NON-HALAL RECIPE Abalone and sea cucumber are two of the most prized commodities in Chinese cuisine. Walk into any lavish and upscale Chinese restaurant and you will see them on the first page of the menu, with very expensive price tags next to them.
This braised recipe needs some effort especially at the preparation stage, but at the first bite of the abalone and sea cucumber and the first taste of the extremely flavourful sauce, you will be transported to Chinese food nirvana.
• 4 dried abalones
• 2 dried deep sea cucumbers
• 1 knob ginger, pounded
• 3 stalks scallion, roots removed
• 8 dried Japanese scallops
• 113g broccoli florets
• Cornstarch and water
Supreme chicken stock
• 1 chicken, skin removed and cut into big pieces
• 450g pork spare ribs, cut into riblets
• 113g Chinese ham, cut into pieces
• 4.7 litres water
• Soak the dried abalone in cold water for 24 hours. The next day, clean and brush thoroughly and cook the abalone in boiling water for 15 minutes.
• Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let stand for a few hours until the water is cool. Clean and brush the abalone again, remove the tail-end of the abalone, discard any impurities and soak in clean cold water again for another 10 hours or overnight.
• Soak the sea cucumbers overnight in a clean pot that is completely free of oil. The next day, bring a big pot of water to boil. Turn the heat off and put the sea cucumbers in.
• Cover the pot and let stand for a few hours until the water is cool. Repeat this process three to four times until the sea cucumbers are relatively soft. Clean each sea cucumber thoroughly.
• Bring water to boil in a stainless steel pot. Add the ginger, scallions and sea cucumbers and cook on low heat until they are soft enough for cooking.
• To make the supreme chicken stock, bring the water to boil in a deep stock pot. Add the chicken, ribs, ham and bring to boil.
• Lower the heat and keep boiling and simmering for eight hours until all the meat falls off the bones and the stock reaches an extremely flavourful taste. Discard the meat and save the stock. You can keep this stock in the fridge.
• Use a smaller stock pot and add about three to four cups of the supreme chicken stock, abalone, sea cucumbers and scallops and bring to boil. Turn down to low heat and let simmer for 10 to 12 hours until the abalone become tender but not rubbery and absorbs the essence and flavour of the stock.
• To check for doneness, use a chopstick to poke through to get a feel. As the sea cucumber cooks faster than the abalone, check the texture of the sea cucumber often.
• As soon as the sea cucumber becomes soft and jiggly, remove from the pot and set aside. Add them back and reheat right before serving. Do not overcook the sea cucumber as they will dissolve into gel-like texture.
• To serve, quickly blanch the broccoli florets with boiling water. Drain and set aside. Use some of the soup base and thicken with a little bit of corn starch mixed with water.
• Arrange the abalone, sea cucumber, broccoli florets on a serving plate, drizzle the thickened sauce on top of the dish and serve immediately.
This article first appeared in Rasa Malaysia.
Low Bee Yinn is a food blogger and cookbook author.