Asian recipes

Grandma’s recipes with a twist: fried stuffed clams and chillies, and stuffed bitter melon

Family recipes can be refined over generations. Susan Jung puts her own twist on three dishes handed down from her grandmother

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 January, 2018, 3:52pm

My grandmother was an excellent cook with an extensive repertoire of both luxurious and simple Chinese dishes. She often made stuffed dishes - but not with the Western-style breadcrumb-based stuffing used for poultry; hers were meat- or seafood-based mixtures stuffed into vegetables or seafood. These recipes are based on her dishes.

Fried stuffed clams (pictured)

20 fresh clams, about 4cm long

150 grams slightly fatty minced pork

50 grams fresh shrimp meat

3 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and rinsed

1 spring onion

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine

1 tsp sesame oil

1/4 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

A pinch of fine sea salt and ground white pepper

Fine breadcrumbs, for coating

Cooking oil, for frying

Rinse the clams thoroughly then put them in a pan with 60ml of cold water. Cover the pan with a lid and place over a medium-high flame. Bring the water to the boil then simmer until all the clams have opened, shaking the pan occasionally. Cool the clams then remove the meat from the shells. Break the shells in half at the hinge and reserve about 25 pieces. Pat them dry with paper towels.

Chop the clam and shrimp meat. Mince the water chestnuts and spring onion. Combine the clam and shrimp meat with the minced pork, water chestnuts, spring onion, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch and salt and pepper. Pack the mixture into the shell halves, mounding it slightly. Chill for about 30 minutes.

Heat oil to a depth of about 2cm in a pan. Dredge the tops of the clams in breadcrumbs and pat them down slightly so the crumbs adhere. When the oil is 180 degrees Celsius, put the clams top-side down in the pan. Fry the clams until the breadcrumbs are a medium-brown and the meat/clam mixture is cooked through. Drain them top-side down on paper towels and serve.

Stuffed bitter melon

2-3 bitter melons

500 grams minced pork

10ml soy sauce

10ml rice wine

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1/8 tsp ground white pepper

10ml sesame oil

2 tsp cornstarch

2 spring onions, minced

For the sauce and garnish:

About 20ml cooking oil

1 heaped tsp fermented black beans, rinsed briefly then soaked in 60ml warm water

1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced in half

1 slice fresh ginger

About 10ml soy sauce

A pinch of sugar

A pinch of white pepper

Cornstarch, as needed

Minced spring onion and sprigs of fresh coriander

Mix the pork with the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, salt, pepper, sesame oil and cornstarch. Test the seasonings by shaping a little of the mixture into a meatball and pan-frying it until done. Adjust the seasonings if needed. Mix in the cornstarch and spring onion.

Cut the ends off the bitter melon and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and pith. Cut the melon into rounds about 1.5cm thick. Spoon the stuffing into the rounds, mounding it slightly over the top and bottom, then press down so the filling stays inside. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a skillet and pan-fry the stuffed bitter melon slices on both sides until browned. Remove the pieces from the pan then cook the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Drain the black beans, reserving the liquid. Put the beans in the pan and mash them roughly. Mix in the reserved liquid and 60ml of additional water. Season to taste with soy sauce, sugar and white pepper. Put the bitter melon slices back in the pan, cover with the lid then lower the heat and simmer until the stuffing is cooked through. Place the bitter melon pieces on a serving plate. Dissolve about two teaspoons of cornstarch in cold water, then stir it into the liquid in the pan and simmer until it's a light sauce consistency. Pour the sauce over the bitter melon then garnish with the minced spring onion and sprigs of fresh coriander.

Fried stuffed chillies

The street-food version of this dish can be quite greasy and taste of old oil. My grandmother preferred using yellow jalapenos but they are difficult to find in Hong Kong. I use large, mild red or green Thai chillies and buy the fish paste (made of carp) from the wet market fish vendor. You can use this stuffing with other vegetables, such as red or green peppers (cut into large squares, then fried in the same way) or sliced eggplant (which should be pan-fried because the eggplant will soak up too much oil if deep-fried).

250 grams prepared fish paste

2 spring onions, minced

1 small piece chun pei (dried tangerine peel), soaked in warm water until soft

2 thin slices fresh ginger, finely minced

A small handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Salt, if needed

About 20 fresh chillies, or as needed

Cooking oil, for frying

Squeeze dry the tangerine peel then finely mince it. Mix the fish paste with the spring onion, tangerine peel, ginger and coriander. Shape some of the mixture into a small meatball, pan-fry it until cooked then taste for seasonings and add salt, if needed. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Cut a slit down one side of each chilli and use a small spoon to scrape out the seeds and veins. Stuff the fish paste mixture into the chillies.

Heat oil to the depth of about 2cm in a pan. When the oil reaches 190 degrees, fry the chillies until the filling is cooked through. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Styling: Corner Kitchen Cooking School