Kacang Panjang Chai Po

This rather simple dish is one of my family’s favorites, and it packs in a lot of flavor: the salty dried radish, the spicy red chili, the slightly fishy dried shrimp, the nutty and crunchy peanuts, all ingredients that are paired with the mild flavored tofu bits and Long Bean. This is a typical manner in which the Nyonya cook will treat a simple vegetable by adding a myriad of complementary and contrasting spice and flavorful elements, as exemplified by this vegetable dish.

A recent posting of this recipe in a Baba Nyonya recipe group garnished a lot of attention and comments, especially for a simple vegetable dish. Interestingly, many members stated that they had not relished it since their early days, and they reminisced that it was last cooked by either their mother or grandmother. Most commented that it was fondly eaten with plain rice porridge, an indication of the dish’s humble and soul-evoking nature that this dish conjures for the various posters.

When you are choosing Long Beans, pick the ones that are deep green in color, fresh looking, and not wilted. They are very perishable, and so, use them are soon as you can.  If the peanuts are quite large, chop them up or break them into halves. You can find packs of brownish Dried Radish in Asian Markets – get those in whole form and not the chopped-up ones, and you will have to soak it in hot water if it is too salty. Try making this dish, and you will see why it has been become a hit with my friends.  

You may use Green Beans as a substitute for the Long Beans. I like to slice them very finely on the diagonal for a nice presentation.

Serves 4

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

¼ cup tofu, firm type (Cantonese: taukwa), and finely cubed 

½ cup vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (½ tablespoon minced)

1 large piece salted dried radish (Cantonese: Choy Po), finely diced (¼ cup pressed), soaked in hot water 15 minutes or more until not too salty, drained. 

1½ tablespoon dried shrimp, very small, soaked 10 minutes in water and drained

200 grams Long/Snake Beans or Kacang Panjang, sliced ¼-inch (½-cm)

1 Finger Hot red chili pepper, stemmed and deseeded, sliced horizontally then finely sliced 

Thin soy sauce

2 tablespoons peanuts, toasted, peeled, and split

In a wok on medium-high flame, pour ½ cup oil and stir fry the tofu cubes until golden brown. Remove and drain well. Set aside.

Remove the oil and leave behind 3 tablespoons oil in pan. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute or until slightly golden brown. Add the dried radish and dried shrimp, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the Long Beans and chili and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Add 4 tablespoon of water and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Stir-fry uncovered for 1 minute. 

Taste the seasoning. If it is not salty enough, add a bit more soy sauce to taste. Add tofu and stir-fry uncovered for 1 more minute until mixture is quite dry but not completely dry.

Pour cooked mixture onto a plate, and sprinkle peanuts on top before serving.

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