Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Di San Xian 地三鮮 (Three Treasures) Recipe, Roasted Version
Going out with vegetarians was a little difficult in Beijing, because they kept wanting to have the meat taken out of all the dishes. (I like those little crumbled bits of pork in my dry-fried string beans!) The one bright spot when dining with vegetarians was that someone always ordered di san xian 地三鮮, or “three treasures.”
The three treasures are eggplant, potato, and green pepper. They’re each stir-fried separately, then cooked together in a semi-sweet, savory sauce with a bit of darkly smoky awesomeness from the caramelized edges of the vegetables. It's one of my favorites, but it tends to soak up a lot of oil in the prep stages, so I've always worried that it was a secret calorie bomb despite being just made of vegetables. (I normally don't like to fret about calories, but China did a serious number on me, so now I play it a little more cautiously with Chinese food. (Which I honestly think may be the best food in the world.))
But then last week I was working on an article on how to roast eggplant for The Kitchn when I found myself thinking, “I have an oven now … could I roast the vegetables first instead of stir-frying them individually?” It turns out I could! I wound up using a lot less oil than normal, and it tastes just the same. (If you want a more authentic version, the instructions for that are in here, too.)
Di San Xian (Three Treasures), Roasted Version
Recipe adapted from Chunyi Zhou
Two or three medium potatoes
1 eggplant (or two small, Japanese-style eggplants)
2 green peppers (you will note mine are red. Do not adjust your monitors; the market was out of green peppers)
Kosher or sea salt
2 spring onions, white part only, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
Oil for cooking
2 teaspoons rice wine
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup water
Preheat oven to 400.
First, slice the potato into thin slices, slightly less than a quarter of an inch thick. (Half a centimeter is ideal, which I take as evidence of the inherent superiority of the metric system.)
Seed the peppers and cut them into 1-inch by 2-inch pieces.
Next, cut the eggplant into pieces about a centimeter thick.
I am using a medium-sized eggplant-shaped eggplant, so I cut it into slices, then into pieces about 1-inch by 1-inch.
Were I using a long, skinny, Japanese eggplant, I’d cut it into pieces as though I were sharpening a pencil. It’s a method I learned in Beijing, but I can’t demonstrate it here because I haven’t been able to find that kind of eggplant. If I find one, I’ll post about that later.
Next put the pieces of eggplant in a bowl and toss lightly in a little bit of oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Do the same with the peppers and potato slices.
Spread each of the vegetables out on a baking sheet, and bake them at 400. The cooking times will vary, but you want the potatoes golden brown and delicious-looking, the eggplant soft, and the peppers' skin to be slightly wrinkled. Toss the vegetables halfway through so they get roasted evenly.
Note: For a more authentic version of this dish, pan-fry the potatoes in oil in a wok until golden, then remove them from the wok and set aside. Then do the same to the eggplant, stir-frying them until they are soft, then set them aside. Then stir-fry the green peppers for just one or two minutes, until the skin starts to brown a bit, then take them out. Then continue as written ...
Next, heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok and stir-fry the garlic and spring onion until a delicious-smelling puff of garlic and onion scent is released (it should not be browned).
Add all the vegetables to the wok.
Mix the vegetables together with the garlic and spring onion.
Gather the vegetables in the center of the pan, then pour the rice wine around the outside. Add the light soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and salt and mix to combine. Gather the vegetables back into the center of the pan, and pour the half cup of water around the outside.
Cover the wok and cook for about five minutes. Then uncover the wok and mix the vegetables together.
Now it’s ready to serve. Scoop onto a plate and serve family-style.