I would say that Chinese cuisine is the best loved cuisine in the world. It has spread to every corner of the world and adapted extremely well with the local cuisine. But I have to say that Pakistani Chinese is the best Chinese food ever!
Indo-Chinese restaurants (Inchin) are widespread in America, but I haven’t been able to find an authentic Sino-Pak restaurant. So Sad. I really miss that taste. Inchin is, of course, closer to Indian flavor, which is great if you’re Indian. That isn’t to say that I dislike it altogether. Reviews of two of my favorite Zabiha Chinese restaurants will follow soon, IA, but another outstanding (non zabiha) Chinese restaurant that we frequented was in Rochester, NY.
Close to our apartment, it offered a finer restaurant experience, with a cozy dine-in interior and a tastefully done Asian decor. The serve wear and china also had a classic Asian blue and white pattern and the food was unbelievable. Not only did we go there to eat off and on, but I loved to order in a big order of shrimp lo mein and chow down on it in front of the TV on Saturday nights. Or a Tuesday night. It’s a different life without kids.
Now I’m about a thousand miles south of Rochester, but I still love having shrimp lo mein. One weekend when I was really craving it, I decided to make a bottomless seafood stir fry, bottomless, because compared to restaurants, you can make a huge quantity for a fraction of the price, and seafood because when I was buying shrimp, I couldn’t resist buying scallops and mussels as well. I used thin spaghetti, because I couldn’t go to an Asian store for egg noodles, but feel free to use the noodles of your choice.
I might as well put in a word about the soy sauce that I use. I don’t use ‘authentic’ soy sauce (like Kikkoman) at home anymore… remember why I switched to vanilla beans? (Click to read my Vanilla Beans Post.) Making soy sauce requires fermenting the wheat to make alcohol. A portion of that alcohol remains in the sauce after it is made.
So, now I use ‘fake’ soy sauce, namely, La Choy Soy Sauce! It is not brewed, and contains flavorings and caramel color to make it taste like soy sauce. I know it must not be the same, but I really can’t tell the difference. I’m not saying that all Chinese food is haram! But when I can take little steps here and there, I go ahead and do it. I’m not trying to make a big deal out of it, but I just want to say that a ‘halal’ version is out there if you so wish to use it.
A number of vegetables are used in Chinese food like carrots, broccoli, snow peas, grean peas, chestnut, bean sprouts, onions, bell pepper and so on. I’ve used the ones I like, but go ahead and substitute the vegetables with your favorites!
I don’t use a wok as it’s not easy (for me) to stir fry a pound of noodles with veggies and seafood in a wok. I just use a regular flat bottomed pot.
For the gluten free version, use gluten free noodles of your choice.
Seafood Stir Fry
- 1 lb thin spaghetti, cooked al dente
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 dried red chili
- 8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
- 5 green onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, grated
- 2 cups loosely packed shredded cabbage
- 3/4 lb shrimp
- 1/2 lb scallops
- 10 cooked mussels (recipe below)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- 1 tbsp fresh minced garlic
- 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
- Clean, peel and devein the shrimp. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Put into a slightly heated pan on medium low heat, add a handful of water, and cover. Cook for about 3 minutes until the shrimp is puffy and no longer transparent. Remove immediately from the heat. [When it is just done, the shrimp will puff up to its maximum size. As you keep on cooking, the shrimp will get tougher and tougher and start to shrink.] Remove from the pan and keep aside.
- Wash the scallops, and follow the method of cooking for the shrimp, with a small splash of water as they are fewer in quantity. Be very careful not to over cook, or they will become tough and chewy. Keep aside.
- Heat the oil in a large pot and add garlic, ginger, red chili, salt and pepper and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add the soy sauce and vinegar and fry for another 2 minutes. Add all the vegetables except green onions and stir fry on medium to medium high heat until all the liquid evaporates.
- Add the spaghetti and fry well until it is well tossed with the vegetable mixture. Add about a quarter of a cup of the mussel liquid (recipe below) and green onions and cover and cook on medium low heat until done to your liking. Toss with the mussels, shrimp and scallops. If you’re not using mussels, then you can reserve about a quarter of a cup of the starchy liquid that the pasta was boiled in, or just use plain tap water.
- Serve hot.
How to store, clean and cook mussels
Mussels are kind of tricky. Why are the not so easy to cook? Because you purchase them alive! And you have to keep them alive until you cook them! A dead mussel in your food can make you very, very sick. So, the tricky part is to make sure that you don’t kill them while you’re storing or cleaning them. Here’s what I’ve learnt, and I’m sharing the most conservative method which involves the least amount of risk, because that’s what I do.
- Buy them on the day that you will cook them.
- Store them in a bowl covered with a damp cloth/paper towel in the fridge.
Mussels are bottom dwellers, so they contain quite a bit of sand. Wild caught mussels have more sand than farmed mussels. Mussels farmed on ropes shouldn’t have any sand in them.
- Now I’ve read so much about how to clean them. First, examine each mussel. If the shell is cracked or broken, discard it. The shell should be tightly shut. If it is open, gently tap it on the counter, this should cause the mussel to close the shell in a couple of minutes. If it remains open, then it’s dead, discard it.
- You can also give them a sniff to see if they smell rotten.
- Scrub the mussels with a stiff brush and run them under cold water to clean the shells.
- You’ll see a little hairy mass called the beard near the shell opening. Yank it or cut it to remove it.
Now, the biggest problem- how to remove the sand. I’ve read about many (conflicting) methods. One is to soak them in cold water until all the sand comes out, but some people say that tap water will kill them so don’t soak them! Others say soak them in salt water and yet others say to add corn meal to the water which they will feed on and expel the sand inside the shell in the process. This is all too complicated for me, so I just clean them under running water. Then I proceed to cook them.
- For this recipe, bring 1/2 a cup of water to a boil in a pot big enough to hold the mussels, preferably with a glass lid. Add the mussels and cover and cook on medium to medium low heat just until the shells pop open. Again, like all seafood, over cooking will ruin them. The mussels will release their own liquid into the broth, which is very flavorful and quite salty. For this reason, salt is not added to mussels while cooking them.
- Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
- Strain the liquid through a coffee filter to remove all the sand!
- Now you can use the liquid as directed above.
- If you’re just making mussels, then make a sauce with the liquid (usually heavy cream and herbs or tomatoes are added) and pour over the mussels. Serve with an Italian bread. Usually, 1 pound of mussels per person is a good estimate.
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