Ah, January, the month of austerity and dieting. I did try, I really did but in making Chap Chye, some pork ribs just happened to slip in. I couldn't help it; they slipped out of the pack, shimmied their way under my knife and leapt into the pot. There really was nothing I could do about it. Otherwise though, this is a nice and healthy stew.
Of Nyonya origin, this is normally vegetarian but sometimes not. Fermented red bean curd is usually used to flavour it and it's not for the faint-hearted. Open the lid of the jar and give it a good whiff - chances are you'll do a little retch. Fish a cube out, mash it, and then fry it and the smell transforms, much like the Thai shrimp paste (which actually I like the smell of pre and post cooking. I know I am in the minority here).
The main components of this stew are mostly dried which makes it pretty handy to have the ingredients at hand. They're also mainly found at Chinese supermarkets. Cabbage and carrots cooked within it make the stew sweet from the vegetables, and deeply earthy from the mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms and black fungus are both used, creating a good contrast in textures; you get squidgy and crunchy and slippery all at once. Eaten with a bit of rice, this was comforting and warming.
Serves 4 with rice and a vegetable side dish
50gr pork ribs or pork belly, chopped into bitesize chunks
8 dried shiitake mushrooms
20gr dried black fungus
1 carrot, peeled and roll cut
A few leaves of white cabbage or napa cabbage, cut into squares
6 sticks of dried tofu bamboo
A few dried lily bulbs (optional if you can find them)
50gr glass noodles, soaked in hot water
1 cube of red fermented beancurd
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch of ginger, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 stalk of spring onion
1 tsp sesame oil
Place the mushrooms and black fungus in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover with a small plate and leave for 15 mins. Do the same in another bowl with the tofu bamboo and lily bulbs.
Heat up the wok with a tablespoon of oil. Add the pork ribs and brown well. Turn the heat down and add the mashed red beancurd and the garlic and ginger.
Add the carrot and mix well. Reserve the mushroom water and slice the shiitake mushroom in half, discarding the stem. Add to the wok, along with the black fungus (chopped into bite size pieces). Add the mushroom water (though strain, as it may be gritty) which should be at around 200ml and then add the oyster sauce, soy sauces and sugar. Add the tofu bamboo and lily buds and simmer for 30 mins gently. Add a little more water if it's looking dry. Add the cabbage and stir until combined, simmer for another 15 minutes for white cabbage, 5 minutes for napa cabbage. Finally add the drained noodles and simmer for a few more minutes, it should thicken up a little.
Garnish with spring onion sliced diagonally, and drizzle the sesame oil over it.