Choy sum Macau, or vegetable stir-fry (Macau)

Macau is one of the two “special administrative regions of China” together with Hong Kong, which is about 60 km away. It is a former colony of Portugal and nowadays partially governed by China. Both Portuguese and Chinese are still official languages. Peculiarly the traffic is on the left-side, unlike both China and Portugal. The tiny country consists of the Macau peninsula (which was originally and island) together with two islands and has about 500,000 inhabitants. The economy is heavily based on gambling and tourism. Macau is also a tax haven. It has the second longest life expectancy in the world after Monaco.

As could be expected, the Macanese cuisine mixes both Chinese (especially Cantonese) and Portuguese influences, though there are also popular ingredients which don’t really feature in either of those, such as turmeric and coconut milk. Spices in general are used a lot, e.g. chili, ginger and cinnamon. Bacalhau, a dried and salted cod, is also used for flavouring.

This recipe comes from a random health-food website. It was my first time using choy sum, a type of cabbage, which you can find at Chinese markets. The recipe states you can also uses bok choy. I consulted Google as how to it should be chopped. People said the stem should be torn (not cut) into long segments, but I was brutal and cut both the leaves and the stem.

Choy sum is said to have a slightly mustardy flavour, but I found it quite bland. Luckily the rest of the dish was quite flavourful. Dried shiitake mushrooms are interesting – I find that they lose a bit of flavour, but turn out very chewy in an almost meat-like fashion. However, for those people who think “mushrooms are slimy”, fresh shiitakes might be a better choice. I used fresh water chestnuts, which are so flavourful compared to the canned ones – an actual sweet-ish flavour, not just bland crunch.

Choy sum Macau

Choy sum Macau

1 bunch choy sum, washed and trimmed
0.5 cups dried shiitake mushrooms, sliced (or fresh ones)
0.5 cups red bell pepper, julienned
4 tbsp shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
0.5 cups water chestnuts
(some tofu, cubed)
oil for frying
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Sriracha sauce (chili garlic sauce)

Pour boiling water over the dried shiitake mushrooms and let rehydrate for 10 minutes (check that they remain covered, you may need to flip them). If you’re using fresh shiitakes, no need for this step.

Heat the oil in a a frying pan or wok over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, bell pepper and shallots and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and water chestnuts and cook 1 more minute. Add thechoy sum and cook for 1 minute. Add the soy sauce and Sriracha, mix and continue to cook stirring for 2-3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.

Serve with rice or noodles. Serves 4 as a side dish, 3 as a main dish with tofu added.

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