Chinese New Year Recipes: Preparing your Treasure Dish

Monday, February 04, 2013

My Mum-in-law's collection of abalones (all gifts), from last year and this. Getting them ready for steaming. 
I continue with the CNY recipes which will be appearing on our Reunion table.

I come now to the "treasure" dish. When was the last time I cooked this? Unless you are a Chinese restaurant chef, you don't cook this dishe regularly. Mentally, I have to go through the steps again, as the last time I cooked it was last year's CNY.

I can still remember how I painstakingly prepared the superior stock. I left it in the pot and my mama thought those were leftovers.

She washed the pot and dumped the stock into the sink. ... :(

Ouch. The precious stock joined our national sewage system, to be filtered into some 'new water.'

I was speechless. Unlike me, you won't want to mess up this expensive dish.

Overcook the abalone and you end up with a rubbery piece of something that is nearly inedible. Plan your cooking steps carefully.

A treasure dish or pencai (just another form) is basically about treasures in superior stock. Get the superior stock right. Get the textures of the abalone, mushrooms, goose web feet etc right, assemble and you have your dish.  

This is what I use for my superior stock: 0.4 kg of lean pork (in cubes), 1 kampung chicken (remove the skin and fat, chop it up), 50 gm of Yunnan ham, and 10 pieces of chicken feet. The feet will add to the gelatinous texture of the stock. Simmer in about 2 litres of water for 2 hours. If you have pressure cooker, use it. Or if using a Magic Thermal pot, leave it there overnight. Remove the scum. You can add a bit of salt but not too much so that you have the option to adjust the flavors later. The stock needs to be thickened at some point and I normally do that just before I assemble the dish.

Some of the treasures
I am using canned abalones. There are different theories on how to prepare this but one thing you should never do is to boil them. Use too much heat, and the abalone will turn rubbery. The best is to steam the cans. You are actually applying low heat and this way, after a few hours (3 hours or so), the abalone should become more tender. You can then leave them in the cans for weeks till you need to use them.  I normally throw away the brine. I prefer the the stuff I am using to flavor the stock and one can never be sure what the brine in the can is made of.

If you want to flavor the abalone & stock, steam the abalone pieces gently in the superior stock to mix the flavors. As for sea cucumber, get the better quality ones and you will hardly need to simmer them beyond an hour. Avoid the cheaper variety as they taste "fishy" and will ruin your treasure dish. Chinese of Japanese "flower" or dried shitake mushrooms, first soak them in warm water for about half an hour. This softens the mushrooms and also cleans them up. Then braise the mushroom in the stock for about an hour. I will braise the abalone, mushrooms and sea cucumber together at the same time. Add dried scallops if you have them (give them a quick soak first).

To repeat, make the superior stock. Then braise the treasures in the stock.

Obviously I do not have many pictures of this dish and I will need to remember to take some this Saturday.

Have fun cooking your treasures.

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  1. After you steam the abalone and leave it in the can. Do you do it at room temperature or in the fridge? I assume the can is still unopened at this point

  2. what country of abalone should one be choosing? There's so many variety, is there one that has a better flavor or texture than the other?

  3. Hi! Other than steaming it, can I leave the can of abalone in a slow cooker on high heat?

  4. Ladies and gentlemen, if you all have a Sous Vide machine, it will do wonders. I sous vide my canned abalone with its brine for 6 -8 hours at 60 degree Celsius.
    Result: tender, yet a little chewy.
    I believe it is as good as any restaurants' standard.
    Terry is absolutely right about the superior stocks. I do them myselves too.

    1. Yes SV is very good for preparing Abalone and great that you are able to confirm this.