Soybean sprouts are a nutritious and economical food, used in China as an “instant vegetable.” Similar to mung bean sprouts but longer and with a large yellow bean seed attached, soybean sprouts add crunchiness and a nutlike flavour to recipes. They are available in Chinese markets, though the more widely available mung bean sprouts, which can be found in most supermarkets, are an acceptable substitute.
The soybean has been cultivated in China for over three thousand years, so I am never surprised to encounter it in any of its myriad forms. I enjoyed this version in a meal my cousin prepared for us in Kaiping (Hoiping). It’s a simple stir-fry of marinated pork bits, the whole enhanced by shrimp paste, making a delicious and satisfying meal. Shrimp paste, by the way, is a quite typical south Chinese condiment; its strong odour is rendered more pleasant by cooking.
Chop the pork into small coarse bits. In a small bowl, combine it with the rice wine or sherry, soy sauce, sesame oil, and cornflour.
Wash the sprouts in cold running water, picking out any wilted pieces or darkened sprouts. Drain well.
Heat a wok or large frying pan until hot. Add
Reheat the wok or pan and add the remaining oil. When it is very hot, add the shrimp paste and stir-fry it for 10 seconds. Then add the sprouts and soy sauce. Continue to stir-fry for 4 minutes. Return the pork to the wok and mix very well with the sauce, continuously stir-frying for another minute. Give the mixture several good stirs, turn onto a platter and serve.
© 1990 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.