It was a wet and miserable Monday in Dublin today heralding the onset of winter. Like so many others, I got soaked on the way from the bus and the challenge when I got in was to throw together a quick and easy dinner that would warm us all up and use up leftover vegetables. I’m also trying to get into the habit of having one day a week when we eat vegetarian food so, taking a cue from Claire and Mike in Australia, Meatless Monday it is.
When we visited Shan’s family in Xinjiang, China, I was surprised to discover how prevalent “Irish” vegetables, such as carrot, parsnip and cabbage, were in their diet so it didn’t seem inappropriate to include them in a chow mein. The recipe below is based on the Winter Vegetable Stir-fry recipe Claire sent me from Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday - see Variations on Shan’s Xinjiang Spaghetti.
I hadn’t meant to do a blog post today but this made up recipe worked so well that I thought I had better capture it while I can still remember what I did!
By the way when I went into the Asia Market to pick up some Shaoxing rice wine today, a very nice Chinese lady gave me a tip. She said to always swirl the rice wine around the sides of the wok rather than mixing it in, unless you are using it as a marinade. That way it flavours the dish correctly and the alcohol burns off. Apart from the useful information, this was the first time any of the staff in there have engaged me in conversation. A breakthrough. Yeah!
Irish Winter Vegetable Chow Mein
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 4 spring onions
- Piece of ginger – about 4 cms
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 whole fresh red chilli
- 2 large or 3 small carrots
- 2 small parsnips
- 200g Chinese cabbage
- 150g oyster mushrooms
- 100g enoki mushrooms
- 4 nests of fine quick cook egg noodles
- Groundnut oil
- Sea salt and white pepper
- A pinch of sugar
- 2 – 4 tbs light soy sauce
- 2 – 4 tbs Shaoxing rice wine
- Heaped tsp of Chinese 5-spice powder
- Prepare the vegetables first. Thinly slice the spring onions, Peel and finely dice the ginger and garlic. De-seed and finely chop the chilli.
- Cut the carrots into thin batons and the parsnip into thin discs. Finely shred the cabbage. Slice the oyster mushrooms. Cut the root from the enoki mushrooms.
- Cook egg noodles as per packet instructions – about 3 minutes in boiling water.
- Meanwhile heat a few tbs of oil in a large wok over high heat. Add the spring onions, garlic and ginger and stirfry for 1 minute to release the aromas. Add the chilli and stir for another few seconds to release the chilli flavours.
- Add carrot and parsnip and cook for 2 minutes keeping them on the move all the time with the back of your ladle, then add mushrooms and stirfry for a couple of more minutes.
- Finally add the cabbage and cook for another couple of minutes until wilted.
- Season well with salt, pepper, sugar and scoop out of the wok and set aside in a dish.
- Drain the noodles. Reduce heat under the wok to medium and add a small amount of oil (about 1/2 tbs). Add in the cooked noodles and 5-spice powder. Season with soy sauce and rice wine to taste.
- Cook, stirring for a minute or two. Return the vegetables to the wok and toss the lot together over heat. Adjust seasoning with soy sauce and rice wine.
- Tip into a serving bowl and serve. Wok to table in 15 to 20 minutes.
As my Mam would say, this is a dinner that would “catch your heart”. It was tasty and filling so that even the carnivores didn’t miss the meat at all.The thin discs of parsnip and the carrot batons added a lovely crunchy texture and the chilli gave just enough kick without making the dish over spicy. It scored well on what the Chinese refer to as kou gan – literally “mouth feel”, the sensation that a piece of food creates in the mouth.
You can substitute shredded Irish cabbage or brussels sprouts for the chinese cabbage.
You can use any type of mushrooms, sliced – shitake, chestnut, button mushrooms would all work. Red onions or shallots can replace spring onion. You can also reduce or omit the chilli if you wish.