Sunday, February 15, 2009
No-Meat (Filipino) Chop Suey
Well, just to clarify things...I do sometimes use meat in chop suey. Also, I included the word "Filipino" in this post's title because there is such a thing as American Chop Suey, and I wanted to make the distinction that this chop suey is not American.
[At this point in time, my dough for hopia is chillin' in the fridge. I am hoping it will turn out successful. I made the yellow mung bean filling last night. And I still have some ube haleya in the fridge. While waiting, I am posting this humble entry that probably few, or none, will care to read about, but I am posting it anyway.]
I do not really know the origins of this dish. Some say it is Chinese; others say it is truly of Filipino origins. I also do not know if there is an authentic way to cook this. But this is how I typically cook mine, as I like my veggies crispy and half-cooked. This penchant for crispy veggies is shared by my boys (but hubby likes his overcooked, which is unpalatable to me); however, my boys do not like half-cooked veggies, so I had to cook them just enough so they still retain their crispiness, yet my boys would still find good. I have found out long ago (during my late teen years when I started cooking at home) that stir-frying veggies in some oil before adding broth with some cornstarch to coat the veggies good as the sauce thickens, makes this possible. As my Manong said during the first time I cooked my chop suey at home back in Pinas, "Parang lutong restaurant, ah!"
My ingredients vary a lot, depending on the availability of protein source, and veggies. This particular time, I had sayote, which I love in any veggie stir-fry. I also had a can of quail eggs and firm tofu. Instead of the usual chicken or pork (pre-marinated with soy sauce), I thought I would made use of these. And because it was quite inconvenient to add liver paste (I would have to defrost and pinch off a little), I did not bother adding it.
Probably it would be more apt to call this stir-fry veggies. But to me, chop suey is mainly that: a stir-fried mix of different veggies with some protein source. Different cooks have different versions, and even I vary in my own recipe. The only thing that does not really change is my method. As long as I end up with crispy veggies flavored with some meat, I am all set.
1 pack firm tofu (I forgot to take note of weight, maybe 1/2 lb), cubed, deep fried in very hot oil and drained
3 tbsp oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 lb large shrimps, shelled
1 can quail eggs, drained
1 carrot, sliced thinly
1 sayote, peeled and sliced thinly
1 small can water chestnut, drained
1 small bag of snap peas (or about 2-3 handfuls)
1/4 head of cabbage, cut in chunks (of course, the leaves will separate)
1/4 cup sherry or Chinese cooking wine
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth, with 1-2 tbsp cornstarch dissolved (Mix a tsp of liver paste if using)
dash of ground basil
salt and pepper (optional: oyster sauce or soy sauce)
optional: 1 tbsp sesame oil to be added after cooking
[AN IMPORTANT NOTE: To retain the vibrant colors of the veggies, never cover while cooking them. While the crispiness remains as long as you coat the veggies first in oil before added water or broth, the color may fade if you cover.]
After deep frying the tofu, set aside. Pour off the oil and keep 3 tbsp in the wok.
Sautee garlic for 1 minute, add onion and cook 1 minute. Add sliced carrots, cook 1 minute. Add snap beans, water chestnut and sayote, cook another minute (the tougher veggies go in first). Add shrimp and quail eggs, then the broth with cornstarch; stir about 1 minute or until sauce thickens (add some more water or plain broth if it is too thick). Add cabbage and fried tofu and stir to coat with sauce. Season with salt and pepper as needed (or oyster sauce or soy sauce). Add basil. Remove from heat once shrimps are pink/cooked. Optional to add sesame oil at the end, then stir.
Serve on a bed of plain rice.