Although we eat alot of vegetables, I don't have many ideas on how to cook vegetables besides stir fry or steam. The hard part with cooking them is the timing as most green leafy vegetables wilt within minutes they touch the heat and some stalky types like broccoli, asparagus and beans require more longer period of cooking but must be right to retain their shape and color.
Chinese cooking uses alot of other vegetables besides the ordinary broccoli and peas that we usually get at the local groceries. To see the total varieties, one needs only to visit an Asian grocery store where they stock everything from watercress, baby bok choy, water convulvulus, Chinese Broccoli that has large leaves rather than florets to fresh bamboo shoots, white and purple taro and fresh water chestnuts. I myself haven't even tried all of them and would really want to try out more root and tuber vegetables cooking in the future.
I made this vegetable platter for our annual Mid Autumn Festival celebration, which is more known to the kids as Mooncake Day! Every year, we have a potluck gathering with our family friends and this was my first time making a vegetable dish for the occasion. To make the dish more appetizing, I chose the colors green, white and black. To meat lovers, a vegetable dish must strike in color and presentation to entice them to try the dish out and this can be achieved with a combination of different types of vegetables, all cooked accordingly to their specified cooking time and arranged altogether in a unique way with gravy poured over them just before serving time.
I boiled the cauliflower and broccoli separately. The heat was maintained at a low rolling boil temperature throughout as not to quickly overcook the vegetables and break them apart from the floret shape. Once cooked, I soaked them in iced cold water to stop the cooking and also maintain the colors. Once drained on a colander and patted dried gently with a kitchen paper towel, I then arranged the white and green vegetables alternately, starting from outside working towards inside. For this platter I used a 12 inches size deep dish plate. Prior to cooking the cauliflower and broccoli, I started simmering the shiitake mushrooms in chicken stock, water and condiments with softened dried scallops threads. The liquid made up the sauce and needed to be cooked down for about 40 mins to get the deep flavor of the mushrooms and the umami flavor from the dried scallop. After cooking, the mushrooms are then arranged into the platter and the sauce was drained out from the scallop threads. The threads were then arranged onto the platter to complete the vegetables presentation and the sauce was further thickened with cornstarch and poured over the platter just before serving.
300g Broccoli Florets
250g Cauliflower Florets
1 dozen Dried Shiitake Mushroom, soaked and softened
3 Dried Scallops, soaked for at least 4 hours and shred to threads
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp grated garlic (3 cloves)
1 small shallot, sliced
3 tbsp chicken stock powder
4 cups water
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp corn flour, added to 1/2 cup water
1)Heat 1 tbsp cooking oil in a small cooking pot. Saute the grated ginger, garlic and shallot for 1 min.
2)Add in the 1 dozen mushrooms and mix and let it cook for 5 mins.
3)Mix the chicken stock powder with the 4 cups water and pour into the mushroom mixture. Add in the sesame oil, soy sauce and white pepper and stir to mix. Sprinkle in the scallop threads. Simmer for 40 mins with the lid on the pot. Stir occasionally to cook evenly.
4)In another pot, boil 5 cups of water and maintain at a rolling boil. Drop in the broccoli florets and cook for about 10 mins. Prepare a large bowl of iced water. Remove the broccoli and plunge them into the cold water. Drain on a colander and arrange on the plate.
5)Drop the cauliflower florets into the boiling water and cook for 8 mins. Remove and plunge into cold water and drain and arrange like the broccoli on the plate.
6)Scoop up the mushrooms from the sauce and separate the sauce from the scallop threads through a small hand held sift.
7)Arrange the mushrooms on the plate and insert the scallop threads in the empty spaces to complete the arrangement.
8)Bring the sauce to a boil and add in the cornstarch and stir to mix.
9)Pour the sauce onto the vegetable when ready to serve.
Serves: 6 to 8 person