This is a very healthy and tasty meal, which represents a traditional Chinese way of cooking. The current North American diet is very fatty and loaded with calories — the basis of our current health problems (hypertension, diabetes). This dish has low caloric content, no saturated fats or cholesterol, and is high in fibre (thanks to vegetables) and protein (thanks to bean curd). Often we think of healthy recipes as bland or dry with no taste — following this method, you will see how to add tons of flavour while still eating very healthy and enjoying a savoury meal.
Chinese dried mushrooms are very hearty and restaurants often charge an arm and a leg for ordering this dish; however, it’s so simple and easy to make — it requires no special tools or expertise.
Click to learn how to make this delicious dish!
Braised Chinese Mushroom Recipe with Dried Scallops and Fresh Bean Curd
There are a few simple ingredients that are in this dish that you may have to seek out specially in Chinatown or your local Asian grocer. (This is, afterall, a traditional Chinese dish — NOT a sweet & sour pork!)
- Dried Chinese Mushrooms – When comparing different types/brands in the store, look for dried mushrooms that are thick-looking, are larger in size, and have a flowery pattern (see below). My favourite type originates actually from Japan — although the ones from China are more flavourful, the ones from Japan provide better texture. In Chinese cooking, we feel that a higher quality mushroom is one that is thicker because it gives the diner a better texture and feel when biting into the mushroom. You may also see this dish served with abalone on top of the mushrooms in high-end Chinese restaurants. You will expect to pay about $20.00/lb. (CAD) at the store. You will need to rehydrate these mushrooms overnight in water and you will see them double in size! Do not throw away the water you soak the mushrooms in!
- Whole Dried Scallops – (recommended) While it is not mandatory to put dried scallops in, it will simply add a lot more flavour to the dish. Because it has a distinct “ocean” taste and aroma, it will add another dimension to your dish. They are expensive; however, you only use a small amount. I always keep a jar in my freezer to use in a variety of Chinese dishes that I cook. This, again, is a more specialty ingredient as you will have to seek it out in a medicine-type store (Chinatown shops with Eastern medicine ingredients will also sell dried seafood — often you will see it with the shark fin, dried octopus, dried abalone, dried oyster, etc.) You will expect to pay about $40.00/lb (CAD) at the store. 1 pound will yield about 15-20 scallops, depending on the size. They sell two types: one type has scallops in various-sized pieces, and one type in whole pieces. You will be crumbling the scallops anyways, so you can use the scallops of various sizes (it is cheaper). Generally, the larger the whole scallop, the more expensive it will be. You will also need to rehydrate these overnight in water. Do not throw away the water you soak the scallops in!
- Fresh Bean Curd Ball – You can buy this either fresh or frozen, but I prefer the fresh type. Bean curd is a very popular vegetarian ingredient because it is full of protein and is low in calories without saturated fats or cholesterol. Bean curd on its own typically does not have any taste, but has a tendency to absorb the flavour of whatever it is being cooked with. I like to use this because I can treat it like a blank canvas. Bean curd can come in a variety of shapes — for instance, a 4×4 pocket, a large sheet, etc. The type I used in this recipe is in a ball shape. I will be posting other recipes the other varieties of bean curd, but for now try to find the kind in a ball.
- Yau Choy – This is a very traditional Chinese vegetable eaten on a day-to-day basis. It is high in iron (similarly to another dark, leafy green — spinach), contains lots of fibre, and is very easy to cook. In this recipe, I will be using it as a “base” for the ingredients above. This will, again, add another dimension of flavour and fibre. When buying yau choy, make sure the lower stem is rigid but crunchy and not too thick and can be broken easily just by snapping it (old or poor varieties will be chewy and fibrous). You can buy this in any Chinese grocery store — it is one of the most popular vegetables available, even more than bok choy! I prefer to buy mine in the markets of Chinatown, where I can scope out all the different stands.
Without further ado…
Total prep & cooking time: 1 hour (+ overnight soaking time of other ingredients)
- 8 large Chinese dried mushrooms, soaked overnight & do not throw away water
- 3 whole dried scallops (or equivalent amount), soaked overnight & do not throw away water
- 8-10 pieces of bean curd balls
- 1/4 lb. yau choy (wash thoroughly)
- 1/2 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp corn starch suspended in 1/4 cup of water
- Pinch of sea salt
- Pinch of white pepper
- Pour mushroom water, scallop water, and chicken stock into a medium-sized pot
- Remove stems from mushrooms and add to pot; also crumble scallops with your fingers and add to pot as well. Bring to a boil with: soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, salt, and white pepper
- Once liquids come to a boil, reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer for approximately 30 minutes OR when you see the liquid reduce in 1/2 (while you reduce the sauce, boil a large pot of water to blanche your yau choy)
- Once reduced, add the corn starch suspended in water to thicken the sauce. Add bean curd balls and be gentle — otherwise the bean curd will fall apart. Turn the heat down low while you make the yau choy.
- In the large pot of boiling water, add your yau choy and blanche for only 30-45 seconds. Remove with tongs, strain, and cut into 3 segments and place into a casserole dish (this is to prevent spilling of the sauce) — leaves on the bottom with branches on top (branches are more prestigious and are better for presentation)
- Pour mushrooms & sauce on top of yau choy
- Serve, and enjoy!
- If you’re feeling rich, you can add abalone or sea cucumber (another Chinese delicacy). If you are as poor as me, you can stick to bean curd!