I think I've found my go-to stir fry sauce, which combines the sweet-salty-spicy triumvirate of tastes. I've used prawns and broccoli in this recipe, but the sauce is versatile enough for any combination of meat and vegetables or tofu.
As in western cooking, use a good quality of Chinese wine. I initially asked my grocer for the cheapest rice wine, and he looked at me with a frown. He gave me a bottle of wine called Hua Tiao Chiew, a 5 year vintage shao hsing from China. Splash it on steamed fish, he says, and you'll taste the difference. His grandmother kept herself able-bodied by drinking a shot of warm hua tiao chiew with sour plum. My grandfather preferred his daily bottle of beer (or two), happily singing Cielito Lindo every afternoon as we came home from school.
There isn't enough wine in the recipe to make you swoon, but the flavors certainly will.
Prawns and Broccoli in Black Bean Garlic Sauce
adapted from Chinese Cooking by Willie Mark
1 kilo fresh medium prawns, shelled and deveined
2 egg whites, whisked lightly
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons Chinese wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 onion, largely diced
4 spring onions, diced
2-3 fresh green long chilies, minced
2 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets and blanched
2 tablespoons black bean paste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup chicken stock
Marinate the prawns in a bowl of egg whites, cornstarch, wine, salt and pepper, making sure all the prawns are coated evenly. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
Pour about 1/2 cup of peanut or canola oil in a wok on high heat. Flash fry the prawns and remove from wok immediately when they just turn pink. Set aside.
Remove the excess oil from the wok and leave about 2 tablespoons to saute the onions, chilies, ginger and garlic on medium heat. When fragrant, pour in the bean paste, soy sauce and sugar. Mix well, increase the heat and add the prawns and the broccoli, stirring continuously. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Thicken the sauce with a cornstarch slurry. Sprinkle a few drops of sesame oil and serve.