The Zen Of Stir-fried Vegetables

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - May 05, 2005
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Leeann Chin opened her first restaurant in Minnetonka, Minn., in 1980, and today this noted restaurateur⁄chef has built an empire of Leeann Chin Chinese Cuisine in the Midwest. Her early supporters included actors Sean Connery and Robert Redford.

She and her daughter, Katie, a former entertainment executive, hosted dinner parties together at Katie’s home in Los Angeles, which led to forming a catering business — Double Happiness Catering — in Los Angeles.

The Chins also hosted their own 13-part series, Double Happiness, which aired on PBS stations. The cross-generational series, showcased Chinese traditions, culture and cuisine. In addition, the Chins have made numerous appearances on the Today Show, and also co-hosted the Food Network special, My Country, My Kitchen -Eat Drink Mother Daughter. Leeann and Katie will be in town to help the Sub-Zero⁄Wolf Honolulu Showroom celebrate its first anniversary with a series of cooking demonstrations.

Here is a recipe for a healthy vegetable dish by Leeann and Katie from their cookbook, Everyday Chinese Cooking, which they have given me to share with MidWeek readers.

This column is dedicated to a special mother and daughter and to mothers everywhere. Happy Mother’s Day!

Tiger lily buds, also known as golden needles or gum jum, are the unopened flowers of day lilies. The lily has been used in China as both a food and medicine for more than 2,000 years, and is plentiful in the wild. Lily buds are harvested when 3 to 5 inches long and immediately dried. Their color turns golden yellow and the flower becomes flexible. Lily buds must be soaked in warm water before use. The buds have a floral, almost fruity aroma, a chewy texture, and a mild flavor after reconstitution in water. You may purchase dried lily buds in Asian markets or Chinatown. They are found in small bags and may be labeled as dried lily flowers. When purchasing, look for pale color, and they should not be brittle or dried out. After opening, store them in an airtight container or jar in a cool, dry, dark place.


• 2 ounces cellophane noodles (bean thread)

• 1⁄2 ounce dried tiger lily buds

• 1 ounce dried black mushrooms

• 3 large stalks celery cabbage (Napa cabbage)

• 4 ounces snow peas

• 4 ounces jicama

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

• 1 teaspoon minced garlic

• 1⁄2 cup canned gingko nuts

• 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

• 1⁄2 cup vegetable broth (see below), canned vegetable broth or water

• 2 tablespoons light soy sauce

• 2 green onions, with tops, cut into 1-inch pieces

• 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Soak the cellophane noodles in warm water for five minutes; drain and set aside. Soak the tiger lily buds in warm water for five minutes; rinse with cold water, and remove and discard the tips. Soak the black mushrooms in hot water for 15 minutes, or until soft. Rinse with cold water and drain; remove and discard the stems. Cut the caps into half-inch pieces. Rinse the celery cabbage in cold water and drain. Cut the stalks crosswise into half-inch pieces. Remove and discard the strings from the snow pea pods. In a saucepan of boiling water, place the snow peas and return the water to a boil. Drain, immediately rinse in cold water, drain again, and set aside. Peel the jicama and cut into 2-by-1/4- inch strips.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the vegetable oil, garlic, tiger lily buds, black mushrooms, celery cabbage, gingko nuts, and jicama and stirfry for 2 minutes. Add the salt, vegetable broth, soy sauce and cellophane noodles and cook for 1 minute. Add the snow peas, green onions, and sesame oil and stir-fry for 1 more minute. Serve immediately.

For Vegetable Broth:

• 4 leeks, white part only

• 1 ounce dried black mushrooms

• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

• 10 ounces soybean sprouts

• 1 carrot, peeled and sliced

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1⁄8 teaspoon white pepper

Remove and discard the tough outer layers of the leeks. Cut the leeks open and in half lengthwise. Wash very well to remove any sand; dry with paper towels. Cut into one-inch pieces across the leek stalks. Soak the mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes, or until soft; drain. Rinse in warm water; drain. Squeeze out any excess moisture. Remove and discard the stems. Heat a large stockpot and add the vegetable oil. Add the leeks and stir-fry for one minute. Add four cups water, bring to a boil, and add the black mushrooms, soybean sprouts, carrot, salt and pepper. Return to boiling again, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, covered, for one hour. Strain.

Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to five days or freeze in a tightly sealed container for up to three months.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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