When we went to the Asian supermarket called Paris Store over in Tours Friday morning, one of the things we wanted to buy was a bag of big frozen tiger prawns, also called Asian tiger shrimp. We try to keep a bag of them in the freezer at all times, but we were out. I believe these shrimp are farm-raised. Paris Store is a chain of Asian markets based in... Paris.
We grabbed a few other items off the shelves — sesame seeds, hon mirin, teriyaki sauce, a jar of grated ginger — and were headed toward the checkout stand when I noticed the produce section. On an impluse, I picked up a bag of what was labeled as shanghaï choï, just because it looked so fresh and appetizing. There were six heads of choy in the bag. (I have a garden full of collard greens and kale ready to be harvested, but never mind...)
Braised Shanghai choy with a hoisin-based sauce
At the checkout stand, I asked the cashier if this was the same thing as bok choy. She said no, it's Shanghai choy, and it's not as green or as large as bok choy. Then she shrugged her shoulders and said, « Enfin, c'est à peu près la même chose. » I was just curious because I'd never heard the term Shanghai choy before. I'm not even sure I'd ever cooked bok choy before.
Sliced Shanghai choy
When I got home, I thought about the possibility of combining some choy and some shrimp to make a stir-fry. I found some recipes for such a dish on the internet. (On trouve tout sur le 'net.) What I found of most interest was that the way to cook Shanghai choy is just to braise it very briefly in simmering water.
Stir-fried shrimp, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and garlic in the same sauce
One recipe I found for a dish called Hoisin Chicken called for making a sauce using hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, and cornstarch. That sounded like it would be good with both the braised choy and some shrimp stir-fried with vegetables.
This is what is called la mise en place — everything is prepared and ready to be cooked.
Here's the recipe I came up with. Most of the quantities are very flexible. You could make it with broccoli, for example. It might seem complicated, but if you cook the choy and the rice while the shrimp are marinating, and then make the sauce, all you really have left to do is the stir-frying.
Hoisin shrimp with Shanghai choy
1 medium onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
6 large mushrooms, sliced
3 heads of Shanghai choy
18 large tiger prawns, peeled and de-veined
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds as a garnish
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
2 Tbsp. white wine
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 pinches of black, white, or cayenne pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. corn or potato starch
¼ cup water
Marinate the shrimp in the wine, vinegar, and ginger for 15 minutes or longer. Meanwhile, stir-fry the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and mushrooms in a wok or skillet.When they are just slightly cooked but still crisp, take them out of the pan and set them aside.
Cut each head of choy into two or four pieces, from the root end to the leafy top. Braise the choy slices for no more than three minutes in just enough simmering water to cover them. When they're done, take them out of the pan and keep them warm. (I put them in a dish in the microwave oven so I could re-heat them briefly if necessary.)
Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients. Mix well and set aside. Take the shrimp out of the marinade and stir-fry them briefly in the wok or skillet, just until they turn pink. As soon as they are done, take them out of the pan and put them aside with the stir-fried vegetables.
Put the sauce mixture into the pan and bring it to a boil so that it will reduce a little and thicken. Add more water as necessary. Also add in the shrimp marinade. When the sauce has a nice syrupy consistency, spoon some of it over the braised choy in one dish, and then toss all the stir-fried ingredients briefly in what's left in the pan. When everything is hot, sprinkle on toasted sesame seeds and serve with steamed rice or Asian noodles.