I still had a mountain of Choy Sum left over from my last recipe. I was craving some stir fried greens.
When living in Singapore I observed that every great dish started with these 3 ingredients: chili, ginger, and shallot.
And I also observed that many of the experienced cooks did not depend on electric devices in the kitchen. Preferring instead to do everything by hand. Including grinding the spices. “No, cannot use processor”, I was told, as this wouldn’t release all the oils. Only smashing releases all the oils.
I watched my sis-in-law making beef rendang once. It takes hours and requires regular stirring and scraping. I asked, “why not use a slow-cooker/crock pot?”. I thought I was being practical and smart, and that perhaps it would make her task so much easier. I still remember her confused look and her reply, “but how can I watch it cook?”
Guess what? I make rendang a couple times a year. And I use the same method as my sis! Some foods you must watch as it cooks. You need to watch for changes in colour and texture. And it’s just not done until your eyes and nose tell you it’s done.
I can’t help but marvel at my Singaporean family. They are like kitchen ninjas. I once got up early in the morning, shuffled out to the kitchen, and there they were. All my lovely sis-in-laws, up and ready for the day, quietly chatting and chopping and filling huge platters with sliced chili, garlic, onions, etc, etc, etc.
How do they do it? And with such cheer? I still am not sure.
I think it’s mostly the lovely company they find in eachother.
Also, as my husband would say, “in Singapore, food is Everything”. And it is. It’s family, it’s culture, it even ties in with one’s identity. It is used for healing, for warming the body up, or cooling it down. I found this out when We announced our first pregnancy and I was presented with a bowl of chicken-rice porridge. The first of a few bowls, “good for mom and baby”.
Food is celebrated. It’s always part of a social gathering. If there is a gathering, there is always food. Days revolve around what they will eat next and who they will share it with. It’s like the expression, “I don’t eat to live, I live to eat”. When they aren’t eating food, they are talking food. Here in the west, for many, it’s about immediate gratification and large portions. Convenience over quality. We Westerners gobble down 2 hearty meals around the same time each day.Or, in contrast, some Westerners fret over their food. And some avoid eating whenever possible. In Singapore, you eat several times, day and night. And often surrounded by family and friends.
In my husband’s Malay tongue they greet visitors with, “have you eaten yet?”
I rather like their practice of eating frequent, eating the best and freshest, and eating it with those you love.
For dinner, I made noodles with stir-fried Choy Sum. It’s a very delicious and simple Asian side dish.
The greens retain some crispness (making it lovely for sambal dunking). There is a subtle smokiness imparted by the sesame oil and the oyster sauce balances out any heat by adding a salty-sweet combination. Fried fish would make a wonderful partner to this side dish.
1 lb choy sum, rinsed and drained
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
4 small cloves garlic, sliced
1 red chili or ½ tsp hot chili paste
1 tsp of ginger, minced
1 shallot, sliced
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
First, trim ends off stems of choy sum. Cut off any flower clusters as well. Slice the greens in large pieces. Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute. Take out and drain. Set aside.
Grind together the shallot, ginger, chili, and garlic.
In large pan or wok, heat oil and fry ground ingredients until fragrant. Add mushrooms and fry until soft and dark. Stir in oyster sauce.
Add greens to wok and stir fry gently for 2 minutes.
Serve up with noodles or rice, and sambal sauce on the side.