Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Asian telephone: first call

Well, we're off to discover whether this 2006 cooking challenge will be enough to hold my interest for the rest of the year. In order to make it count, henceforth every Asian meal I cook this year will follow the rules of Asian telephone, as composed on a whim for a meme post: take one ingredient (at least) from an Asian meal and use it to cook another meal from a different country or culture's cuisine.

The first entry comes from China via the Frugal Gourmet's first cookbook: "Shrimp and Fungus." The fungus in question is the tree ear, an unassuming object that resembles (in its dried form) a crumpled-up bit of burned paper. Once hydrated, it expands dramatically in volume but has no taste worth mentioning. On the other hand, it supplies a prodigious and enjoyable crunch to any dish in which it appears. The black tree ears can also add a dramatic note to the appearance of a meal.

This is a simple recipe that I've wanted to try for quite a while but have never quite gotten round to. Marinate the shrimp in a teaspoon each of Chinese light soy and Shao Xing wine (the Frug calls for sherry), along with half a teaspoon grated ginger (as usual, I chopped the ginger; I really need to get a ginger grater one of these days). Stir-fry a crushed clove of garlic in two tablespoons of peanut oil for a few moments. Then add the shrimp and stir-fry until they change color (the Frug calls for shelled shrimp but I cooked mine in shells because, well, because I guess I didn't read the recipe carefully enough!). Then add the fungus and cook for a few more minnutes, until everything is heated through. Now add two tablespoons each of chicken broth and oyster sauce, plus half a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with half a tablespoon of water. The Frug also calls for a pinch of sugar, but I forgot about that. Cook until the sauce thickens then serve over noodles or rice.

My sauce never did thicken because I added the shrimp marinade along with the shrimp. I turned this into a fusion dish because I wanted spinach fettuccini; I also used porcini soaking water rather than chicken broth. Then there were the mistakes mentioned above. It didn't matter. The sauce was delicious yet subtle, well worth licking off the shrimp before I peeled them. It could easily be kicked up a few notches with the addition of hot sauce or chiles. The combination of pink shrimp, green fettuccini and black fungus looked great; the varied textures also were a treat.

So, for our next installment of Asian telephone, some ingredients to consider include shrimp, tree ears, garlic, Chinese light soy, Shao Xing wine and oyster sauce; any of these for an Asian dish not from China. Hmmm.

No comments: