More times than I like to remember, it's because it tastes truly awful, and other times the recipe needs serious tweaking before it is good enough to make again.
Occasionally, though, the dish turns out to be so spectacular first time around that I'm flummoxed, because just looking at the ingredients gives no clue as to what is in store.
This is one such dish. It caught my eye when I was rearranging up my cookbook shelves. An old 70's paperback by Huang Shaomo (writing under the pseudonym Yunlinyisou) called Zhongguo mingcai caozuofa (How to make famous Chinese dishes) listed this as its first recipe.
|Radish & my trusty grater|
This simple appetizer or side dish manages to contain the essence of Jiangsu province's home-style cooking, where the humblest ingredients are polished to a delectable shine and then enjoyed without artifice or excessive foofing up.
In Chinese this dish is called Radish Threads with Scallion Oil, a deceptively nondescript name, but it really is little more than shredded raw radish topped with green onions and hot oil. The original recipe calls for the football-shaped Chinese radish, but you can use Chinese icicle radish or even colored radishes, for that matter.
Here we have bits of green contrasting with snowy white, soft against crisp, cooked along with raw, salty rubbing up against a pile of sweetness. It's a stunning study in using the minimum number of common ingredients to create the maximum amount of impact.
Right now before spring heats up is the time to enjoy the last of the cold weather vegetables. Chinese radishes are still at their peak, but before long they'll start getting dry and woody, so think about trying out this recipe while you can.
|A happy surprise|
Raw radish threads with scallion oil
Congyou bailuobosi 蔥油白蘿蔔絲
Serves 4 to 6 generously as a side dish or appetizer
1 fresh, white Chinese radish (2 pounds or so)
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 green onions, trimmed
4 tablespoons fresh peanut or vegetable oil
|Pour on the hot oil|
2. Grate the radish either by hand or with a food processor. I personally prefer the long threads that are made with a Chinese grater, but this certainly isn't a deal breaker.
3. Place the grated radish in a colander set in the sink or on a large plate. Toss the radish threads with the salt and let the moisture from the radish drip out over an hour or two.
4. Gently squeeze clumps of the radish threads between your hands to remove the remaining water, and place the squeezed radish in a medium work bowl; refrigerate the threads for at least an hour or two so that they become completely chilled.
|Quickly cooked onions|
6. Up to an hour before serving, thoroughly toss the radish threads with the onions and oil; taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
See this post for advice on selecting juicy, fresh Chinese radishes.