Shredded Sichuan dish packs a punch


MOST of us think of potatoes as a staple food that goes with meat or vegetable dishes. But in China, it is served as a dish to go with rice.

This recipe is from Sichuan province and is commonly served as an appetiser before the meal.

Cook briefly so that the potatoes remain crunchy and serve hot as a dish or cold as an appetiser. — Photos by LOW LAY PHON/The StarCook briefly so that the potatoes remain crunchy and serve hot as a dish or cold as an appetiser. — Photos by LOW LAY PHON/The Star

The first time we had it, I couldn’t figure out that it was made with potatoes. It had a familiar taste and yet its texture was fresh and crunchy.

It didn’t help that its name was tu dou si, which translates literally to “earth bean shreds”.

To make this dish, choose waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold or the pink-skinned potatoes.To make this dish, choose waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold or the pink-skinned potatoes.

It took a few more bites before my wife exclaimed that it was potato, and it suddenly became clear what we were eating.

It had never occurred to us that we could cook potatoes this way.

Remove stem and seeds from the chillies, then julienne into long thin strips.Remove stem and seeds from the chillies, then julienne into long thin strips.

For this recipe, waxy potatoes such as Yukon gold or the pink-skinned potatoes are recommended because they don’t get fluffy as the Russets do.

Also, for a crunchy texture, cook briefly so that the potatoes do not start to disintegrate.

Wash the shredded potatoes to get rid of the starch, soak in clean water then drain and pat dry five minutes before cooking.Wash the shredded potatoes to get rid of the starch, soak in clean water then drain and pat dry five minutes before cooking.

If you have a mandolin that shreds in a square profile rather than a rounded one, use that.

Otherwise, I prefer to slice with a mandolin and then shred it with a knife making julienne cuts. If you don’t have a mandolin, then you’d just have to slice and julienne into matchsticks by hand.

Temper the oil with Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant, discard peppercorns and use the oil to saute dried chillies, ginger and garlic.Temper the oil with Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant, discard peppercorns and use the oil to saute dried chillies, ginger and garlic.

The most important flavouring is the Sichuan peppercorns, which can be a bit strong for those who are not used to them.

I recommend that you discard them after tempering the oil or it will make the dish too pungent for some.

Add the shredded potatoes and julienned chillies into the fragrant oil and toss briefly until slightly wilted.Add the shredded potatoes and julienned chillies into the fragrant oil and toss briefly until slightly wilted.

The dried chillies can also be reduced by half if you are concerned about the level of spiciness.

Removing the seeds helps in reducing the heat too.

Add the seasoning and toss to coat the potatoes in the sauce, taking care not to overcook.Add the seasoning and toss to coat the potatoes in the sauce, taking care not to overcook.

You may omit the chicken stock concentrate if you need to keep this dish vegetarian, but I find that it gives the dish an umami punch that lifts the dish.

Although coriander leaves are usually considered garnish, in this dish, it elevates the flavour to a different level so I would not consider it as an optional addition.

You may substitute the leaves with spring onions, or use both as desired. You’ll find this dish irresistibly addictive.

Sichuan shredded potatoes

Ingredients

750g potatoes

2 red chillies, seeded and julienned

2 green chillies, seeded and julienned

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns

6 dried chillies, cut into short lengths and seeded

1 tbsp sesame seeds

15g garlic, minced

15g ginger, minced

1 sprig coriander for garnish

Seasoning

2 tablespoons chicken stock concentrate

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

Method

Peel the potatoes and slice them in a mandolin. Stack the slices and cut with a knife into thin shreds like matchsticks. Wash off the starch with water, then soak them in a bowl of cold water for about five minutes. Drain and pat dry using a kitchen towel just before cooking.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add Sichuan peppercorns and fry until fragrant, then remove the peppercorns and discard. In the fragrant oil, fry the dried chillies until crispy, then add the sesame seeds to lightly toast in the oil. Add the minced ginger and garlic, and stir-fry for about one minute until fragrant.

Add the shredded potatoes and juliennCIed chillies to the wok and stir-fry for about three to four minutes.

In a bowl, mix together the seasonings, then pour over the potatoes and stir-fry for two to three minutes until the dish is coated with the sauce. Remove from heat and transfer the shredded potatoes to a serving plate.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves for added freshness and flavour. Serve the Sichuan shredded potatoes as a side dish or as part of a larger meal.

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