Stir-fried gaobak, a kind of young shoots, is surprisingly tasty.
If you ever see this veg in your local Asian grocers, don't walk on by. This is gaobak, a spring shoot from China that looks like young corn in their husks, only gaobak is bigger, about 25 cm (1 ft) long. My in-laws love gaobak and I bring them back when I find them in Shanghainese grocers in Hong Kong.
Gaobak in their husks. Choose the shoots that are round and swollen, not the flat ones. Feel along the stem to the tip. The stem should extend to the tip, not halfway or you'll be paying mostly for the husks. These gaobak were RM12.90/kg (US$4), not cheap since half of them are husks.
Peel the husks away to reveal the shoots. Cut off the hard lower stems and peel them for a more tender bite.
My MIL came across gaobak at Servay Supermarket in Likas last week (very rare, first time) and cooked gaobak and belly pork stew. My son Wey ate all the belly pork and left us with the gaobak, which was fine because we enjoy the soft crunch and the very delicate flavor which I can only describe as close to young baby corn again. MIL said that gaobak can be fried with garlic and light soy sauce too and I remember a travel episode on Shanghai I saw years ago where this guy stir-fried a plate of gaobak using Maggi soy sauce, a surprise for me because I didn't know they have Maggi sauce in China. I love Maggi sauce even though I know it's probably seasoned with msg. Maybe they know I always keep a big bottle on the shelf and that's why they invite me to their products launches. The bummer about getting invites to food products launches and restaurant food tasting is I live in KK. They forget that I can't drive to KL or Singapore.
I was going to cook this plate of fried gaobak with belly pork but it was so tasty, I couldn't wait. Next time.
500 g peeled gaobak*
2 T Maggi soy sauce or other tasty light soy sauce
1/8 -1/4 t castor sugar
1/4 t of chicken stock powder (not necessary if using Maggi soy sauce)
2 t minced garlic
3 T water or stock
3 T veg oil
*Peel away the green outer 'husks' or leaves of the gaobak, cutting off the hard stems and peel the young white stems if necessary. You can cut them into thick strips (easier on old folks) or into chunks like I did.
Put the oil into a heat wok (Shanghainese use quite a bit of oil and sugar in their cooking), add the garlic and stir for a couple of seconds. Add the gaobak, stir under medium heat for a minute and add the soy sauce and sugar. Stir, then add the water and cover. Once in a while, take off the lid and stir and repeat. The frying takes about 3-4 minutes. Do not overcook.
Red Braised Belly Pork With Gaobak
700 g belly pork*, in cubes
700 kg gaobak*
3- 4 premium light soy sauce, to taste
1-2 T dark soy sauce (optional)
1-2 T dark soy sauce (optional)
3 T shao xin wine
castor sugar to taste
2 T minced garlic
*you can have more of either depending on which you prefer
1. Fry the gao bak as above and leave it aside for later.
2. Heat up a pot or use the same wok and fry the pork belly in a little oil and add 3-4 T light soy sauce (try Yummy Brand). If you want a darker sauce, add 1-2 T dark soy sauce. When pork tightens and shrinks, add the sugar, fry, and add 1/2 cup of water and the wine and simmer, covered. Once in a while, stir the pork. Taste and add more light soy sauce if necessary. Add some chicken stock powder if like.
3. When the pork is fork-tender, scoop it into a bowl leaving the sauce behind to simmer and thicken. Add the pork back in and then add the fried gaobak, heat through and serve hot with plain rice.
Note: the pork is taken out and the gaobak added later so that the texture, taste and flavor of the pork'll not be coarse/diluted.