Braised taro and Chinese bacon (lop yok mun woo tul)

Taro root has the same starchy quality as a potato, but the flavor is more unusual, sort of like a cross between a potato and a chestnut. It is a cylindrical root, about 6 to 10 inches long and about 3 to 4 inches wide. The skin is dark brown, hairy, and dusty. It is an earthy and humble ingredient and, when cooked with wet bean curd and Chinese bacon, the flavor becomes dense and rich, It is food for the soul, especially in cold weather. For some people, the outside of the taro root can be irritating to the skin, so it’s always a good idea to wear rubber gloves when handling it. See Nom Yu Spareribs for information on wet bean curd.

One 3/4-pound taro root
4 ounces Chinese Bacon (lop yok), store-bought or homemade
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cubes red wet bean curd (nom yu)
1 scallion, cut into 2-inch lengths
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Wearing rubber gloves, peel the taro root with a cook’s knife. Cut taro root lengthwise into quarters, then cut crosswise into scant 1/2-inch-thick slices. Remove and discard the hard rind and thick layer of fat attached to the rind from the Chinese bacon. Cut crosswise into scant 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add oil and bacon, and stir-fry 15 seconds. Add bean curd and taro, and stir-fry 2 minutes, breaking up curd with a spoon. Add 1 cup boiling water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and cook 3 minutes. Stir in the scallion, reduce heat to medium-high, cover, and cook 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir mixture again, cover, and cook until taro is just tender when pierced with a knife, about 5 minutes. Stir in sugar and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6 as part of a multicourse meal.

Taken from Grace Young’s book “The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen” with permission. © Grace Young. Published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN 0-684-84739-6.