Stirfried Mixed Vegetables

Originally called “Ten Fragrant Vegetables,” this dish calls for some ingredients that you may not have readily available, such as dried lily flowers, wood-ears, and pickled mustard tubers. If you have access to an Asian market or have a truly superior Asian section in you conventional grocery store, you may find these ingredients – if so, I highly encourage you to try them! You won’t often see lily flowers or mustard root in a Chinese restaurant, but they are used quite frequently in home cooking.

If you don’t find any of the more exotic ingredients, don’t worry: go with what you can find, and after making the recipe a few times you’ll be ready to experiment with adding your own ingredients. It takes some experimentation to find out how long to cook one vegetable as opposed to another, what goes together well, what doesn’t.

The sauce ingredients are a good basic recipe – if you’re used to vegetable stirfries that just don’t taste right, this may be the boost they’re looking for. Remember to keep the total amount of vegetables small, or they will crowd the pan and steam rather than stirfry and release too much liquid, watering down the taste.

Because of the number of ingredients, this recipe is a bit more labor intensive that most, but it’s great practice for your knife skills and in some cases a nice mindless task after a tough day!

ingredients:

  • 2 wood-ears (you can also use the lighter colored “cloud ears” – usually sold dried in plastic bags)
  • 1/4 c dried lily flower buds (called “yellow flower vegetable” – huanghua cai -or “golden needles” – jinzhen – in Mandarin)
  • 2 oz enoki mushrooms (called “golden needles” – jinzhengu – in Mandarin)
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 c bean sprouts
  • 1 stalk celery (Chinese if you can find it)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • preserved mustard tuber (zhacai, usually vacuum-sealed or canned, sometimes just labeled “preserved Chinese roots!”)
  • 1/2 cup cooked bamboo shoot (canned) slices or shreds or from 1 small shoot if you can find it (usually vacuum-sealed)
  • 1 square or about 2 oz five-spice flavored pressed (or baked) beancurd
  • 2 T oil

sauce:

  • 1/2 T light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 c water or broth
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • salt to taste

method:

  1. Soak the wood-ears in hot water until soft (approximately 20 m), then remove any remaining tough parts, rinse well, and cut into 1/8″ shreds.
  2. Cut the tough knobs off the ends of the lily buds’ stem ends with scissors, then soak the flowers in hot water until soft (approximately 10 m). If the buds are long, you can cut them into 1/2 crosswise with scissors or tie them into a little knot (Talk about mindless work! – but the result is pretty.)
  3. Cut the tough ends off the enoki mushrooms.
  4. Clean the shiitakes with a mushroom brush or paper towel, cut off the stems and save them for making broth or stock.
  5. Rinse the bean sprouts well and pinch off the stringy root ends.
  6. Cut the celery, carrot, mustard tuber, bamboo, and tofu into 1/8″ shreds approximately 1.5″ long, keeping each ingredient separate.
  7. Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  8. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until it shimmers, then add the carrots and celery, stirfrying for approximately 1 m.
  9. Add the remaining shreds in this order, stirfrying about 1/2 m between additions: wood-ears, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, lily flowers, bean sprouts, mustard tuber, bamboo, tofu. Continue to stirfry until everything is heated through, then add sauce.
  10. Stir quickly to combine, adjust seasoning, and serve.

variation:

The variations on this dish are endless – you can leave ingredients out, substitute ingredients, add chopped salted chilies or chili oil…. Remember a few simple rules when trying out your changes:

  1. Don’t crowd the wok – if you’re cooking a lot of veggies, stirfry in batches, then combine at the very end.
  2. Try to keep a balance between fresh and preserved/dried ingredients.
  3. Try to keep a variety of colors.
  4. Part of this dish’s attraction is the similar appearance of all the vegetables – they’re all cut into shreds. If you choose to vary the cuts, you will have to be more careful with cooking times, allowing each vegetable to cook to its desired doneness.
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