Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spicy & Crunchy Vegetable with Agar-agar (Chinese side dish)


those white strands under the dishes are agar-agar strands which are completely vegetarian. The texture is slightly crunchy and chewy, and they are great in holding the sauce.

One time my Spanish teacher randomly turned to a page and asked me to read, just to practise my pronouncation. So there it went (in spanish...)

"On Sunday Tom usually wakes up very late. After breakfast, he watchs TV. By noon he starts cooking, and finishes it later afternoon..."

'A whole afternoon? What does he cook???' I questioned.

My teacher explained, since many local people bring their lunch to work, they normally prepare the whole-week lunch on Sunday. That's why taking them so long.

Besides of learning something new, I'm inspired and planning to do the same/ similar thing but for Chinese dishes. It is very challenging as many of our dishes won't taste good if cooking ahead. But still, let me try... here's the first one, more to come :)


The flavor of this dressing is very aromatic, spicy and tangy, it could be too powerful if used in salad. But for a side dish it is absolutely beautiful, sort of like, you could only bring one main dish for lunch (as two would be too much), but still you always look for something to pick or just to perk up the tastebuds; then here is the choice. If you a big fan of spicy food, please increase the amount of chili oil.

Ingredients (serving 3 - 4 persons, small portion only)

  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 small carrot
  • just a few agar agar strands

for the dressing:

  • 1/2 tsp chili oil *
  • 1 stalk of cilantro, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsps sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsps Chinese rice vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp white wine
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds, light toasted over a small pan
  • a small dash of veg oil if prefer more sheen in the dish


  • soak the agar agar strands in tap water for 30 minutes, soft
  • in a mixing bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients, taste and adjust.
  • juilenne (fine) the celery and carrot
  • cut the agar agar strands, with the same length as the veg
  • combine the agar strands, veg and the salad dressing. Taste and adjust again. Keep it in a seal container and store in the fridge overnight, the taste would be better.

* In the section of chili sauce at Chinese supermarkets, there are always some in glass jar, sort of half chili flakes and half red chili oil. Use those.



Quinn said...

You're back from the States vacation! Hugz!!!!! I hope you have had great fun. Didn't know you can take agar-ahar strands just like that. Cool!

Homemade Heaven said...

I have never seen agar-agar strands, only ever in powered form. Looks interesting, I am very keen to step up my vegetable intake after the gluttony over Christmas.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What an interesting recipe!



MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Oooooo I think 1/2 teaspoon on chili oil would be perfect for me and I would love this.