Tag Archives: stir fry

Fusion food

29 Dec

Stir-fried zucchini

As I was clearing out the fridge, I found a zucchini.  You’d think that with a bar fridge, one would not actually forget about things in the fridge.  But I forgot that I had it.  And in my defense, when your fridge is so tightly packed, it isn’t exactly easy to see what you have. I can’t remember what I bought the zucchini for.  There wasn’t anything else in the fridge which would have gone with it.  I wasn’t about to start a round of baking and I needed something for dinner.  But what to cook?  I thought I’d start by skinning the zucchini.  I tried a sliver of raw zucchini and it had this bitter aftertaste which was not very pleasant at all.  So how to mask it?  The Asian answer would be to use a generous amount of sambal balachan.  Afterall, zucchini in itself doesn’t actually have a distinctive taste.

But I didn’t have that at hand – sambal balachan is great stuff but to toast it ensures that an apartment would stink for days.  My neighbors would definitely not appreciate it at all, with the smell being very pungent to say the least.  But I had a bottle of crispy shrimp and chili in chili oil.  That would do.

The zucchini shrank to half it’s volume but the chili paste did it’s job.  The bitter aftertaste was gone, we had a dish for dinner which was great with hot fluffy rice.  Why fusion?  We don’t actually use zucchini in Asian cuisine.  Crispy shrimp and chili is definitely Asian.  That should qualify as fusion, yes?

Spicy Stir-fried Zucchini

Makes enough for 4 side dishes


1 garlic clove finely chopped

1 shallot finely sliced

1 zucchini skinned and julliened

1 tbs Crispy shrimp and chili in chili oil

Salt to taste

1 tsp canola oil


  1. Heat up canola oil in saucepan and fry garlic and shallots until golden brown and fragrant.
  2. Add zucchini and stir fry until wilted.  Continue frying to reduce the amount of water in the dish.
  3. Add shrimp and stir through.
  4. Add salt to taste.
  5. Serve with hot rice.


  1. When frying garlic and shallots, be very watchful as golden brown can quickly turn to black when you are not watching.  I tend to add the garlic and shallots to the heated oil and stir constantly.  If I find the garlic and shallots browning too fast, I take it off the stove and leave it to cool whilst I continue stirring.  I only bring it back to the stove when I’m ready to add the next ingredient which would take the temperature down again.
  2. Zucchini can be shredded with a grater but I find that the pieces are too fine and almost disintegrate to nothing if stir fried.
  3. There will be a significant amount of water the comes out from the zucchini.  It should be cooked until most of the water evaporates.  Otherwise, it dilutes the flavor of the dish.

Vegetable fit for an Emperor

13 Dec

We went to Richmond today to do some Asian grocery shopping.  I love going to Richmond.  The grocery stores are fantastic in terms of the variety of things you can find!  The items are truly mind boggling.

The Asian diet consists of a lot of greens which are stir fried or blanched – unfortunately the variety is rather limited in Queen Victoria Market which we frequent.  So I was delighted to find 王帝菜in one of the stores!

For the uninitiated, 王帝菜 (= Emperor Vegetable)  is apparently known as Basella alba.  It used to be a rare vegetable prepared for the emperor.  Being a green leafy vegetable, it is high in vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.  It is a vegetable with a slightly mucilaginous texture.  In simple words, it’s slimy.  First off, I like slimey vegetables.  Wierd, I know.  But I like the feel somehow.  Furthermore, it’s rich in soluble fibre.  It is also a vegetable that pickles well and the pickling process seems to take away the slime.

I remember it being a fairly rare vegetable to see around even in Singapore.  According to my mother-in-law, it is expensive to boot!  But she said she grew it in her backyard like weeds and when they needed some vegetables for dinner quickly, she’d go and harvest them.  So I thought, why not try our backyard and see if we get lucky here?/

So 1 stalk went into the backyard and the rest into the pan. I must say 1 large colander full actually shrank down to 1 soup bowl full after cooking.  But it was yummy piping hot over rice!

Stir-fried Emperor Vegetables


2 thin slices of ginger

2 shallots finely sliced

1 tsp of dried shrimp in chili oil (available at Asian grocers)

1 portion of Emperor Vegetables (about 1 colander full)

1 tbs of canola oil

Salt to taste


  1. Pluck the leaves off and separate from the stems.  Put aside to dry.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan or wok.
  3. Add the ginger and shallots and fry until fragrant
  4. Add the dried shrimp and stir quickly.
  5. Add the vegetables and fry until all the vegetables wilt.
  6. Add salt to taste
  7. Serve hot over rice.


  1. This is very much a traditional Asian way of cooking.  Often when you ask the cook “How much?”, you’ll get the answer “A pinch” or “A smidge”.  I’ve actually tried to give some measurements but can’t tell you the weight of the vegetables.
  2. Fresh vegetables should be firm with no soft spots.
  3. You may want to run the vegetables through a salad spinner to minimise splash when frying.  But I’m lazy.  The initial volume of vegetables is so large, it contains it’s own splatter.  But if it’s your first time, be warned!
  4. The chili oil can get quite irritating to the eyes and nose so the vegetables have to follow fast to keep it down.