1½tablespoonscornstarch(mixed with 1½ tablespoons warm water, optional)
For the taro basket, spread the julienned taro in a criss-cross pattern over a large steel mesh strainer, letting some of the taro hang over the edges. The taro will be slightly wet and starchy after it is julienned, which is exactly what you want for maximum adhesion. Take another steel mesh strainer of the same size and place it over the top so the taro strands are sandwiched between the two strainers.
In a wok or pot, heat 6 cups of oil to 325 degrees F (use a thermometer to check the temperature), and place the “nest,” still sandwiched between the two strainers, in the oil. Fry until golden brown, tilting the basket in different angles so the entire taro basket is fried evenly. Using a wok for frying is ideal, as you will have more room without having to use excessive amounts of oil, but a deep pot large enough for the basket will work also. Be sure to place the taro basket in the pot slowly and use the utmost caution! Using a deeper pot or wok also makes frying safer since the taro basket, when first placed into the oil, will cause the oil to expand and overflow if your pot is too small and if your oil is too close to the top of the pot.
For the seafood, make sure your shrimp and scallops are cleaned.
Prepare the squid by separating the tentacles and body and removing the hard skeleton parts. Use the tentacles as is, and set them aside to drain. Cut the mantle so you have flat pieces, and remove the inside skeleton. Cut the flat pieces into 2 by 3 inch rectangles, and score them diagonally in a criss-cross pattern, making sure not to cut the squid all the way through.
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in your wok, and blanch the shrimp and scallops by slowly stirring them in the water until just opaque (about 20 seconds), and transfer to a plate. The shrimp and scallops should be just 70% cooked, since they will be cooked again in the stir-fry step of the dish.
Add the squid to the hot water, and blanch until they are curled, or about 10 seconds, and transfer these to a plate. Asian grocery stores sometimes stock prepared squid that is cut and blanched into curls in the freezer section; if you have access, it’s a handy shortcut!
Heat your wok over medium-high heat, and coat the perimeter of the wok with two tablespoons of oil. Heat until the oil slides easily around the wok and starts to shimmer.
Add the ginger slices to the wok, and let fry for about 10 seconds. Add the scallion and garlic, and stir-fry for another 10 seconds.
Next, add the carrots, bamboo shoots, and peppers, and turn the heat up to high. Give everything a good stir-fry for 30 seconds, and then add the straw mushrooms, snap peas, and onion.
Next, stir in the seafood, and add the Shaoxing wine. Stir-fry everything for another minute and add the hot chicken stock. It’s important to add hot or even boiling chicken stock to keep the wok up to temperature, especially since most average stoves can have trouble generating enough heat for a good stir fry in the first place. You can also add more or less chicken stock depending on how much sauce you want in the dish.
While the mixture is coming up to a boil, add the salt, sugar, white pepper, and sesame oil, and stir everything until well combined. Taste the sauce with a spoon, and add more seasonings to your preference, but be quick about it, or your seafood may overcook!
Mix together the cornstarch and water so that it’s uniformly combined, and add to the wok slowly while stirring. Again, you can add more, less, or leave it out entirely depending upon your taste preferences, but it’s best to get to a consistency so that the sauce coats all of the ingredients.
Carefully spoon the mixture into your taro basket, and serve immediately!