Elephant ear stems must be up there as one of the most exotic-sounding and evocative vegetable names in English.
The Fairfield City Council guide to South-East Asian Greens explains that Elephant Ear Stem (Khoai So)
"...gets its name from its wide elephant-like ear leaf (not shown). The stem and stalk are used for cooking and yield mild grassy flavoured spongy flesh. Khoai So is a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus and zinc.
Use stems to add texture and absorb the flavours of soups and stir-fries."
Elephant ear stem is most often encountered in the Vietnamese classic dish Canh Chua. This clear soup is sour with tamarind, sweet with pineapple, and a little bit sticky from the slices of okra. Thick chunks of fatty and rich silver perch provide sustenance, and there's plenty of textural interest in the jumble of tomato wedges, squeaky bean sprouts and wilted herbs like saw tooth coriander and rice paddy herb on top.
The flavours are absorbed by the quiet star of the show, the spongy elephant ear stem that squelches sour and sweet and salty soup with every bite.
This dish was a surprise hit during our cooking session at the conclusion of Luke Nguyen's Cabramatta Tour. The tangy soup is soul-reviving and tastes so clean you just know it's good for you.
Canh Chua Ca Chem
Tamarind broth with silver perch and elephant ear stems
from Luke Nguyen's Cabramatta Tour
1 silver perch (400g-500g) cut into 1.5cm thick cutlets
1 1/2 litres water
50g tamarind pulp
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
100g sliced pineapple
50g elephant air stems, peeled and sliced
50g okra, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced into wedges
50g bean sprouts
1 bunch rice paddy herb, sliced
1 bunch saw tooth coriander, sliced
1/2 teaspoon fried red Asian shallots
1/2 teaspoon fried garlic chips
1 chilli sliced
Soak a clay pot in cold water overnight. This will prevent it cracking when heated. A normal pot is fine otherwise.
Dissolve the tamarind pulp in 250ml warm water. Work the pulp until dissolved and then strain the liquid through a fine sieve, discarding the pulp.
Combine the tamarind liquid with 1.5 litres of cold waster, fish sauce, pineapple and sugar in a large clay pot and bring to the boil. Add the fish pieces to the pot and return to the boil, skimming any impurities.
Add the tomato, elephant ear stem, okra and bean sprouts to the pot and return the boil again.
Garnish with the rice paddy herb, saw tooth coriander, fried red Asian shallots, fried garlic and chilli.
Serve with jasmine rice or vermicelli noodles.
Related GrabYourFork posts:
SIFF 2009 - Luke Nguyen's Cabramatta Food Tour
SIFF 2009 - Luke Nguyen's caramelised pork belly recipe
SIFF 2009 - Cheese making workshop - mozzarella and camembert
SIFF 2009 - Nose-to-tail barbecue with Fergus Henderson
SIFF 2009 - Sugar Hit at Azuma Kushiyaki
SIFF 2009 - World Chef Showcase
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10/22/2009 01:31:00 am