Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Twice-Cooked Swiss Chard (Hui Gua Niu Pi Cai)

As much as I loved visiting Austin, my body is dying for a reboot.  I need some veggies stat!  Luckily, I saw this recipe for Swiss chard on Serious Eats a few weeks ago.  I had no idea that Fuchsia Dunlop had published a new cookbook, but once I saw that they were doing Cook the Book with her new cookbook on Serious Eats we went ahead and ordered it.  Unfortunately it hasn't come in yet, but I wasn't going to let that stop me.  I had this grand plan to add some tofu to the recipe to make it into a main dish, but Alex shot me down.  If you haven't figured it out yet, Alex usually likes to stick with the simplest possible alternative.  I'm the one who likes to complicate things.  I am the first to admit that sometimes it's for the best; sometimes I need to be reined in.  Then again, it's my humble opinion that sometimes Alex needs to live a little.

As far as reboot dishes go, this wasn't a bad one.  I thought the flavors were good and it was hearty enough that I ate it with a bowl of brown rice and found it to be pretty satisfying.  It wasn't my favorite Fuchsia Dunlop recipe ever but it was a very interesting vegetarian take on a traditional Sichuan dish (see my take on twice-cooked pork (hui guo rouhere).  I have never used Swiss chard in an Asian dish before, but due to the cooking method I think it works.  If you tried to use a more delicate green it would just fall apart but the chard (particularly the stems) stands up to the blanching and the sauteing quite well.

Recipe after the jump!

Twice-Cooked Swiss Chard (Hui Gua Niu Pi Cai)
Every Grain of Rice:  Simple Chinese Home Cooking
By Fuchsia Dunlop

14 oz (400g) thick-stemmed Swiss chard
3 tbsp cooking oil, or 1 1/2 tbsp lard and 1 1/2 tbsp cooking oil
1 1/2 tbsp Sichuanese chilli bean paste
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 1/2 tsp fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup (100ml) chicken stock or water
3 tbsp finely chopped celery (Chinese celery if possible)
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
2 tbsp finely sliced spring onion greens

Cut the dark green chard leaves from the stems. Snap each stem into a few pieces, which will allow you to peel away and discard the stringy bits, as you would with celery.
Bring a potful of water to a boil, add the stems and boil for about three minutes, until tender. Add the dark green leaves and boil for another minute or so until they are also cooked. Drain and refresh under cold running water.
Squeeze the chard dry, then cut into bitesized lengths. Pour the oil into a seasoned wok over a medium flame, swirl it around, then add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry until it smells delicious and the oil is richly red. Add the garlic, ginger and black beans and stir-fry for a few moments more until you can smell their fragrances. Then add the stock, bring to a boil, add the chard and stir until it is piping hot once more.
Finally, stir in the celery, cilantro and spring onion, stir a few times, then serve.

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