Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, includes recipes and articles like The Cuisines of the Chiu Chow and the Hakka; Squash Pancakes; Bird's Nests; Steamed Sweet Bird's Nest Soup; Sea Cucumbers; and Sea Cucumbers Braised with Steamed Black Mushrooms.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
This dish, a specialty of the Chiu Chow, calls for a vegetable native to southern China, the water squash, or soi guah in Cantonese. It gets its name from the fact that it is customarily planted along riverbanks, lakeshores, and the edges of fish ponds, so that its vines can draw nourishing water. It is a summer vegetable and only occasionally is it available in Chinatown markets, but zucchini can be used in its place. The two squashes have a similar texture and both are green and long, though the water squash is larger. It can grow to 18 inches in length and have a diameter of more than 3 inches. Smaller zucchini, which the Chiu Chow call phonetically ee dai lei guah, or "Italian squash," are the best choice. Look for zucchini about 7 inches long and weighing about 12 ounces each.
1. First, dry-roast the peanuts. Heat a wok over high heat for 30 seconds. Add the peanuts, spread them in a single layer, lower the heat to medium, and allow to roast for 30 seconds. Turn the peanuts over and stir continuously for about 5 minutes, or until they are light brown. Turn off the heat and transfer the peanuts to a dish. Allow them to cool completely, then place them on a sheet of waxed paper and crush them with a rolling pin.
2. In a large bowl, combine the peanuts, zucchini, scallions, egg, soy sauce, wine, flour, sugar, and pepper and stir until a smooth batter forms.
3. Heat the wok over high heat for 1 minute. Add 2-1/2 tablespoons of the peanut oil and, using the spatula, coat the wok with the oil. Pour in the batter and spread in a thin layer. Using both handles of the wok, move the wok over the burner in a circular motion so the pancake moves around as well and does not stick. Cook for about 2-1/2 minutes, or until the bottom browns.
4. Slide the pancake from the wok onto a large, flat plate. Invert a second plate of the same size over the top and invert the plates together. Lift off the top plate. Slide the pancake, browned side up, back into the wok and lower the heat to medium. Cook, occasionally patting the pancake down with the spatula, for about 3 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed so that the pancake is neither undercooked nor burned and add the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons oil only if the pan becomes too dry and the pancake begins to stick. The pancake is done when the zucchini has softened and tiny brown spots appear on the second side.
5. Turn off the heat. Slide the pancake onto a heated platter, cut it into wedges, and serve.
Note: If you want to serve individual pancakes, proceed as directed, but separate the batter into 4 equal portions. Then, cook each smaller pancake separately according to the directions for cooking a single large one.
This page created June 2010
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