Fuchsia Dunlop's Twice-Cooked Swiss Chard (Hui Gua Niu Pi Cai)

[Photograph: Chris Terry]

Chard is a mainstay in my kitchen during the long winter months. The fast-cooking greens are chock full of vitamins to counteract all of that rich comfort food. But even a tender green such as chard gets dull as we wait for the exciting vegetables of spring.

Leave it to Fuchsia Dunlop to reinvigorate chard by treating it like pork. In Every Grain of Rice, Dunlop presents an array of recipes using chard and other leafy greens, but it was the twice-cooked recipe that really caught my eye. The chard is, indeed, cooked twice (a quick blanch followed by a turn in simmering sauce). The real draw, however, is the brawny sauce: chilli bean paste, fermented black beans, garlic, ginger, chicken broth, and a generous pour of oil transform the green into an almost meaty dish.

Why I picked this recipe: I've eaten my fair share of twice-cooked pork at my favorite Chinese restaurants, so I was eager to apply these flavors to one of my favorite winter greens, swiss chard.

What worked: Once again, everything was on point. The chard was deeply savory, with a hint of spice from the chilli bean paste.

What didn't: Nothing; you may find it strange (as I did) to blanch the greens in unsalted water, but the intense saltiness of the sauce more than makes up for the lack of seasoning in the blanching water.

Suggested tweaks: You could use this sauce for any manner of vegetables or leafy greens. Blanch until they are tender, and toss in the simmering sauce at the last minute. Small pieces of tofu would also not be out of place here, should you want to turn this side into an entree.

Reprinted from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop. Copyright 2012 by Fuchsia Dunlop. Photographs copyright 2012 by Cris Terry. Published by W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

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Fuchsia Dunlop's Twice-Cooked Swiss Chard (Hui Gua Niu Pi Cai)

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 2 to 4
Active time:20 minutes
Total time:20 minutes
This recipe appears in: Fuchsia Dunlop's Twice-Cooked Swiss Chard (Hui Gua Niu Pi Cai)

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces (400g) thick-stemmed Swiss chard
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil, or 1 1/2 tablespoons lard and 1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Sichuanese chilli bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup (100ml) chicken stock or water
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped celery (Chinese celery if possible)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced spring onion greens

Procedures

  1. 1

    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.

  2. 2

    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.

  3. 3

    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.

  4. 4

    Finally, stir in the celery, cilantro and spring onion, stir a few times, then serve.

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