When I was growing up, besides the other fabulous food and snacks and angbaos, what I looked forward to the MOST on the first day of Chinese New Day was the chap chye borne out of my grandmother's kitchen.
Most kids who grew up in a Chinese family would have grown up with chap chye in some form. There are plenty of ways to make chap chye, and they all differ in taste - some are made with stock, some have taojio (salty fermented soya bean), some add flour, some add belachan, some make it soupy, some make it thick.
The one made by my grandmother was a meatless version. My dad said eating vegetarian chap chye on the first day of Chinese New Year represents a cleansing of the system, the welcoming of a brand new year. Something like that.
Despite its origins being a vegetarian dish, there are plenty of recipes that incorporate prawns, dried shrimps, pork belly, sotong. So whatever makes you and your family happy! =D
The Peranakans have their own methods, the Cantonese have their own dish origins, the Hokkiens seem to have their own secret theories too. But to me, it matters not the origins of the chap chye, but the taste of childhood.
When I was living with my in-laws, my MIL made chap chye, it was nice too but very different from what I had in my childhood. When I finally had my own kitchen, one day the thought of recreating my childhood chap chye popped into mind. I didn't know what went into it, except that it looked BROWNISH-RED.
So I Googled 'chap chye red' haha, one thing led to another, and I realized that it's red fermented bean curd, the creamy cheese-like condiment, that gave my grandmother's version that rich, brown, salty-sweet, sauce.
My first attempt was successful, and Mr Mode was impressed. 😀 I refrigerated the remaining and reheated it for lunch the next day. EVEN MORE AWESOME. And thus began my obsession with my recreation of Childhood Chap Chye.
The second time I made it, it was for my family reunion dinner and I failed! BOOOO... Because there would be more people, I thought I'd increase the quantity of cabbage and other ingredients. That tipped the balance, and the addition of too much water totally destroyed the dish. Okie, okie, shan't be too harsh on myself, it wasn't destroyed, it was just... a bit too diluted and not how it should be, at least unacceptable to me.
The third time I made it for my in-laws, and did it right. They loved it! Yay brownie points!
In total, I have made my Childhood Chap Chye 7 successful times, with 1 failed attempt. Lol.
My grandmother did not teach me how to cook this dish but the taste is exactly as I remember from my childhood. I shall make this my 家传菜 and pass it on to my descendants.
Ingredients For Chap Chye
- 35g Chinese mushrooms
- 35g dried lily buds (金針 kim zam)
- 50g glass noodles (冬粉 tang hoon)
- 7 pieces sweet bean curd (甜豆干 tee tao kee)
- 500g round cabbage
- 2 clumps hair moss (发菜 fa cai)
- 12 gingko nuts
- 8 pieces dried black fungus / wood ear fungus (黑木耳)
- 100g red fermented bean curd 红俘虏 (usually in a glass/clay/porcelain jar)
- 2 tbsp oyster-flavored sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2/3 cup water drained from mushrooms and lily buds
Soak these ingredients in separate bowls for 40 minutes:
- Black fungus
- Beancurd skin
- Mushrooms (reserve water from soaked mushrooms in a cup)
- Lily buds (reserve water from soaked lily buds in a cup. tie a knot for each)
Cut the above ingredients into bite-sized pieces.
Deep fry sweet beancurd till darkened and blistery. You can fry them in warm oil, but I prefer to airfry them at 180C for around 7 minutes. Set aside.
Stir fry lily buds with 1/4 tbsp oil and 1.5 tsp light soya sauce. Then add mushrooms. Set aside.
Heat oil in wok, stir fry chopped garlic till fragrant. Add red fermented beancurd and mash into smaller pieces with the spatula. By the way, red fermented beancurd is not something common in our supermarkets. I went to several NTUCs (now renamed Fairprice but who cares) and Giant and could not find it there. Finally found it at Sheng Siong. I love Sheng Siong.
Add cabbage and stir fry till softened. Make sure it's softened! For the first few minutes, the cabbage remains green, raw, and firm. But you have to persevere and have faith that it will soften! Haha. It WILL soften, just takes time.
Add lily buds, mushrooms, beancurd skin, sweet beancurd, black fungus, hair moss, ginko nuts to softened cabbage.
Add Sauce Mix and stir well. Add hair moss.
Bring to a boil then cover with lid and let vegetables simmer for about 10 minutes. Anytime the water runs dry, add water drained from lily buds and mushroooms.
Half an hour before serving, soak glass vermicelli until softened, and mix into pot. Glass vermicelli absorbs liquid quickly, so if you add the noodles too early, they will bloat and there will be too little sauce left.
Serve with rice! =D
The flavor is intensified when refrigerated overnight and reheated the next day. 🙂
Other ingredients you might be interested to add into your chap chye:
- Gingko nuts (sometimes I add this, sometimes I don't)
- Tao kwa (fried beancurd)
- Tao pok (tofu puffs)
- Button mushrooms
I also need to point out to you that every time I make my Childhood Chap Chye, I serve it on this particular plate coz that was how my grandmother served it. Ah, not exactly. Hers was the plastic version, but I wanted a more... authentic Chinese feel. Haha! Funny how my grandmother preferred modern plastic and I prefer traditional porcelain. Oh man, it was so difficult to find this but I managed to hunt for it in a shop in Chinatown.
Hope you enjoy making my Childhood Chap Chye With Red Fermented Bean Curd! <3
(I think I should create a new category on my blog named 'food' or 'recipes' hoho)