Oriental vegetables and pale, plump oysters are simmered in a broth thickened with dark pungent bean paste. Thin, threadlike slivers of fresh ginger are scattered across the pot in the last few minutes of cooking to add a final aromatic touch. Prepare this dish at the table—an attractive ceramic dish with a lid is particularly good—and serve it with hot white rice and a tart green salad or rice-bran pickles.
Rinse and pat dry the oysters. Drain the bean curd and cut it in half lengthwise, then across 3 or 4 times to yield 8–10 bite-size blocks. Blanch the gelatin-like noodles in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and let them cool to room temperature naturally. Cut across the clump of noodles once or twice for easier eating later. Rinse the leeks and trim them, leaving some of the green on if tender; then cut on the diagonal into
Just before cooking, peel the knob of ginger and slice it very thin. Then stack these slices and cut them into threadlike slivers. Place these in a small pile on your platter of ingredients.
At the table, put half the oysters, blocks of bean curd and leeks in the pot around the mound of bean paste. Pour half of the kelp broth over all and bring it to a boil over moderate heat. Skim off the froth, lower the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 2—3 minutes. Add half the chrysanthemum leaves and scatter half the ginger threads over the top and let simmer for another minute. Each person picks from the pot what he wants, scooping up a bit of bean paste from the center for a more pungent effect.
Replenish the cooking pot with the remaining oysters, leeks, bean curd and all the gelatinous noodles, then pour in more kelp broth. Simmer, skimming occasionally, for 4–5 minutes. Add the rest of the chrysanthemum leaves and ginger for the last minute or two of cooking. Each person helps himself to oysters and vegetables. Strain the bean paste-thickened broth to make a tasty soup to end the meal (or save it for the next day, if you prefer).
© 1986 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.