Friday, 20 January 2012

Mixed Vegetable Stew – A Lesson in Giving

When I was growing up, we had a part-time helper who swept the house surroundings and cleared the rubbish. This woman had come to Singapore directly from mainland China, with no education, and was widowed at a very young age with an adopted daughter. So to make ends meet, she had taken on multiple jobs, including cleaning for us.

Her day at our house would usually end around 2 pm, and since her chores were relatively light, she frequently had free time on her hands. I had a love for food since I was a kid, and most people knew it. So, she would occasionally cook food that I liked to distract me whenever I was up to mischief at home. I remember a particular dish vividly. She would make fish paste from scratch, stuff it into green chillies and steam them for a couple of minutes. We would eat these stuffed chillies, dipped in soy sauce, while listening to Rediffusion or watching the TV together.

Her salary was meager; however, Chinese New Year was special to her. She would cook a huge pot of vegetarian stew and distribute it to all her relatives and friends. I remember how she would scrounge and save to buy the necessary canned and dried ingredients in dribs and drabs; in other words, her preparations for the dish began as early as 12 months before. The dish was simple but it meant a lot to me. So, I’m replicating this dish as a little tribute to this lady, from whom I learnt the art of giving, along with a number of yummy dishes!

Mixed Vegetable Stew with Preserved Bean Curd

Tie soaked lily buds into a knot to
prevent it from integrating during cooking.
Oil                                           1 tbsp
Ginger                                     1-cm slice
Button mushroom                 80 g   
Dried Shitake mushroom       10 g, soaked for 30 mins.
Dried black fungus                 5 g, soaked for 15 mins.       
Dried lily buds                        10 g, soaked for 15 mins.
Dried bean sticks                    20 g, deep-fried for 30 secs. 
Red dates                               10, soaked for 15 mins.
Cabbage                                  150 g
Preserved bean curd               2 tbsp, mashed
Vegetable stock                      750 ml
Salt                                           ½ tbsp

1.             Saute all mushrooms with ginger until fragrant.
2.             Add preserved bean curd and fry for another 5 minutes.
3.             Add stock and red dates and simmer for 20 minutes.
      4.      Add cabbage, fried bean sticks and simmer for another 15 minutes or until the vegetable    
               turns soft. Season with salt.