I have been holding on this post for 5 months for a very simple reason, I cannot find this preserved vegetable in Singapore. If I issued recipe, many readers are not able to try this delicious bowl of soupy thick beehoon. I tried Yu Hwa Guo Huo but not successful and practically no wet market is selling these vegetables possibly because no distributor has imported this well liked Fuzhou (福州) vegetables.
It is a type of preserved mustard and unlike other types of preserved mustard (酸菜 和 咸菜） which were preserved using salt or natural fermentation, the vegetables are preserved using the red rice wine residue (hong zao 红糟）resulted from the making of red glutinous rice wine. Therefore, the preserved vegetables has a tangy taste and slightly wine flavoured. It originates from Fuzhou Province in China and this vegetable is especially common in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia where there are lots of Foochow immigrants settling there. Usually when I went back to Sarawak, I will buy these special preserved mustards from Sarawak. It is usually vacuum packed and keep well for a long period of time.
After due consideration, I have decided to proceed issuing the recipe even though this vegetable may be temporary unavailable in Singapore. The closest vegetable will be the sour vegetable (酸菜） and though the taste is slightly different, I can guarantee that the same way of cooking using sour vegetable is equally delicious..
The noodles used in this recipe is thick rice noodles or thick beehoon. However, Foochow did not call this as beehoon. Thick beehoon is the common name used by other dialects such as Gokkien. The correct term used by the Foochows are hong Ngan (粉干）. Well, Foochow’s hong ngan （粉干）, Hokkien’s thick beehoon (粗米粉） and Cantonese’s ta fun (濑粉) may have slight differences but they are substitutable. I am explaining this because you may not be able to get the authentic Foochow hong ngan in Singapore and I therefore used the thick beehoon as in the picture above.
This noodle dish is especially common in Sarikei and Sibu , Sarawak. In recent years, the state capital, it can be easily found in Kuching too.
I loved this noodles the first time I ate it 20 years ago.. I have prepared a few times at home and both family members and neighbours like this noodle this. It is slightly TANGY, and flavoured by the preserved mustard, ginger and meat broth. It is very easy to eat and instead of eating using chopsticks, I usually eat it with spoon. This may not be the right way but this noodles will break if it is in the soup for a longer period of time. I preferred to prepare few hours in advance such that at the time of serving, the rice noodles are flavourful.
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Servings: 4-6 adult servings
- 500 grams fresh/boiled thick beehoon （粗米粉）or hong ngan （粉干）or ta fun （濑粉）**
- 250 grams of zao cai preserved mustard (糟菜）
- 50 grams of ginger, minced or shredded thinly
- 10 cloves of garlics, minced
- 25 grams of black fungus, soaked
- 1 cup of Chinese cooking wine (Sweet glutinous rice wine preferred)
- 1 fish cake
- 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 1 litre of water
- Salt to taste
- Dashes of white pepper
- 2 teaspoons of chicken stock powder
- Additional white vinegar if necessary
** The quantity refers to the softened beehoon. If it is fresh, the quantity is correct. If you are using the dried one, the quantities refer to the quantities after cooked. Of course this will depends on your needs.
STEPS OF PREPARATION
- Clean the preserved vegetable under running water THOROUGHLY as the preserved vegetable will be coated with red wine rice residue. You will need to wash 2-3 times to ensure no red residues are noted.
- For big leaves, cut it into small stripes before chopped into small pieces. If there are any woody skin attached to the stem, remove the woody stem before cutting.
- Soak the cut vegetables in water for another 5 minutes before draining and squeeze dry. Set aside.
- In a pot, put 2 tablespoons of cooking oil, sauté the minced ginger garlic until aromatic. Add the squeezed dried chopped preserved mustard and 1/2 of the minced meat, stir fry for 2-3 minutes until the flavour are incorporated.
- Add one litre of water and bring to boil. Once it boils, let it simmer under medium heat for at least 30 minutes for both the meat and the vegetable to become softer. Once done, make the remaining 1/2 the minced meat into meat balls, add one cup of Chinese cooking wine, seasonings, fish cakes, tomato wedges and off the heat. If necessary, add additional white vinegar to make it more tangy.
- Before servings, put the boiled or fresh rice noodles and let it soaked in the soup for at least one hour before serving. Do not stir the noodles unnecessary as there may be a tendency to break. You can omit the resting part but the noodles will not be as flavourful.
- For servings, put the noodle in a bowl, garnish with spring onion or coriander and additional rice wine can be added if preferred.
- Every noodle package comes with a cooking instruction. Please follow the instruction especially the timing of cooking. Every brand is different.
I am blogging this dish for record of Sarawak cuisines. Trust me, if you cannot get hold of zao cai, you can try the preparation using sour vegetables that is common in Singapore and Malaysia. Taste will be awesome also. This is the soupy recipe, another recipe is the stir fry version which uses exactly the same ingredients. Since I still have some zao cai with me, I may re-prepare the stir fry version and upload new pictures. Lastly, if you have friends coming from Sarawak, why not ask them to bring a package for you as hand gift?
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