Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Uncle Henry's Chow Mein

My cousin Shirley Quan recently put together a Young family cookbook and photo album. What a treasure! My late Uncle Henry, Shirley's father, was quite a cook. He learned mostly from his aunt who had both a Chinese restaurant in Woodland Hills called House of Kwong, and a Mexican restaurant near Olvera Street.

Uncle Henry used to make chicken chow mein for family birthday dinners (noodles are a traditional Chinese birthday meal) and big gatherings. Shirley continues the tradition by making the dish for Young family meals at Thanksgiving and Easter. It would be perfect to celebrate Chinese New Year this month, a lucky start to the auspicious Year of the Dragon. You should be able to find the ingredients at popular Chinese grocery store 99 Ranch Market with locations in Mountain View, Cupertino, San Jose, and more.

Uncle Henry's Chow Mein

2 lbs. fresh or dried noodles (preferably Quon Yick small noodles)
1 lb. chicken, sliced (chicken is optional; if using, you'll also need 1 T soy sauce, 1/2 T wine, 1/2 T fresh ginger shreds, and 1 T cornstarch)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 stalks celery, diagonally sliced
6-8 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked, cleaned and sliced
1 small can of sliced bamboo shoots
6-8 sliced water chestnuts, preferably fresh but canned will do
2 cans chicken broth
1 bunch bok choy, cleaned and cut into pieces, about 2 lbs.
1 lb. char shiu (bbq pork), sliced thin in slivers
2-3 lbs. fresh bean sprouts, cleaned, washed and drained
2-5 T oyster sauce (old style like Lee Kum Kee)
1 1/2 t sesame oil
green onions as garnish
oil for frying
2 T cornstarch

1. Parboil noodles till limp but not cooked all the way. Rinse and let drain in a colander.

2. Heat 1/4" thick layer of oil in a wok or cast iron frying pan until ripples show on the whole surface. Grab a handful of noodles and distribute in an even 1" layer in the pan. Press down with a spatula. Cook for about 5-10 minutes on each side til evenly brown, stirring or pressing occasionally so it browns evenly.

3. Drain noodles on paper towels. Continue to cook all the noodles into round cakes. When cool, break into pieces and set aside in a large pot. Noodles may be prepared a day ahead.

4. If using chicken, marinate with 1 T soy sauce, 1/2 T wine, 1/2 T fresh ginger shreds and 1 T cornstarch for about 15 minutes. Stir fry in oil until lightly brown and remove from wok. Set aside.

5. In large pot or wok, add about 1 T oil. Sprinkle salt in oil and heat til almost smoking.

6. Add onions and garlic, quickly stirring until soft.

7. Add celery, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts. Add half the chicken broth, adding more as needed, and cook about 5 minutes.

8. Add bok choy and continue cooking about 5 more minutes.

9. Add char shiu and chicken if using. Add bean sprouts. Cook just slightly so vegetables stay crisp. Season with oyster sauce and sesame oil. Taste and add more oyster sauce if needed.

10. Make a mixture of 2 T cornstarch and about 2 T water and add to wok, cooking until slightly thickened. Mix everything with noodles. Garnish with green onions.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

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