Why do the Chinese go crazy over abalone during the Lunar New Year? The Chinese name for Abalone is ‘Bao Yu’. ‘Bao’ means Guaranteed and ‘Yu’ means Excess. Put them together and you get Guaranteed Excess to the brim of overflowing. That’s why despite its hefty price tag, abalone is one Chinese New Year auspicious food that you ‘die-die must eat’. So better to just ‘bite’ the bullet and grab a can today. But just be careful not to buy the fake abalone, because these days almost anything can be faked! Buy only from reputable shops, and get the ones that are harvested in Australia, New Zealand and Mexico and packed immediately in their respective countries, not those which are shipped and packed elsewhere. Chinese Spinach (Phuay Leng) with Sliced Abalone is one of my picks for the 7 Reunion Dinner Dishes That Will Wow Your In-Laws This CNY!
Note: For Special Diets, please read the notes at the bottom for suggested modifications.
INGREDIENTS FOR CHINESE SPINACH WITH SLICED ABALONE RECIPE (serve 6-7)
- Chinese Spinach (Phuay Leng), 1 kg
- Abalone, 1 can
- Oil, 4 TBsp
- Oyster sauce, 1 TBsp
- Sesame Oil, 1 tsp
- Salt, 1 tsp
- Cornflour, 1 1/2 tsp
- Water, 2 TBsp
- Garlic, 6 cloves
- Wolfberries, 2 TBsp
PREPARATION FOR CHINESE SPINACH WITH ABALONE RECIPE (20 mins)
- Cut off the root of the spinach.
- In a large basin of water, add 2 tsp of salt in the water to wash the spinach.
- Rinse it with clean water 2-3 times to get rid of the sand and mud.
- Cut it into 2 ” lengthwise, separating the stalk and the leaves.
- Peel the garlic, wash and slice it thinly, then set aside.
- Slice the abalone into thin slices and keep the brine for later use.
- Lightly rinse the wolf berries and drain dry.
COOKING METHOD FOR CHINESE SPINACH WITH ABALONE RECIPE (20 mins)
- Fill the wok with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, add in 1 tsp of salt and 2 Tbsp of oil.
- Put in the spinach stalk to blanch for 2 mins, then add in all the leaves and continue to blanch for another 8 mins or until it is limp. Turn off the heat and pour the vegetable into a metal colander to drain dry.
- Add 2 Tbsp of oil in the wok over high heat. Fry the garlic slices until golden and crisp. Remove the garlic slices for later use, leaving the oil in the wok.
- Put the spinach back into the wok with the garlic oil and toss it for 2-3 mins mixing well with the oil. Transfer it to a platter.
- Pour the brine (from the abalone) into the wok and bring to a boil. Add in 1 Tbsp of oyster sauce and mix well.
- Mix the 1 1/2 tsp cornflour with 2 Tbsp of water and add to the brine. Lower the heat and continue to simmer until the gravy thickens.
- Add in the sliced abalone and cook for 1-2 mins, then add in the wolf berries.
- Pour the gravy over the spinach and drizzle some sesame oil over it.
- Top the spinach with the crispy garlic and serve hot.
TOP TIPS FOR CHINESE SPINACH WITH ABALONE RECIPE
- Do not over-blanch the spinach otherwise it will turn blackish in color.
- Buy the Chinese Spinach (Phuay Leng) from Cameron Highlands. The nice and very green-looking spinach that are nicely packed are sold in the supermarkets are usually from China and they are usually taste bitter.
- There are many different types of Spinach, make sure you are getting the right one – Phuay Leng. It is easily distinguishable from other varieties of spinach such as Round Spinach, Sharp Spinach and Baby Spinach, because Phuay Leng is the only one with only one leaf per stalk.
- Do not add salt directly to the spinach otherwise it will have a stinging effect on your tongue.
- The brine is high in sodium, so be careful not to add too much oyster sauce. The level of saltiness varies in different cans of abalone.
- Do not cook the abalone, just warm it up in the gravy. Otherwise it will become rubbery and it is such a waste as abalone is an expensive ingredient.
- Australia abalone is softer whereas the New Zealand ones are firmer and more chewy in texture. Choose whichever one you like. It is better to buy a can containing one large abalone than the one with a one whole and 1/2 piece. The can with one whole abalone is of a better quality. It is the quality that counts and not the quantity.
- If the gravy is too diluted, add more cornflour mixture. If it is too thick, add a little more water. You must remember that the spinach will also let out some water, so even if the gravy is a little thicker, it is still ok.
- Do not slice the abalone too thinly otherwise there won’t be substance when you bite into it.
Suggested Modifications for Special Diets
- Baby/Toddler-Friendly: Older toddlers without seafood allergies can eat the spinach, and even the abalone (chopped up into smaller pieces so it doesn’t pose a choking hazard).
- Child-Friendly: No modifications needed.
- Egg-Free: No modifications needed.
- Fish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Gluten-Free: Use gluten free oyster sauce.
- Nut-Free: No modifications needed.
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