Asian Flavours with Hunan Intentions

Inspiration comes in many guises: a great cookbook or food magazine, a stunning visual cue, a fragrant aroma, fresh produce or from an exquisite dining experience.
Recently, inspiration came via lunch at Vancouver’s Kirin coupled with Fuschia Dunlop‘s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province.
Craving more Asian flavours, I returned home and immediately hit Fisgard Market in Victoria’s Chinatown for supplies.

Light soy, dark soy, sweet soy, Chinkiang vinegar, Shaoxing cooking wine, fermented black beans, chilie paste, dried chilies, they’re all being added to my global condiment family, ready when inspiration takes hold.

It had been years since I worked with dried bean curd skin and the dish I enjoyed at Kirin prompted me to try it again. Thin and fragile, the sheets are made from the skin that forms on the surface of cooling soy milk while making bean curd. Isn’t that amazing?
Once hydrated in warm water, stuffed and rolled, they can be either fried or steamed – steamed I prefer. They make a delicious appetizer, dim sum, bits and pieces of the sheets can be thrown in a stew, or the rolls can be served as an accompaniment with steamed choy and rice to make it a dinner.

I made a vegetarian filling with chopped fine mushrooms, ginger, garlic, celery, green onion and bean sprouts. Sauteed in peanut oil, I added a dash of Shaoxing wine and a hit of chilie paste (sambal oelek) for zip.
Once the juices reduced, I kept it off the heat to cool while I prepared the sheets of bean curd.
Working carefully, I dipped the sheets in a bowl of warm water and transferred to a clean tea towel to pat dry. Don’t worry about not having perfect looking sheets, you can layer and patch together strips. Remember too, that any dried bits and pieces left in the package can be used in a stew. Don’t throw them away.
I laid the mushroom mix at one end of the sheet, rolled the sides in and rolled up. If you’ve worked with rice paper to make Thai-style salad rolls before, you’ll breath a sigh of relief with bean curd skin. You can lay them side by side, and they won’t stick to each other.

I steamed the rolls until heated through in a stainless vegetable steamer brushed with oil. This can also be done with a bamboo or metal dumpling steamer, also brushed with oil or lined with lettuce leaves.

Presented drizzled with a bit of sesame oil, I cut them in half for easier eating.

To accompany the dish, I steamed a a fresh bunch of choy sum, distinguished by its yellow flowering tops.

Copying what I had seen and tasted at Kirin, I heated a bit of peanut oil in a wok until hot. Adding sliced garlic, I sauteed it for less than a minute and then, and thinking off the top of my head, I added about a tablespoon of sweet soy and a dash of Shaoxing wine and swirled that around, then added the cleaned and trimmed vegetable. On medium heat, I tossed the ingredients together until the leaves collapsed and the stalks were still al dente.

2 Responses to “Asian Flavours with Hunan Intentions”

  1. Matt R. says:

    We buy our share of deep fried tofu from Fisgard market, so good in a curry. We always make sure to sort through the packs to find one that hasn’t been nibbled on already. ;)

    I don’t know choy sum, but it sure look like gai lan – similar flavour? Slightly bitter?

    This kind of meal is a hit at my place in the summer on our patio – easy to cook, no oven to heat the house up, and just as good cool as hot.

  2. Similar flavour but the stems are not as thick as gai lan and the leaves are more delicate. But I”m no expert. We have to leave that up to Canucklehead.

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