Vegetarian Vegetables)

Vegetables:                                       Dry Ingredients (which have to be soaked):
1 round cabbage                                 10 medium size dried Chinese/Shiitake mushrooms
1 small carrot                                      4 oz. of cloud ear fungus (Wan Yee)
6 oz. snow peas                                  2 bundles of dried bean thread noodles
6 oz. baby corn                                   1 small handful of Fat Choy (dried hair moss)
3 tablespoons of ginger juice
4 to 5 slices of ginger                                              
3 tablespoons of minced garlic, divided                                                                                                 
Other Ingredients: 
10 fried gluten balls (can be substituted with tofu pok)
4 oz. of canned button mushrooms                                                          
1 cube of Nam Yu (red fermented beancurd)
Salt or soy sauce, as needed
Oil for cooking


This dish requires some advance preparation so make sure you plan ahead. Allow about 2 hours of pre-soaking time.

1. Soak mushrooms for an hour or two till it is soft enough to remove stump. Drain the water.

2. Soak the cloud ear fungus for an hour or two. Trim and discard the centre portion that is hard. Set aside.

3. Soak the fat choy (hair moss) for about 20 minutes. Drain it and set aside.

4. Prepare vegetables. Remove the thick stem of the cabbage and cut the leaves about 2 cm. by 3cm in size. Break off the ends of the snow peas and pull off the tough veins. Cut the carrots and slice to the way you like. Thickness should be about 2 mm. Have them parboiled to crisp tender.

We will start with the Chinese mushrooms as you need to stew them for while for a tastier bite. The mushroom sauce is then used in the dish.

1. Mince the garlic. Grate ginger to get at least 3 tablespoons of juice. Heat oil in a nonstick pot, put in a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic and stir it in the oil. Make sure the garlic does not burn. Add the mushroom to stir fry. Next dribble the ginger juice all over them and add some water to stew. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on the mushrooms. Stew for 45 minutes or less. Add boiled water when the sauce gets low. Use your discretion to adjust the taste. Turn off when ready. Drain the sauce through the sieve into a bowl and set aside as this will be added to the vegetables later.

2. Next, stir fry the cabbage since there is so much of it. Heat oil, then garlic to stir fry the vegetables. Do use a salt shaker to add some salt to the vegetables. Set it aside when they are half cooked. 

3. Drain and wash the button mushrooms. It would taste better if you stir fry these as well with garlic. 

4. Boil hot water. Immerse the gluten balls until it's soft for few minutes. Drain them of water & set aside.

5. Boil water to cook the bead thread noodles.  Cook according to package instructions. When done, set aside in a bowl. Unravel the strands when you cooked them.

6. Mash the Nam Yu into paste just before cooking. Use 3/4 of the cube shown in my picture. 

1. Heat the wok before adding oil. Stir fry the chopped garlic, add in the slices of ginger, followed by the nam yu. Fry for a minute till fragrant.

2. Add in all the cabbage and stir fry for a few minutes until crisp tender. Add water if necessary. Add in the chinese mushrooms and button mushrooms.

3. Add in the mushroom sauce, gluten balls and cloud ear fungus. Cover the wok and let it simmer for a few minutes. Keep the sauce in check. Sprinkle some salt if needed or add a dash of soya sauce. If needed, add a pinch of sugar to balance the taste.

4. Add in the remaining vegetables and cook until tender. Add in the moss hair. Separate it so that it is mixed well with the other ingredients.

5. Finally, add the bean thread noodles and mix it into the vegetables. Make sure there is a fair bit of sauce. Once the noodles are added, it absorbs most of the sauce leaving the dish quite moist.

Hope you'll try it out and enjoy it!

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