Southern California cooks will love this market-driven vegetarian riff on twice-cooked pork. Fuchsia Dunlop’s Twice Cooked Chard borrows the method of traditional twice-cooked pork without the meat. It makes a perfect accompaniment to her Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger and Spring Onion and if you add a bowl of steamed rice to the table you’ve got a perfect New Years feast.
In her new book, Every Grain of Rice, Dunlop explains that “Chard, known in Chinese as “ox leather greens” or “thickskinned 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…Nowadays, with the vogue for rustic food, erstwhile poverty dishes like this have reappeared on restaurant menus, to the bemusement of real peasants.”
Keep reading for her recipe…
Twice-cooked Swiss chard
Hui guo niu pi cai 回鍋牛皮菜
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 marvelous accompaniment to plain steamed rice.
14 oz (400g) thick-stemmed Swiss chard
3 tbsp cooking oil, or 1 1/2 tbsp lard and 11/2 tbsp cooking oil
1 1/2 tbsp Sichuanese chilli bean paste
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
11/2 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup (100ml) chicken stock or water
3 tbsp finely chopped celery (Chinese celery if possible)
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
2 tbsp finely sliced spring
Cut the dark green chard leaves 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.
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 bitesized lengths. 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, add the chard and stir until it is piping hot once more.
Finally, stir in the celery, cilantro and spring onion, stir a few times, then serve.
*Reprinted from Every Grain