As a child I listened to innumerable stories about how delightfully different, and better, fresh seafood was in Hong Kong. I heard of restaurant holding tanks wherein live fish and shellfish were kept until the final moment of cooking them, to ensure complete freshness.
Cooking techniques and remembrances of past seafood dishes would be topics of discussion as we ate. The Chinese way of cooking seafood was a difficult act to follow in America, but we did our best.
My uncle would buy live crabs, lobsters, clams or mussels – because these were the only live seafoods available. He would stir-fry them in a hot wok and season the dish with a mild curry sauce – curry being an unusual but not unknown southern Chinese flavouring.
Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Chuck in the mussels and stir-fry for 1 minute. Now sprinkle in the curry powder and pour the rice wine and soy sauce over the mussels. Sprinkle on the sugar and ladle in the stock. Cover and continue to cook for 5 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened. Discard any that remain closed.
Give everything a final stir, scatter the spring onions and coriander on top, and serve at once with rice.
© 1998 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.