abcdefg Posted December 15, 2019 at 11:06 AM Report Share Posted December 15, 2019 at 11:06 AM Before moving to Kunming, I mainly thought of celery as something to turn into a salad. But here in China it is more often used as a hearty, medicinal vegetable. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) maintains that it dispels excess internal heat and lowers blood pressure. In addition to that, it boosts the immune system and fights constipation. As if that were not enough, it is also prescribed as a tonic to calm the nerves and fortify one against stress. By now it should not surprise you to learn that China has several kinds of celery, in fact 5 or 6 distinct types. The two main ones that you can find in every fresh market are the thick-stalk western kind 西芹菜that I used in today’s dish and a thin-stalked indigenous kind 本地芹菜that is typically used together with meat as a stuffing for dumplings and steamed buns. My photo, below left, shows the western kind, and the Baidu picture, below right, shows the indigenous kind. (Please click the pictures to enlarge them.) For stir fry dishes, such as today’s, celery works best when cut on a bias. The feathered ends cook quickly and soak up flavor well. After cleaning and cutting the celery, I blanched it in a pot of boiling unsalted water. When the water returned to a boil, I fished it out and dropped it into a large basin of cold water for a few seconds. This cold shock after blanching helps the celery remain crisp and retain its attractive green color. Rinse, pat dry and slice the small sections of dry tofu 豆腐干。This tofu product is immensely popular all over China possibly because it has tons of character and flavor. It is light years from boring and bland. The tofu is brined and marinated in interesting spices before being pressed and finally smoked. Works very well as a meat substitute. I'm not vegetarian, but I still enjoy it sometimes in place of meat. Ingredients all laid out, time to fire up the wok. As you see, I’ve also thinly sliced a red bell pepper 红甜椒 and minced a small amount of ginger 生姜 and garlic 独蒜。Used a couple tablespoons of corn oil 玉米油, added to a hot wok. Today we will exclusively work over medium-high heat, just shy of smoking. Quickly fry the ginger and garlic, being careful not to burn them. Add the red bell peppers. After only seconds on high flame, add the celery to the center. All new ingredients start out in the center since it’s the hottest part of the wok. Make room for each addition by pushing partially-cooked ingredients up the sides, where it is cooler. After you have added the tofu strips and mixed everything a couple of times, salt it well by sprinkling in a teaspoon or so of coarse salt from 8 or 10 inches up in the air. If you just dump in a teaspoon of salt, it might never get thoroughly mixed. Do the same with a pinch of sugar and MSG 味精 if you use it. (I use a little bit, a pinch -- between 1/8 and ¼ of a teaspoon.) A tablespoon or two of light soy sauce 生抽 goes in next. Pour liquid seasonings onto the back of your spatula and let it splash into the whole dish. Ditto for a tablespoon or two of oyster sauce 蚝油。Last of all, add the chopped scallions. They provide fragrance and touch of contrasting bite. If your left arm is strong, emulate the professional chefs by using it to shake the wok back and forth as you stir with right. Stir and flip like your life depended on it: this needs to be a fast process; time is not on your side. If you dawdle, the dish will overcook: the tofu will turn to mush and the vegetables will lose their crunch. You will forfeit your hard-earned Michelin star. Serve it up 装盘。Eat it with a bowl of steamed rice 米饭。Tasty, inexpensive and pretty darned healthy. Raw material cost, enough to serve two people, about one US Dollar. Took under 30 minutes, start to finish. Clean-up not daunting. Hope you will feel moved to give it a try. Very Chinese, very straight-ahead simple. Phoning for take-out has its place every now and then. But so does do-it-yourself. 3 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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