Ironically, this familiar Chinese restaurant dish never graced the family table at my home, or that of my Chinese-American friends. Mangetouts were expensive and water chestnuts were used mainly in fillings, rather than by themselves. However, this very attractive and satisfying dish found its way onto the menus of almost every Chinese restaurant in the country. It is not difficult to see why.
Mangetouts and water chestnuts are sweet and crunchy. Together they create a colourful and texturally contrasting combination that is very appealing. For Westerners who knew only boiled vegetables, it was a revelation to experience the crunch and freshness of vegetables cooked in the Chinese way.
Peel the fresh water chestnuts and thinly slice them.
Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the spring onions. Stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the mangetouts and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 1 minute. Make sure you coat them thoroughly with the oil. Then toss in the rest of the ingredients, except the sesame oil, and continue to stir-fry for a further 3 minutes. Stir in the sesame oil and serve at once.
© 1998 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.