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Stir-fried Opo Squash with Dried Shrimps

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I first got to know about opo squash (calabash gourd) was few years ago when I was living with my aunt in NYC. I remembered it is one of those vegetables she planted in her small little farm at her backyard. This vegetable is a kind of fruit with light green smooth skin and white flesh. It is commonly used for stir-fry or soup in the southern Chinese cuisine as what my aunt did.

I don’t normally pick up this vegetable and it was on sale in the Asian food market. Thus I bought one home and tried to make a dish with it. Opo squash doesn’t have much taste on itself. It is similar as the cucumber. So I decided to make it simple by stir-frying it with the dried shrimps. It turned out to be a decent dish for dinner. Share with me if you have any good recipes for opo squash.

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Hakka Stir Fry Taro Dumpling “Suan Pan Zi” (客家炒算盤子)

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We love taro a lot and we were thinking to make the Pork Belly with Taro which Eric wanted to eat all these while. But it requires too much of work and then it was often put aside. While I was researching about the dish, I stumbled across this long forgotten Hakka recipe Stir Fry Taro Dumpling or Abacus Beads “Suan Pan Zi”(客家炒算盤子). I was so excited as I didn’t have this for years. So I have decided to give the recipe a try. Obviously Pork Belly with Taro was put aside again.

Since my father side is Hakka, that’s why I know of and have tried this dish. We often get to eat various traditional Hakka dishes whenever we go back to “Semenyih”, our old home town (老家) in Malaysia. My uncle is a great cook and he will always prepare a big meal, like 8-10 dishes sometimes double the dishes because we have so many relatives visiting.

In Chinese the dish is called 炒算盤子 “Chao Suan Pan Zi”, literally means Stir Fry Abacus Beads. The taro is steamed and prepared into dough form then shaped into round balls resembling the beads on the Chinese Abacus, an old calculating tool before calculator.

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Braised Napa Cabbage and Mushrooms (台式白菜滷)

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The Braised Napa Cabbage and Mushrooms, or more commonly known as “白菜滷” in Chinese word, is a Taiwanese style vegetable stew. I learned this dish from my Taiwanese coworker as she always likes to cook it. I think it is so much different to our style of cooking and I decided to give it a try. The main ingredient of the dish is the napa cabbage. You can add other ingredients to the pot, some common ones are carrots and all sorts of mushrooms. You can also add pork strips for a more complete pot dish to your meal, or opt out for a vegetarian style.

Eric did not get used to eat this dish the first time when I cooked it, because he didn’t like the cabbage being cooked to that soft texture. But after a couple of tryouts and changes to the recipe, now we enjoy this dish very much. Sometimes we will cook a pot and just goes with white rice, that’s how good it is. I used some dried shrimps and lots of garlic to sauteed the vegetables, that will add more flavors and also a nice fragrant to the dish. Seasoning is also very important to create a tasty sweet broth. Do not overcook the napa or it will turn out too mushy, so be watchful of the time and heat.

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KangKung Belacan (馬來盞炒空心菜/馬來風光)

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I just picked up a bunch of fresh KangKung, which is water spinach or water convolvulus (空心菜) from the Asian market. It’s been some time we didn’t cook this. Bel and I love this vegetable dish especially when it is cooked with Sambal Belacan. Again? Yes! In fact Kangkung Belacan is a signature dish in Malay recipes and yet  it is another must-order-dish when you visit Malaysian restaurant. In Chinese translation, this dish is a representation of Malaysian style cuisine (馬來風光).

Cooking with Sambal Belacan is indeed an unique style of cooking in Malay cuisine.  Some people might not like the fishy smell from the Belacan or shrimp paste, but once you have tried the prepared dish you will love it. The Belacan brings out the fresh and sweetness of the dish and gives a pungent aroma that you can’t resist. There are so many dishes that you can incorporate with these two main ingredients. See Bel’s other related posts such as the Sambal Okra, Sambal Belacan Asparagus, Rojak, Indonesian Fried Rice for more cooking with Sambal Belacan.

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Stir-fried Cabbage with Dried Shrimp

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Cabbage is a popular leafy green vegetable that can be easily found in the food market. I like cabbage because of its natural sugariness and of course it has to be cooked or boiled in order to tenderize the leaves to release the sugar. Cabbage is broadly consumed raw but I am not so into eating it in this way except for coleslaw or maybe in salad occasionally. This is because I don’t like the sharp or bitterness taste that sometimes present in the cabbage.

Mostly I like to use cabbage to make soup but today I’ve cooked it with dried shrimps. Dried shrimps are commonly used in Chinese cuisine for its extraordinary flavor that covers the bitterness, saltiness, sourness, sweetness and savoriness (or so-called “fifth taste”). That’s the reason I used it to stir fry with cabbage to make an easy and pleasant homey dish. I loved it and you should try it.

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Lama Kitchen is a food and cooking blog fills with savory food with great cooking recipes and ideas for those of you who love food and home cooked meals. Read more