The changing seasons determined the menu in the Szechwanese countryside. Spring was the time for delicate green vegetables; the tender young bamboo shoots that sprouted in the small grove next to the family’s kitchen were spring foods, just as fresh fruits and melons were summer ones. Winter was the time for steamed dishes and big bowls of soup noodles, over which the children warmed their hands.
Crabs were also a seasonal delicacy. The food literature of China is full of mouth-watering descriptions of the crab-eating orgies that took place during September and October in the Yangtze delta. Though less renowned, the fresh-water crabs of Szechwan were just as delicious. Mrs.
Clean the scallions, then chop them, both the white part and about one-third of the green, into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head.
Peel the ginger, then chop it quite fine, until it reaches the consistency of coarse cornmeal; you should have about 1 tablespoon of chopped ginger.
If the crabs are whole, chop them into 2- inch pieces. Put the crabmeat on a plate and add the scallions, wine, salt, and 2 teaspoons of the ginger. Mix thoroughly and let stand for 15 minutes.
Beat the eggs and set them aside.
(crabmeat and marinade) (remaining ginger) After you have added the wine and salt, stir-fry the crabmeat for about 45 seconds more, then pour in the beaten eggs. Keep on stirring up the crab and eggs until the eggs are thoroughly cooked; this should not take more than 1 minute. As soon as the eggs are cooked, remove the pan from the fire and serve.
Heat the pan over a moderately high flame for 15 seconds, then add the oil. It will be hot enough to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.
When the oil is ready, quickly add the crabmeat and its marinade, the rest of the chopped ginger, and the sugar. Stir-fry all these ingredients together very vigorously for about 1 minute, using your cooking shovel or spoon to scoop the ingredients from the sides of the pan and then stir them around in the middle, so everything is exposed to the hot oil.
Continuing to stir-fry, pour in the wine. Taste the crabmeat for salt before you add it (Since this is a slightly bland dish, it will probably need plenty of salt to bring out the subtle flavors of the ginger and crabmeat.)
(crabmeat and marinade)
After you have added the wine and salt, stir-fry the crabmeat for about 45 seconds more, then pour in the beaten eggs. Keep on stirring up the crab and eggs until the eggs are thoroughly cooked; this should not take more than 1 minute.
As soon as the eggs are cooked, remove the pan from the fire and serve.
© 1976 Ellen Schrecker. All rights reserved.