You can’t go wrong with this tried-and-true classic: Shanghai Rice Cake Stir-fry with Shepherd’s Purse. Shepherd’s Purse, also known as jicai, was previously discussed in our inaugural dumpling entry.
Shepherd’s Purse is a type of wild vegetable resembling dandelion greens. They are commonly used in this stir-fried rice cake dish typical of Shanghai because of their wonderful, subtle flavor. Shepherd’s Purse has a lot of fans in Shanghai. Of course, we also use it to make stir-fried Shanghai rice cake (or nian gao) and other dumplings, soups, and buns.
Let me start with the bad news: I have never seen a fresh shepherd’s Purse in the United States. Only the frozen variety is available, typically imported from China and sold in the frozen section of Chinese supermarkets.
It’s good news that it’s still delicious even after being frozen. Compared to the fresh shepherd’s Purse I had when we were living in Beijing, the frozen variety has a stronger aroma.
In the absence of shepherd’s Purse, fresh spinach can be substituted for its flavor. Shepherd’s Purse can be frozen at Asian supermarkets; here’s how to cook it.
Set the bag (typically in 1-pound increments) of frozen food out on the counter for at least an hour and up to two. Once the frozen vegetable package has thawed, remove a third of the block and set it aside. Please put it in a bowl of cold water and let it sit until it thaws completely. Even though most frozen vegetables have already been washed, you should give this a few more rinses to make sure all the sand is out of the water. Squeeze out as much water as possible and then finely chop after washing.
The remaining items are here, all right. You’ll need only a few simple ingredients and a few minutes to whip up these Shanghai rice cakes.
To Marinate the Chicken:
- 6 oz. of chicken breast (cut into very small, thin strips)
- 1 tsp. of cornstarch
- 1 tsp. of shaoxing wine
- ½ tsp. of sesame oil
- 1/8 tsp. of white pepper
- 1/4 tsp. of salt
For the Rest of the Dish:
- 2 tbsp. of oil
- 1/3 lb. of frozen shepherd’s Purse (liquid squeezed out, and finely chopped; finely chopped)
- 1/3 tsp. of salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 tsp. of white pepper
- 1 tsp. of sesame oil
- 12 oz. of rice cakes (thawed, rinsed)
- ½ cup of water or chicken stock
- Soak the chicken in the marinade overnight. Get the other stuff ready.
- To begin cooking, heat the oil in a wok over high heat. You should stir-fry the chicken until it turns opaque. Put salt, white pepper, sesame oil, and shepherd’s Purse (or spinach). Throw it in the stir-fry for 30 seconds. Rice cakes, water, or chicken stock should be added to the meat and vegetables, but not touching the bottom of the wok.
- Two to three minutes with the lid on the wok should be enough time to cook the ingredients (if you wait too long, the rice cakes will get soggy and the greens will turn yellow.). After the rice cakes have softened, combine all ingredients and serve at once.