I love Peranakan food, it's that combination of fragrant spices influenced by a Malay background and the use of very Chinese ingredients and techniques that give rise to dishes that you really don't find anywhere except in Singapore and Malaysia. Not many people even know about this wonderful cuisine, so that makes it all the more unique. I need to do more recipes from home. My (chinese) new year's resolution maybe!
Anyway here goes for a Nonya Chap Chye (mixed vegetables stew), which is quite common for Chinese New Year, Most of the vegetables are actually dried, so I have them stored in my pantry, (brought over from home), and I can cook this anytime I want. There are so many variations of Nonya Chap Chyes out there, some with ginkgo nuts and black moss ('fat choy' which sounds like 'fa cai' which means to strike it rich, hence very popular for Chinese New Year). Some add oyster sauce/sugar but I don't see the need to. I like that natural sweetness of the cabbage, brought out by the extra sweetness and savouriness of the fermented beancurd and dried shrimps. This is my chap chye, the way I like it/do it ;)
My Nonya Chap Chye
1 head round cabbage (not Napa), cut into large pieces
1 small handful of dried black fungus (aka wood ear mushrooms), soaked to rehydrate
1-2 long sticks of dried beancurd, soaked to rehydrate, then cut
4-6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked to rehydrate, then halved *save liquid
1 small handful of dried lily bulbs, cut off the hard tips, soaked to rehydrate *save liquid
2 tbsps dried shrimps, soaked to rehydrate *save liquid
1 bundle glass (mung bean) noodles, soaked till it becomes soft
1 tbsp fermented beancurd paste (aka taucheo)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
dash of white pepper
1. Prep ingredients about half an hour before by by soaking the 2nd to 7th ingredient in warm water for about 20 min. Meanwhile, chop up the fresh vegetables.
2. Over medium high heat, fry the garlic and onions till fragrant, then add the taucheo, fry 1 more min, then add the cabbage and stirfry till it's softening.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, along with the *soaking water, plus enough water to cover. Cover, bring to a boil and then lower the heat and let it simmer for 15 min.
4. When the vegetables are all cooked, add the glass noodles, and let everything cook for 5 min more, uncovered, so the liquid reduces and concentrates in flavour. Not more than that,because these noodles will greedily absorb everything up then you'll be left with no sauce/stew.
5. Check seasoning, adding the white pepper to taste. Yum yum served now, or as leftovers the next day.
The dish looks like a grandma's patchwork quilt, but of vegetables! And indeed, it's those kind of traditional homecooking that brings warmth and a smile to your face (:
This is part of Muhibbah Monday.