Growing up, we use to have a pair of pet rabbits. I can still remember the smell as the rabbits gnawed away the lettuce. Sometimes, these lettuce became rotted in parts. I grew up with some aversion to the smell of lettuce.
That unchanged very quickly when I realised how delicious ji hu char is when wrapped in iceberg lettuce. It is a match made in heaven, especially when a bit of sambal belachan is added to it.
Jiu Hu Char always make an appearance during our reunion dinner. I use to wonder why my Mum only cooked it as a festive dish. After all, turnip (or “bangkwang”) was very cheap and still is. When I start cooking it, I realise that it needs work in the cutting and the frying. It is truly one of those recipes where cheap and ordinary ingredients are elevated into a gourmet dish through careful preparations and good cooking techniques.
I have here below a scribbling of my Mum’s recipe which my cousin passed to me. Her “secrets”, if you can call it as such is to add the fried shallots and a combination of stir-frying and braising the turnip. If you are experience with this dish, you can figure out what she is saying. In any case, I will give my experimented recipe below. I have simplified some steps.
By the way, the same method can be used for Popiah or Kueh Pie Tee filling, minus the jiu hu (cuttlefish).
|Some scribbles of my Mum’s recipe.
I usually skip the step where the minced meat is seasoned as I reckon that it will be well seasoned when cooked with the rest of ingredients in the wok.
2 medium size or 1 large turnip
20 shallots or equivalent amount of store bought fried shallots
dried cuttlefish strips (from two pieces of cuttlefish if you are cutting it yourself)
6 dried Chinese mushrooms or fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/2 tsp dark black sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp of soy sauce
200g minced pork
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp of white pepper
300 ml water or more
Fresh iceberg lettuce
- Slice the shallots thinly and deep fry till crispy. You can also buy ready-made fried shallots. Choose those which looks crippled and fresh.
- Rehydrate the dried mushrooms. Cut into thin strips.
- Cut the turnip and carrot into thin strips. If you have a good mandolin, use it. See photos. Slice into thin slices (about 2 mm thick) and then use a good knife to cut the strips.
- Heat up a wok with the oil. Add the minced pork meat, mushroom strips, cuttlefish strips, soy sauce, oyster sauce, dark sauce and pepper. Stir fry for about 2 minutes.
- Then add the turnip and carrot strips. Add half of the fried shallots. Increase the fire and stir fry till the turnips caramelise (turnip has a lot of sugar) and the wok feels sticky. This will take at least 20 minutes or more.
- Then add the water in batches, stir-frying all the time. Lower the flame and simmer for another 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. The turnip should be soft and moist.
- Serve it warm. Garnish with the rest of the fried shallots and coriander leaves.
This dish needs some effort but it is very delicious. Serve it with ice berg lettuce.
Lead photo: This is a fanciful way if serving the Jiu Hu Char on some special wasabi lettuce grown in my hydroponic system.
|Using mandolin to slice the turnip evenly and thinly|
|Then use knife to slice into strips|
|Patiently stir-fry the turnip before adding water and leaving it to braise in a simmer|
|A wonderful batch of Jiu Hu Char|