In Chinese, there is a dish that appears on menus everywhere- tang qing cai (燙青菜), or blanched vegetables. It could be some sort of lettuce, A choy (a cai), could be you cai (yu choy), could be whatever vegetable the restaurant gets that is inexpensive at the moment. (In Taiwan, you can often expect tang qing cai to be accompanied by just enough lu rou to add some meaty flavor.)
When Tim and I celebrated special occasions with his side of the family, I would see bags and bags of gai lan in dai yi mah’s(first/eldest aunt) kitchen that needed to be thoroughly washed before cooking. Always impatient for dinner, I would volunteer to wash the gai lan, hastily swishing and rinsing the stalks in water to try not to have my hands turn red from the cold. Once the gai lan was cooked, it was imperative that the hot water was thoroughly drained to stop residual cooking, all stems and leaves were arranged to face the same way, and that the gai lan were cut one or two times crosswise (with scissors) for ease of eating. It was probably fitting that I washed the gai lan anyway, seeing as I would eat up oodles of gai lan before moving to sticky rice, chicken with scallion/ginger sauce, cha siu that was ubiquitous at big family meals.
At Cantonese joints, especially dim sum and barbecue (noted for the hanging ducks and chicken in the windows) places, blanched gai lan (also known as Chinese broccoli) with oyster sauce is almost always on the menu. You don’t have to go to a restaurant to get this one, though-it is easy to make at home. Usually, I assign Tim, my Canto hubby, to make perfectly cooked gai lan, but yesterday I cooked them on my own, with his detailed directions ;D
There’s only one restaurant that Mr. ABC Chef (Tim) likes in Chinatown..it’s a Cantonese BBQ restaurant named M Kee. This place is near and dear to the hearts of many of our friends. You know it’s a legit because you would see the older folks from the Cantonese congregation go there- a very good sign.
One of our Cantonese friends, Amanda, whose father is a chef, had this dish that we had never seen before. It had fish, pork, string beans, celery, dried black beans, and didn’t look like anything we had seen before! We asked for the name and ordered it with rice.
It was…DELICIOUS! Generous chunks of fish, crunchy Chinese celery, seared string beans, morsels of ground pork, and seasoned well with dried black beans and fermented olives. The combination of all the flavors together was quite magical, frankly 🙂
Ever since then, it’s become our favorite when we are there, and we recommend it to anyone who asks. There was a period where we went to M Kee so much that we got to know the waitresses and they would instinctively jot down my order as “ga herng”.
Needless to say, others have caught the ga herng bug and share a common love for it.
Amy, Nafis, and our other CCCNC friends- this recipe was made for you and all other fellow lovers of ga herng! I did my best to re-create a version that brings your tastebuds back to M Kee without tasting as heavy. For more a restaurant-y style rendition, add more sugar and soy sauce, making sure to heed my warning about soy sauce in the notes section.
*Apologies to all Cantonese people out there- I have no idea how to “spell” this dish properly in PinYin. Sorry if it is majorly butchered!
Special ingredients for this dish include:
The label says black beans, but they are actually olives based on the Chinese characters..
Funky looked fermented olives
I like these- they are dried and last forever
See? They last so long there is no expiration date ^_^V