The BackgroundInspired by a famous TV show, Project Runway, my pal and I agreed on a "self-improvement/enhancement" challenge (I think it was just to mask his creative idea to make my cooking life a living hell @#$%^$#%, but turned out, I kinda enjoy it ^_^).
The main rule is to make a dish and NOT to use any vegetables which had been used previously (this includes: lettuce, tong ho, celery, gai lan, bak choy, por choy, dao miew, long beans, wawa choy, jit gwar/fuzzy melon, silk squash....gosh....etc..), with any aromatics and meat of my choice.
I accepted the challenge...laughing in my mind, cos he has no idea that there are so many kinds of veggie I havent tried.
So, for my first dish for the challenge is...
I always love zucchini for its crispy & soft texture, its natural sweetness, & the way it absorbs aromas easily.
So I have decided to make something with zucchini.The problems
- I have no idea how zucchini looks like before it is cooked. I normally just see (i.e greedily devour) zucchini nicely cooked on my plate/styrofoam takeaway boxes, I just remember the meat is kinda yellow.
- I don't speak Chinese and I don't know zucchini by its Chinese name (surname li, given names suk kei?), therefore can't ask the veggie seller in the market
- I don't live within the perimeters of Park n Shop superstores/City Super/Sogo's mighty tentacles, and time's ticking (another rule: the dish must be finished and eaten before 8 pm, I finish work by 6 pm)
This was his Zucchini Terrifying Horror Story in Chinese Wet Market
F (Friend): (too embarrased to say zucchini's Chinese name found on the net, as he found that it just doesn't make any sense, and the veggie vendor might beat the crap out of him) *pointing at the piles of squash* Any of these has yellow meat inside?
VVA (Veggie Vendor's Assistant): Nggg...nggg (scrambling for words to convey "I have no idea") *calling her boss for help
VV (Veggie Vendor): What's up?
F: *pointing at the piles of squash-again* Any of these has yellow meat inside?
VV: How the heck do I know the color inside? (Actually I think she SHOULD know)
F: This one *pointing at any squash*..is the meat yellow?
VV: (She's getting pissed off) What color do you want the meat to be???!!
F: (cringed with fear)...mmm...yellow?
VV: Then YELLOW it IS
KSA (Kind Stranger Auntie): (trying to help my pitiful friend) *pointing at "crispy meat squash" (chui yuk gwar)* Yes, this one has yellow meat inside...
F: (100% convinced that the crispy meat squash he knows so well is NOT the fancy zucchini I wanted)...but I don't want this one...I want..(not knowing exactly what he wanted)...*sigh* forget it *left the stall with embarrassment*....
A good friend and a fighter that he is, he continued his quest, repeating the same horror story in a few more stalls, until he finally got frustrated, and phoned me to report his findings.
Off work, I went to the market to find the (what I imagine to be) yellow cucumber-like thingy, and found none. I found the crispy meat squash and asked my friend wat is it. He said it is crispy meat squash, and not the zucchini I am looking for.
The crispy meat squash looks better than my initial plan B (I imagined a spicy but mushy purple eggplant), so I bought a couple of them anyway.
I wanted to breate some Indonesian air into the dish, so here goes:
- 2 crispy meat squash (chui yuk gwar): HK$8
- sliced beef for stir frying: HK$20
- garlic, shallot (chopped), ginger (crushed)
- about 3 red chilli (remove seeds, chop - adjust to suit your heat tolerance)
- small ripe tomato (just squish it)
- cooking oil (I use sunflower-olive mix)
- salt, pepper, sugar for the "zucchini"
- soy sauce, oyster sauce, corn starch for the beef
The dish turned out to be Indonesianesque with a touch of Chinese from the beef. I kept telling my friend how great crispy meat squash is, the perfect substitude for the unattainable zucchini. lol
The next day, I still had some zucchini grudges, so I searched and found that the "crispy meat squash" (chui yuk gwar) I bought was indeed the ZUCCHINI I sought after.
Guess I just had to learn my zucchini lesson the hard way...