Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Fried yam bean - bangkuang char

I've grown up eating fried yam bean or "bangkuang char" as this dish is commonly served during special occasions eg Chinese New Year, winter solstice.  Special occasions also means big family affairs - and so there'll always be steaming big pots of bangkuang char waiting to be devoured.

Yam bean is more colloquially known as bangkuang amongst Hokkiens in Malaysia.  This is a root vegetable that looks a lot like turnip.  The yam bean can be eaten raw in salads like in rojak, or cooked for spring rolls and popiah.  When eaten raw, it has a crunchy texture and is mildly sweet, almost like water chestnut. 

We used to cook this with dried cuttlefish, but unfortunately the Cantonese homophone for dried cuttlefish sounds like "getting fired".  Erring on the side of caution and not wanting to push our luck, we stopped serving it with dried cuttlefish.  Call me superstitious, but better to be safe than sorry. 

There are other variations with ardent advocates for each - fried with sliced belly pork, with shitake, with
black fungus, with "flat fish", with prawns or just vegetarian with garlic.  It's very versatile, and you are
only limited by your imagination.  And did I mention hand-cut versus mandoline? If you are very patient, you
can julienne them by hand.  For me, I use the mandoline - heaps faster (hehe some will say just lazy!). 

julienned using a mandoline

It's great served with fluffy steamed rice, or even with "sang choy" or lettuce.  The lettuce variation is
popular as again it plays with the homophones - 'sang choy' sounds like rising prosperity in Cantonese.  Yup
- very auspicious sounding.  Cantonese love homophones, so for auspicious occasions like CNY, dishes should not only look and taste good, they have to sound good too.  For some additional kick, serve with some sambal belachan on the side. 

1 medium yam bean - about 600 gm, washed and peeled
1 medium carrot - washed and peeled
4 cloves garlic - peeled and minced
100gm lean or fatty pork - sliced
4 tbsp oil
200ml water
salt and white pepper to taste
2 tbsp light soy sauce (optional)

Method:1.  Julienne the yam bean, by hand or using the mandoline.  I use the medium size which is about 2/8" - 3/8"
2.  Do the same with the carrot.
3.  Heat the oil in a large pan or wok, and stir fry the garlic until fragrant.
4.  Add the pork slices, and stir only enough to seal the meat.
5.  Throw in the julienned yam bean and carrot.
6.  Give it a couple of good stirs, cover pan with a lid, turn heat down to medium, and you will soon see the yam bean releasing its juices. 
7.  Add about 100ml water to the mix, and continue to simmer.  Cook until yam bean is softened.  Add more water along the way if necessary.
8.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  If using soy sauce, add this in first before salting.
9.  Dish out and serve.

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