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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Arhat's Fast (or veggie-cashew stir-fry)

















This recipe comes from Chinese Cooking Cantonese by Margaret Leeming. She notes that it's a modern version of a traditional Buddhist dish. I've modified it further to use more fresh vegetables and to make four to six servings. I also skip deep-frying the cashews. I don't think it loses anything but unneeded fat.  The sauce is wonderful and very simple. I got strange looks from my husband when I once picked up my bowl and drank the remaining sauce like soup. He then offered me his. I'm not saying what I did. But you might want to have a spoon handy for more mannerly consumption.

You could easily substitute chicken, pork or shrimp for the cashews. The shrimp could be added near the end of cooking; the chicken and pork could be cubed, mixed with a little broth, soy sauce and cornstarch, and quickly stir-fried. Set it aside and add to the recipe instead of the cashews near the end of cooking. You can use bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, as called for in the original recipe, but I used summer squash instead. and added the corn. Use whatever vegetables you prefer, but be sure to add them at the right time in the cooking process for their density. You could also serve it over rice.

As with any stir-fry, have all the ingredients prepped before you begin cooking for a smooth process.


Arhat's Fast

Preferred oil for cooking
6 to 8 slices fresh ginger root*, minced
8 scallions, chopped
2 bell peppers in two colors (I used red and orange this time)
2 cups baby-cut carrots, boiled till just starting to get tender, drained and cooled
10-12 asparagus spears, cut into inch-long pieces with tips reserved separately
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced on the diagonal (and halved if it's fat)
2 yellow squash, thinly sliced on the diagonal (and halved if it's fat)
1 can baby corn, sliced in bite-size pieces if whole)
1 1/2 to 2 cups cashews (whole looks nice, but pieces are cheaper)

Salt to taste
4 tsp. sesame oil (optional)

Seasoning sauce:
6 tbsp. soy sauce
6 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. rice vinegar (plain or "seasoned")
6 tbsp. water

Thickening paste:
2 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 4 tsp. water

Mix the seasoning sauce in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved and set aside. Mix thickening paste and set aside (keep the spoon in it; you'll want to stir it again right before using).

In a wok or large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. oil and stir-fy the ginger and scallions for a minute. Add the peppers and carrots and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add asparagus stems and the squash and cook another few minutes. Stir in the seasoning sauce and bring to a boil. Add baby corn, asparagus tips and cashews and cook a few minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook just till sauce thickens. Sprinkle with sesame oil (optional; I forgot this time).