Simple Stir-fried Celery with Prawn Paste

Celery has unfortunately and undeservedly acquired a bad reputation in Westernized Chinese cooking because it is used simply as a filler in so many dishes. For restaurant owners it was a cheap way to bulk up a dish, but the vegetable has better uses. We ate Chinese celery at home as a dish by itself. My mother often stir-fried the small, intensely flavoured celery with prawn paste. This simple, aromatic vegetable dish took just minutes to make.

Ingredients

  • 675 g (1½ lb) squid, fresh or frozen
  • 1½ tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Method

Trim the base of the celery and all the top leaves. Separate the stalks. With a small sharp knife, remove any strings from the tough stalks. Chop the celery into 2.5 cm (1 in) pieces.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the groundnut oil and, when it is hot and slightly smoking, toss in the garlic and spring onions and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Then toss in the celery and continue to stir-fry for 1 minute. Drizzle in the rice wine, spoon in the shrimp paste and sugar, and continue to stir-fry for 1 minute. Finally, drizzle in the stock or water and continue to cook over a high heat for 3–4 minutes, until just tender. Then drizzle in the sesame oil, mix well, pour onto a platter and serve at once as a vegetable side dish.

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