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.
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 (
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.
© 1998 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.