Monday, January 4, 2016

Hakka chive flowers with pressed bean curd

Garlic chive flowers are the perfect vegetable to go up against the meaty blandness of pressed bean curd, for they are crisp, sweet, lightly oniony, and a beautiful jade color. It's hard not to fall in love with them. 

These flower stems are usually in season from anywhere between late spring and mid-summer, when there is just enough heat for them to grow quickly without sparking them into actually blooming, but I’ve been seeing them springing up at odd times throughout the year, too. This bunch here turned out to be very tender and juicy, so I wonder who found a way to grow them so well in cold weather.

Fresh garlic chive flowers
I get excited when doses of fresh flavors like those offered by garlic chive flowers can hit the table in midwinter. Unlike garlic stems, these little flower heads can be eaten as long as the buds are tight because they will still be tender. Besides, the white buds contrast stunningly with the emerald stems here.

Dedicated carnivores can substitute julienned pork for the bean curd; just marinate it first in a bit of rice wine and some grated ginger to mellow out the meat.

Garlic chive flowers with pressed bean curd
Jĭucàihuā chǎo dòufŭgān 韭菜花炒豆腐乾
Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish

1 bunch garlic chive flowers (about 1 pound)
4 squares pressed bean curd (about 8 ounces)
Pressed bean curd
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons rice wine (Taiwanese Mijiu)

1. Trim off the ends of the chive flowers and then check how tender they are by using your fingernail to pierce the palest, thickest stems; if your fingernail goes in easily, proceed to Step 2. If not, the best thing to do is to snap off the tough ends much like you do with asparagus.

2. Rinse the chive flowers and then cut them into 1-inch lengths. Let them drain in a colander set in the sink and then shake the colander to knock off most of the water.

3. Rinse the pressed bean curd and cut each square horizontally into slices about an eighth of an inch thick; then, cut them crosswise into julienne that are also an eighth of an inch wide. This way they will be about the same size as the cut chive flowers.

4. Heat an empty wok over high heat until it smokes, add the oil and salt, and swirl this around quickly to melt the salt. Add the bean curd and toss it over high heat until it sears and browns lightly. Remove the bean curd to a plate, keeping as much oil in the wok as possible. Add the chive flowers to the hot wok and toss them quickly until all are lightly coated with the oil. Pour the rice wine over the chives, cover the wok, and let it steam cook for about 30 seconds. When you open the cover, the chives should be an emerald green and almost tender. Toss in the bean curd, taste and adjust seasoning, and serve hot.

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