*An aside from Sarah, before we begin:
This is a dish much beloved by many, our family included (although…I have to say that I’m not a big fan of the dried shrimp in there. It’s a really Chinese-y thing that I never really took to as a kid. You officially have my permission to leave it out when you make it. I lobbied for a recipe sans shrimp, but I was overruled by the elders of the clan. I believe my mother’s words were, “It’s dumb without the shrimp.” Right-o, then. We keep the shrimp).
But the red-hot ‘shrimp vs. no shrimp’ debate aside, the recipe does present another unique challenge. It’s called “Eight Treasures” for a reason, man. First of all, 8 is a really lucky number. Just ask any wizened old Chinese dude. He’ll tell ya. A dish with 8 main ingredients. It’s luck in a bowl.
Well, that’s where the problem comes in. I went to categorize the post, and had a minor crisis trying to choose any category that might describe it. Tofu…pork…uh…carrots are a vegetable…and, uh…there’s shrimp too, so…seafood? No category or even combination of categories seems to be up to the job of fully describing what this dish is. I even considered giving it its own category: the “there-are-too-many-ingredients-in-this-dish-to-give-it-a-category” category.
But then I realized that nomenclature and nit-picky matters of classification aside, it’s just food. As my sister likes to say: “It’s ALL going to the same place.” So yeah. I’ll just give it a ton of categories and be done with it. Sorry. I’m currently sitting in an airport (ooohhhh mysterious!), and I have nothing better to during this 3-hour layover.
Anyway, here’s what ya’ll have been waiting for! My mom’s post:
This Spicy Eight Treasures Stir-fry is another everyday home cooking dish from the old days in Shanghai. I have to credit this recipe to my uncle; his version is the best I’ve ever tasted. My aunt and uncle both love spicy food, and they MUST have something spicy with every meal. They used to stir-fry whole long hot peppers (seeds and all) as a side dish. Doesn’t that just make your mouth water? No? Well, it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.
I think the secret of my uncle’s version of this dish is a combination of 3 things: dried shrimp, loads of garlic and the substitution of spicy bean paste for the sweet bean paste that’s traditionally used (we’re using everyone’s favorite: Lao Gan Ma Black Bean Chili Sauce).
That’s what’s so great about Chinese cooking. You can make the dish to your own liking with the ingredients that suit you and your family. With each adjustment, you get another unique flavor.
If you don’t like your food too spicy, cut back on the hot bean paste and replace it with sweet bean paste. You can also get creative and replace some of the ingredients that I used here. You could use lotus root, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, bamboo shoots…anything with a relatively firm texture that can stand up to all the other ingredients. As long as there are 8 things, you’re good. If you want to add the shrimp, you can find them in the Asian grocery store in the dry goods aisle.
Here’s what you need:
- 1 cup spiced bean curd (tofu), cut in ½-inch cubes
- 1 cup diced carrot, cut in ½-inch cubes
- 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
- 1 cup lean pork, diced into ½-inch cubes
- 2 whole heads of garlic, peeled and diced
- ½ cup small dried shrimp, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup raw shelled peanuts, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup diced green pepper (long hot pepper can be used for extra heat, or you can use bell peppers if you prefer it mild)
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 tablespoons shaoxing wine
- 2 tablespoons hot bean paste
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Black Bean Hot Sauce (老干妈 – Lao Gan Ma brand)
Stir fry the spiced bean curd with a teaspoon of oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Then take it out of the wok and set aside. We’re going to be doing a lot of stir-frying/setting aside here. So just keep at it. It goes by quickly.
Stir fry the carrot with a teaspoon of oil using medium heat for about two minutes…until softens slightly. Set aside.
Repeat the process another two times with the edamame and the cubed pork and set both aside.
Then add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and stir-fry the garlic over medium heat for about a minute.
Add the shrimp and stir to combine.
Add the peanuts and stir for another 3-5 minutes, until they start to smell fragrant. Then add the green pepper and mix well. Now add all the pre-cooked ingredients: the bean curd, carrot, edamame and pork. Continue to stir and cook so that everything comes together. Add cooking wine, spicy bean paste, sugar, sesame oil, and the black bean chili sauce. Stir everything together and keep stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated and all the ingredients are well-coated in sauce.
Time to plate and serve. We also like to eat this dish cold!