Every single time I walk into a Chinese supermarket, I spend way too much time picking things up, looking at them, and then putting them back again. 40% of the time they end up in my basket instead, with a promise to myself that I'll find out what it is when I get home and use it then. This may well be the reason my kitchen cupboards are full to bursting with unidentifiable objects and my housemates don't even open those particular ones anymore, through fear of the Cupboard Avalanche.
Occasionally though, I'll pick up a Perishable Item which forces me into action. I'll admit it; I picked this one up because it looked like a bum.
Chow chow has many other names, like cho cho and chayote. Used across both Caribbean and Chinese cuisines, soups and stir fried dishes seemed most popular. I stuck with what I was most familiar with and went down the Chinese route.
I used up bits and bobs from my collection of dried weird things in the cupboard, and coupled it odds and ends from the fridge, which this dish is perfect for. The chayote (which is what I'm calling it from now on) is much like a cucumber though less watery; it retains its crunch even when stir-fried, and adds a bright subtle freshness the dish. Minced pork belly fried until brown and crisp make the flavour base, with each individual vegetable braising together to meld their flavours and textures together.
With this dish its important to cut all your vegetables up into matchsticks so that the dish chews nicely. I know it sounds weird but if you chopped your carrots into lumps and the black fungus into big sheets it just doesn't work as well. Besides, I find the chopping therapeutic.
You may find the list below a bit daunting but you can find it all at Oriental supermarkets and you can similarly stuff your cupboards silly.
Stir Fried Pork & Chayote Noodles
Serves 4 with sides - rice and stir fried vegetables, for example
1 chayote, peeled and julienned
2 carrots, julienned
1 celery stick, julienned
(Whatever vegetables you have, chopped julienne; courgette and cabbage would be good, perhaps peppers too)
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
A small handful of dried black fungus - or wood ear mushroom, which you can buy dried and already julienned
4 sticks of tofu bamboo or tofu knots
70gr dried of glass noodles
50gr pork belly
1 tbsp dried prawns
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 inch of ginger minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp water
2 spring onions to garnish (I ran out and had to use red onion, as you may see...)
Boil some water and soak the mushrooms, black / wood ear fungus and tofu sticks in a bowl for 15 minutes. Soak the glass noodles in boiling water for 15 minutes too.
Meanwhile, mince your pork belly and julienne your vegetables. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a wok and fry the pork belly on a high heat, stirring. You want it properly brown and crispy. Remove to a plate. Heat the wok up to a medium heat, and ensuring there's enough oil, fry the garlic and ginger. Fish out the dried prawns and add these in, stir frying until fragrant.
Add your vegetables incrementally as to how quickly they take to cook - so I went tofu sticks, celery, carrots, then black fungus, shiitake mushrooms and then add the soy sauce, oyster sauce and the water. Cook for a few minutes, then add the chayote. Through the noodles in, and cook together on a medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, adding more water when needed.
To serve, garnish with spring onion. I like to eat this with rice and a vegetable or meat dish on the side.