Mush on Mush

braised xiancai featured header

braised xiancai featured header

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I mean everyone has some freakiness they rather keep to themselves.  Something embarrassing about their existence that they would skillfully omit in a first-date conversation.  Something that, IF not a skeleton in the closet, is definitely a pair of stinky boots.  On my 18th date with Bloggy, it is time to bravely declare that I have a lot of those.  Haaaaaa, right!  Of course I’m not INSANE to share THAT on the internet, but I WILL say this: Ihavewatchedthelittlemermaidabove30timesandIthinkIaminlovewithTarzan

I LOVE mushy vegetables!

Please don’t switch!! onto other blogs with cuter things like miniature tarts (spoiler alert!)!

Hear me out.  Braised vegetable deserves its rightful place in the gastronomic world.  And I mean really really braised mushy vegetables.  Vegetables that have their LIFE cooked out of them.  And in the absence of life, there borns a whole new level of yumminess… or better described as “hominess”?  Why aren’t people cooking the shit out of their veggies more!  I mean take braised kale for a quick example.  Undoubtedly more iconic and comforting compared to, say, blanched and shocked spinach pffff…  I say crunchy, green and crispy veggies are overrated.  Make way for the Holy Moly overcooked!  Really, many vegetables are just lining up to be treated this way.  Besides kale there’s cauliflower, spinach, bitter melon, winter melon, radish, carrots, cabbages, beans, tomatoes and so many others!!!  And THIS, amaranth (a.k.a xian-cai)!

(I would make a happy senior, wouldn’t I?  Blissful with all my gum and mush.)

“Amaranth”?  Xian-cai, I didn’t know you have such a beautiful English name.  You sound so upgraded!  Amaranth I’m gonna call you from now, can be found in all major groceries in China Town.  It is an Asian vegetable.  It comes in all green or with this dazzling purple hue.  I don’t intend to sound pretentiously sentimental but this WAS my grandpa’s favorite veggie.  I really DID eat it growing up.  And it was always braised mushy which I had thought was the right way only to found out that it was because my grandpa had no teeth…  Ooops mom, you did it again.  But I wouldn’t force this upon anyone if I didn’t believe that it is DESTINED to be mushed.  Amaranth is a little tough and fibrous just like kale.  It has a deep, rich flavor JUST LIKE kale.  Over the years I found myself subconsciously extending the cooking time longer and longer, and LIKED it more and more.  Ask Jason who’s been converted on this matter (whose mouth is being duck-taped, body tied to a chair and forced to nod).

So what’s a better way to eat a bowl of mushy veggies other than… ANOTHER pot of mush?!!!  Oatmeals!  I eat them like savory congee/porridge!  Yes, I am weird.  But they really are just like congee, a more heart-friendly neighbor of congee!  Who wouldn’t like that?  OK ok ok… please don’t leave and just give it a chance.  Seriously I love this combo.  It’s so heart warming….

Braised Amaranth:

  • 1 kg of purple amaranth
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 small onion
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of chicken stock (unsalted)
  • 1/2 tsp of baby shrimp skin
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp of white pepper
  • 3 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp of baby shrimp skin
  • 2 grated garlic
  • tiny bit of fish sauce
  • 1 tsp of white pepper
  • 1 tbsp of oil

Oatmeal:

  • 1/2 cup of quick oatmeal
  • 1 cup of chicken stock (unsalted)
  • pinch of salt and black pepper

* Baby shrimp skin can be found in all major groceries or spice shop in China Town.  They are dried baby shrimps that has a pale, yellow hue.  If unavailable, replace with 2 anchovy fillets but reduce the fish sauce to 2 tbsp.

Soak the amaranth in a big sink of water and wash them clean.  Trim off the ends/roots.  If the amaranth has thick stalk, try to peel away some fibrous skin by snipping a small segment at the root end without breaking the stalk completely.  Then pull the segment away from the stalk and a string of fiber would come off with it.  Chop them roughly in long segments after cleaning.  I’ll say that I hate this part because it’s such a chore.  But if I just chop off the stalks entirely I would be left with practically nothing.

Bring a big pot of water with a big pinch of salt to boil.  Blanch the amaranth for 2 min, then shock them in ice water.  Squeeze all the water out of them with hands and chop roughly.

OK, I didn’t mention the blanching part.  Technically it isn’t necessary.  The amaranth can be cooked directly but it WILL release a considerable amount of water which will carry a dark purple color.  Instead, I take out the liquid in the veggie by blanching, and replace the cooking liquid with chicken stock which will bring flavor into the dish.  I have tried both ways and I mean I love the purple juice from the amaranth but I value the flavor from the chicken stock more, so I made a call.

In a sauce pot, saute the chopped 10 garlics, 1 small onion, 1/2 tsp of baby shrimp skin and a bit of salt in 3 tbsp of oil until browned and caramelized.  Add the amaranth and 3/4 cup of chicken stock, or enough to cover HALF of the amount of veggies.  Turn the heat on medium high and let the liquid reduce.  This is gonna take… maybe 20 ~ 30 min.  The amaranth should be really soft.

Meanwhile, heat up 1 tbsp of oil in a small stock pot then add 2 tbsp of baby shrimp skin and 2 grated garlic cloves.  Season it with a little fish sauce then let the mixture toast in the oil until fragrant, about 15 sec.  Careful not to burn them.

Transfer the amaranth into a bowl and top with the baby shrimp skin mixture.

The oatmeal should take no time.  Add 1/2 cup of quick oats and 1 cup of chicken stock with a pinch of salt and black pepper.  Cook for 2 min until done. Seriously in a spirit-breaking, mood-drawning day in BJ, no other dish comforts me more than this.  Try it.

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