This is another dish that I grew up eating..In addition to the salted vegetables minced pork dish, this is another favourite dish that I always looked forward to eating when I came back from school .. I ate it with belachan and a dish is enough with white rice. If you are interested in the salted vegetable version, you can refer to this recipe: Salted Vegetable Meat Dish (咸菜炒肉末）
The method of preparation is almost similar and in my mind, i thought all grannies should have cooked this dish and all house chefs should know how to process this vegetable and it never came across my mind to issue this recipe.
What surprised me are that some members are telling me that they like to eat the dish but they do not know how to cook. They tried to cook and it always ended up in a disaster as it is either no taste or too salty…
The main ingredient of this recipe is zha cai or colloquially known as Sichuan vegetables in Singapore or Malaysia. As per Wikipedia:
“Zha cai (榨菜 literally “pressed vegetable”) is a type of pickled mustard plant stem originating from Sichuan,China. The pickle is made from the knobby, fist-sized, swollen green stem of Brassica juncea, subspecies tatsai. The stem is first salted, pressed, and dried before being rubbed with hot red chili paste and allowed to ferment in an earthenware jar. This preservation process is similar to that used to produce Korean kimchi. The taste is a combination of spicy, sour, and salty, while the aroma is similar to sauerkraut with hot chili paste. Its unique texture—crunchy, yet tender—can only be vaguely compared to Western pickled cucumbers. Zha caiis generally washed prior to use in order to remove the chili paste. Excess salt in the preserved vegetable is leached out by soaking in fresh water. Depending on the region and the brand, the flavour can be on the sweet, spicy, salty, or sour side.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zha_cai)
Unsure how other families did this dish. For me, I personally do not like the chilli oil or red debris attached to the vegetables. Therefore, I spend time on pre-treatment before cooking this vegetable. Otherwise, it will be too salty to my liking. What I did is firstly to wash off all the red residue attached to the vegetables. I will then slice them to my required size and soaked in water. I will soak and change water twice before cooking with interval of 10 minutes each.. i have never find that there is Sichuan vegetable aroma from this pre-treatment. The aroma is there but at times, it may be less salty. If that is the case, I will just put pinches of salt to the dish. The logic is simple, you can hardly salvage the dish if your dish is too salty but you can easily salvage the dish if it is tasteless.
All Chinese traditional home cooking recipes are simple and fast. For the meat, you can use chicken or pork, minced or meat slices. Personally, I preferred pork belly stripes though this recipe, I have used minced pork instead. As for the herbs, I will insist that ginger be used. Chinese believed that any preserved vegetables are body cooling, therefore, adding ginger to the dish will help to “chase away the winds” by consuming the preserved vegetables (if any). In fact, the ginger aroma contribute a lot to this delicious dish.
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Servings: About 3-4 Adults
- 200 grams of thinly sliced Sichuan vegetables
- 100 grams of minced meat or pork belly stripes
- 1 tablespoon of shredded ginger
- 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
- Dashes of white pepper
- Salt to taste (only if necessary)
- Chicken stock powder to taste
STEPS OF PREPARATION
- Wash away all the red residues and dirt attached to the Sichuan vegetables under running water. Slice thinly into the size you prefer. Put in a bowl and soak with tap water for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, drain and pour in new water. Let it soak for another 10 minutes. Drain, squeeze dry and set aside. You can also take one piece and try the saltiness. If it is too salty, can extend the soaking time with new water. Sichuan vegetable is safe to eat without cooking if you rinsed with cooked water.
- In a wok, put 1 tablespoon of oil. Sauté the minced garlic and shredded ginger until aromatic. Add the minced meat, stir fry for 1 minutes until the meat is set. Add the Sichuan vegetables, stir fry until well mixed. Add about 1-1.5 cups of water, bring to boil and once it boils, reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer until the water dries up. Simmering will help the flavour to better develop in the dish. You can add starches to thicken the sauce if preferred. Before off the heat, add dashes of white pepper, chicken stock powder and salt to taste (only if necessary). The dish is best served with white rice or rice porridges.
Just in case and very likely some readers may ask where can you buy this Sichuan vegetables in Singapore. You can either get it in wet markets or supermarkets. Wet markets version usually can sell by piece and you can choose the size and the freshness but supermarket version usually sold in air tight bags and you can’t choose. There are also those already shredded but it is very oily. Do give it a try if you missed this dish and not sure how to proceed cooking it.
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