Twice-cooked Swiss chard

Twice-cooked Swiss chard

Hui guo niu pi cai

By
From
Every Grain of Rice
Photographer
Chris Terry

Chard, known in Chinese as ‘ox leather greens’ or ‘thick-skinned greens’ because of its leathery appearance, is a humble peasant vegetable, so humble in fact that it is traditionally referred to as ‘pig fodder’. In the not-so-distant past, only the desperate would eat it; in Sichuan, at times when meat was hard to come by, it was used as a substitute for pork in that much-loved traditional dish, twice-cooked pork. Nowadays, with the vogue for rustic food, erstwhile poverty dishes like this have reappeared on restaurant menus, to the bemusement of real peasants.

The following recipe is based on one taught to me by the Chengdu chef Yu Bo, who serves it in an exquisite porcelain dish at his miraculous banquets (the only change I’ve made is to substitute spring onions for the green garlic leaves, which are hard to find in the West). It’s extraordinarily delicious and a marvellous accompaniment to plain steamed rice.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
400g thick-stemmed swiss chard
3 tablespoons cooking oil
or 1 1/2 tablespoons lard, mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sichuanese chilli bean paste
2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons coriander, finely chopped
2 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced
100ml stock
or 100ml water

Method

  1. Cut the dark green chard leaves away from the stems. Snap each stem into a few pieces, which will allow you to peel away and discard the stringy bits, as you would with celery.
  2. Bring a potful of water to a boil, add the stems and boil for about three minutes, until tender. Add the dark green leaves and boil for another minute or so until they are also cooked. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Squeeze the chard dry, then cut into bite-sized lengths.
  3. Pour the oil into a seasoned wok over a medium flame, swirl it around, then add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry until it smells delicious and the oil is richly red. Add the garlic, ginger and black beans and stir-fry for a few moments more until you can smell their fragrances. Then add the stock, bring to a boil, tip in the chard and stir until it is piping hot once more.
  4. Finally, stir in the celery, coriander and spring onion, stir a few times, then serve.
Tags:
Chinese
Sichuanese
Asian
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