Foochow Cuisine: Zao Cai Fen Gan (糟菜粉干)

As I’ve blogged about Bak Chor Mee which represents half of my heritage (Teochew), it’s only apt that I balance it up with the other half today: Something Foochow. Which is really a subcategory of the entire Fujian (Hokkien) cuisine. There really isn’t much information available on the interweb about Foochow food, but I’m sure some of you might be familiar with ‘Red Wine Mee Sua’ (also called Ang Zao or Hong Zao as phonic translation for 红糟), Ang Zao Chicken (红糟鸡), Kampua Mee, or even Chao Zhu Mian (炒煮面). Some of these dishes haven’t even been properly named in English. The dish I’d talk about specifically today is one example.

Zao Cai Fen Gan (糟菜粉干), as you might notice the word Zao (糟) made another appearance. It actually refers to remnants of the Red Glutinous Rice Wine that is often homemade in Foochow household. Zao Cai is basically Mustard greens preserved with those remnants red rice. That’s why it has a unique fragrance of the wine. It’s also fabulously sour, perfect for a piping bowl of soup noodles with Fen Gan, a thick type of Rice vermicelli. There are many ways of cooking this dish but the basic would be just with the preserved vegetable, and pork (or chicken). Nowadays, there are prawn and fish version too but I feel that simplicity is best when it comes to traditional dish like this.

The basic ingredients shouldn’t be too hard to find. Check your local supermarkets/Asian grocery stores.

Basic ingredients: Zao Cai (left) and Fen Gan

For a best tasting bowl of Zao Cai Fen Gan, the secret weapon is actually some good quality homemade rice wine. I had some brought over by my mum, made by my beloved Grandma. But failing that, a good Shao Xing wine would be a good substitute too.

Home Made Red Glutinous Rice Wine, all the way from Sarawak.

Putting together this dish isn’t difficult at all. In fact it takes nothing more than 15 minutes if you have all the ingredients ready.

Authentic bowl of Zao Cai Fen Gan

Ingredients:

Dry Fen Gan enough for 2
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 Pack of Zao Cai (Preserved Mustard Greens)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
600ml Chicken Stock (Homemade or store bought)
1/4 cup Rice Wine
1 tomato, cut into wedges
1 Chicken Breast, cut into bite size pieces and marinated in wine, salt and pepper
Green vegetables of your choice, I used Bok Choy
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 chili padi, chopped

Optional toppings: Fish balls, Fish Cake, Prawns, Fish fillet even.

In a small pot, fry garlic and Zao Cai in a little bit of sesame oil. Add tomato wedges and chicken pieces at this point to stir fry for a further 3o seconds and then pour in the stock and wine.

Meanwhile, soak the Fen Gan in hot water for 4-5 minutes until slightly soften. Drain and set aside.

When the soup has been boiling for more than 10 minutes, season with soy sauce. Add the drained noodles and cook for further 2-3 minutes until noodles are just al dente. Add green vegetables (they only really need a minute of blanching as they continue to cook in the soup when served) and cut chili.  Taste the soup and add salt if needed. And then you are ready to serve!

By the way this is super effective as a hangover cure too. I hope this little write up has given you a little insight into Foochow cuisine. Do you know of any other Foochow dishes? Do share!

The Street Party for Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at Sid’s Pub was a blast! Shall blog about it as soon as I get my hands on some more photos! Here’s one sneak preview:

Flag sisters
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35 thoughts on “Foochow Cuisine: Zao Cai Fen Gan (糟菜粉干)

  1. gosh, i love fuzhou noodles n this is one of my fave. am going to eat this tmrw at the only place tt sells this. when i get my hands on some zao cai, i;m going to refer to this recipe so thanks!

    1. Can’t believe there’s only one place in KK that sells this. Not a lot of foochow people in Sabah then?

      Yeah I’m sure you’ll be able to make a yummy bowl yourself! I saw your 鼎边糊recipe last night and have bookmarked it too!

  2. Ohhh that’s so cute with the flag on your face Kelly 🙂 hehe I’ve actually never heard of this dish before! I would love to try though!

    Are you feeling better after your fall? You’ve gotta take care of yourself maybe try not to wear heels too much 🙂

    1. Thanks! The Cantonese use different type of preserved veges (柞菜I think?) which is yummy too, but still this is my favourite.

      My knee is ok now. I don’t normally wear heels because it’s a little awkward to tower over everyone at events. Hehe

      1. hahha really? i didn’t know you were that tall even though i’ve actually seen you perform once in melbounre hehe that’s good that you’re healing now and it’s great that you don’t need to see a doctor because you are one yourself HAHAHA

      2. Not super tall (just over 170) but tell enough for Asian standard. With heels would be near 180!

        Lol yeah that’s why prompt attention was given to the poor knee!

    1. Wow did she make it or someone else did? I’ve always if it was possible to get the ingredients in Australia. My sister brought them in from Malaysia.

    1. I’ve had the soup while visiting and it is dloeciius. Not sure if I’ll find hong zao but just the ginger, squash, and sweet potato will be enough. Yum! Yum! Sorry to hear everyone is sick.

  3. wow! you made that! i have not resorted to cooking it myself. only rely on my mum in law to cook it when she has the cravings…strangely she has the cravings even though she is not teochew. was introduced to it when she was working in singapore during her younger days.

    1. So far I hadn’t come across this but then again I don’t keep a look out since I cook it at home anyway. Best to get someone to bring over some zao cai from Sarawak! 🙂

  4. Love your blog! I stumbled upon it when searching for kolo mee recipe, and of course had to check out the other recipes as well. 😀 I was originally from Sarawak (mum is Foochow). Spend 10 years of my childhood in Sibu, and I miss all the Foochow foods back home. Got another Foochow food for you – how about kompia? I wrote about it a few years ago in my blog – http://simplepleasuresinourlives.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/kompia-sesame-bagel/ .

    Cheers,
    Chris

    1. Oh yeah, I actually remember seeing this post. Thought of making them but then I think it won’t turn out even close to the one made in the ‘tandoor-style’ oven. Maybe I’ll give it a go one day hahaha. Have you made anymore since that post?

      1. I don’t actually make the kompia itself. 😀 Where I live, the sesame bagel is very similar to kompia, and that is what I use when my craving for kompia hits me. 😀

      2. Oops I had the impression you made it. Must have confused it with another person. The bagels you use seems a little smaller than the ones I usually see in Melbourne. Can’t say I’ve found any food bagels in KL though.

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