Sunday, March 05, 2006

Guoba Xiefen Maodou (three times fast)

Confession: I love Saveur. Love it. Almost all the recipes in it are too complicated/too weird/too expensive for me, in all probability, to ever make; nonetheless, I dutifully read. The pictures are fabulous! Also, almost every issue features some little-known province of Scotland or Tuva or someplace where they eat turnip-stuffed tripe that miraculously looks delicious or cardamom hot chocolate made with goat’s milk (PS. I just made that up…but it sounds awesome!)…I lovingly cut out these recipes and their accompanying portraits and paste them in my “Recipes to Make” notebook.

I consulted this notebook this weekend, looking for something a little different. “Hmm…haven’t made anything Asian in awhile…what have I got in here that’s Asian? ...oooh…well, I have soybeans…great picture!...” And so it came to pass that I began to concoct (with J co-cheffing) Guoba Xiefen Maodou.

Now, I “might lose some of [my] readership with this one,” as my mother says. But hear me out. It’s a little bit weird, a little bit complicated, a little bit expensive…but making this was so fun!

GUOBA XIEFEN MAODOU (Crab and Soybean Stir-Fry over Sizzling Rice)

INGREDIENTS (straight from Saveur)

1 ½ cups short-grain white rice
5+ cups vegetable oil
6 oz. boneless Smithfield ham
½” piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 oz. shitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, caps thinly sliced
2 cups frozen shelled fresh soybeans (edamame)
1 lb. lump crab meat, picked over
24 oz. silken tofu, drained and cut into 1” pieces
¾ cup dry vermouth
2 cups chicken stock
Freshly ground white pepper
¼- ½ tsp. cayenne
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS (from Saveur via Me)

Let’s start with the sizzling rice (which was the most fun of all!). How do they make that crunchy, loud, wonderful stuff they put in your soup? Now you can find out…and make it yourself!

Following instructions on package or rice cooker, make 1 ½ cups white rice. Alternatively (do we see a recurring theme in Kate’s blog?), there’s always the old use-leftover-takeout-rice trick, or at least the go-get-it-at-Mini-Thai-rather-than-go-to-the-trouble-of-making-it-ourselves trick.

Once you’ve acquired cooked white rice, by hook or by cook (sorry, had to): preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a 10” x 13” sheet pan with a teaspoon of vegetable oil (or other oil, such as canola or peanut).Lightly oil your hands, then cover the bottom of prepared pan with rice, pressing it into a thin, even layer. Bake until top layer of the rice is dry, edges are slightly golden, and underneath is still a bit moist, about 50 minutes. Set aside at room temperature, uncovered, to let cool and dry until brittle, at least 3 hours or overnight. Break rice sheet into 1” to 2” pieces. (Small squares of prepared sizzling rice, prepared for deep-frying, can sometimes be found at Chinese markets.)

With me so far? This much you do in advance; the rest happens right at the end of the stir-frying process. At that point, heat oil in a heavy pot (the recipe suggest a medium one, but I used a very small one and worked in smaller batches…less oil required that way) and heat over medium heat until temperature registers 350 degrees on a candy thermometer (or, if you’re in college and don’t have one of those, until grains of the baked rice sizzle gently when dropped in). Working in batches, fry dried rice pieces in the hot oil, until rice is puffed but not golden, 20-30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel, then to large serving dish (or individual serving dishes, if desired).

For the stir fry (easy by comparison):

Put ham into a small pot, cover with cold water, and boil over medium heat for 15 minutes. Drain and let cool; chop into matchsticks. (I didn’t have any ham, so I used Canadian bacon, which certainly didn’t benefit the recipe any but was adequate.) Reserve a little for garnishing.

Put ginger, garlic, and ¼ cup oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. When ginger and garlic start to sizzle (about 30 seconds), give them a stir, then add mushrooms and minced ham. Season to taste with salt and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Add soybeans and crab (we used fancy Captain's Catch canned crabmeat) and stir-fry until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Stir in tofu and vermouth and let boil for 5-6 minutes.

(Let it be known that I mistakenly got sweet vermouth instead of dry vermouth…it wasn’t a disaster, but definitely a choice—it lent a noticeable sweetness to the final dish. Also, be sure not to use tofu that’s tougher than silken—the tofu is supposed to mostly dissolve during cooking, and medium or hard tofu will leave you with sticky lumps. I used a little less tofu than the recipe recommended, and balanced out the thickness with a little extra cornstarch at the end.)

Add chicken stock and boil, stirring occasionally, until tofu dissolves into flecks (!) and thickens the sauce slightly, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Mix cornstarch with ¼ cup water and stir into wok. Return mixture to a boil, stirring as it thickens slightly.

Now you fry the rice; ladle stir-fry over finished rice, garnish with scallions and remaining ham and serve immediately.


Pretty good! Very authentic-tasting, not at all slimy (as some saucy seafood dishes tend to be), and the soybeans were awesome. Cayenne added a perfect kick. Would have been better with real ham and dry vermouth, but overall I think we did a great job.

Now I can check that one off in my Recipes to Make book!

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