How to make Chinese food -Di San Xian? Today, we wanted to show you how to make a homestyle classic from the North of China.
Di San Xian (地三鲜). Now Di San Xian literally translated means ‘three fresh things from the earth’
and refers to this specific combination of potato, eggplant, and peppers. While almost every home cook has their own particular way of going about it, generally those are then either pan-fried or deep-fried and tossed together with a garlicky sauce.
How To Make Chinese Food -Di San Xian?
So right. To get started with your potato, pepper, and eggplant stir-fry, you’ll need potatoes peppers, and eggplants. This was 500 grams of potato, and any starchy variety would do the trick; 125 grams of peppers, either mild chilis or bell peppers and I like mild chilis and 250 grams of eggplant.
Now, when buying eggplant, know that the standard southern Chinese eggplant has this tendency to shrivel up like a salted slug when stir-fried.
You want something firmer here: you could use one of these round varieties, we went with this kind of Northern Chinese ovular eggplant… and abroad, I believe an Italian eggplant would likely be your best bet.
But right, let’s get started prepping the potato. First, peel them, then we’ll cut those into chunks. Now, know that the only award I’ll ever win for knife skills is for participation, but this seemed to be as good of a time as any to teach you the Chinese rolling cut.
To do it, keep the knife straight at roughly a 45 degree bias, then slice down.
Now twist it 90 degrees so that the wedge we cut’s facing the bottom, and slice with the same 45 degree bias. Then just twist and work around the potato to get roughly 3 inch by 1.5 inch pieces.
This is a quick way to get relatively even wedges, but especially with something wider like potato a couple pieces might end up a touch larger… so free to adjust according to your judgment.
Now toss those in a big bowl, and move over to the sink. Now, as anyone that’s made a failed batch of French fries could tell you, the starch on the surface of potatoes loves to scorch before everything’s fully cooked.
So, we got to get that off. Give those a thorough rinse for about three to five minutes, then let those soak until you’re ready to fry.
but at least twenty minutes.
Next up, the chilis. Now again, I personally like mild chilis here, but bell pepper’s equally classic.
Either way, you’ll want to deseed them, optionally slice out the ribs, and cut on a bias into about one and a half inch diamonds. And finally, the eggplant.
You’ll want to save this for last because eggplant loves to oxidize.
The particular variety of eggplant we used is best peeled, but no need if you’ve got something with thinner skin. Now to slice, same deal as the potatoes: rolling cut, similar size as your wedges from before.
Then, toss those in a bowl, and unless you’re cooking your eggplant immediately, it’s a nice idea to mix it with a splash of white vinegar, which’ll slow down that oxidation and help keep color. And now, to fry.
So right, Di San Xian at its core should really be an easy homey kind of dish, and I know for a lot of folks deep frying is anything but. So really, know that plenty of people’ll stop right here, pan-frying with about half a cup of oil.
So if you can’t be hassled to deep fry, just… do that. But, deep-frying cooks things more evenly, so that’s the direction we went.
But either way, get your oil up to 120 Celcius, swap the flame to medium-high and settle in.
I know that 120’ll feel pretty low, but we’ve got to let the potatoes soften and cook through completely. Now if you’re pan-frying instead, simply do this over a medium-low flame, flip often, and keep it covered. But here once those potatoes are slightly blistered and cooked though, after about 12 minutes, swap the flame to high.
The temperature’ll creep up, and you can take them out once they’re browned to your liking.
I like pulling them out once the oil’s back to about 180, or about two minutes on our stove.
Then strain out any excess oil, and toss on a paper towel lined plate.
Next up, the eggplant. Eggplant craves to be fried at high heat, and’ll imbibe massive quantities of oil unless you’ll oblige.
So heat your oil up until you start to see little wisps of smoke, about 200 Celsius, and drop in the eggplant.
Quickly fry it – even just 20 seconds should be long enough. Then take it out, strain out any excess oil, and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Lastly, the peppers oil up at around 185, drop them in, quick stir, and take them out.
And with that, our main ingredients are all prepped.
So we’ll be frying this today with some aromatics: this was three minced cloves of garlic, an inch of minced ginger, and about two inches of minced leek.
In addition, we’ll also be adding a separate clove of minced garlic near the end of the stir fry. this is a northern technique called “Touweisuan” (头尾蒜), which gives the dish an extra little oomph of garlic.
So right. As always…first, longyau. Get that wok piping hot, shut off the heat, add in the oil – here about a tablespoon – and give it a swirl to get a nice non-stick surface.
Heat on medium high now, immediately go in with the aromatics. Thirty-second fry, then pour a tablespoon of Liaojiu (料酒) a.k.a. Shaoxing wine over your spatula and around the sides of the wok. Brief mix, then do the same with a similar tablespoon of light soy sauce.
Super quick mix, then add in ¾ of a cup of water. Let that come up to a simmer, and season with a half teaspoon dark soy sauce – though you could use light in a pinch – a half teaspoon salt, half teaspoon sugar, and an eight teaspoon MSG or bouillon powder, your choice.
Once those are dissolved, about 15 seconds, go in with the potatoes and give a quick mix.
Then add in the eggplant, the peppers, and the extra garlic. Super brief stir, then drizzle in a slurry of tablespoon cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of water.
Then once that’s nice and thickened… heat off, and out. Di San Xian, done.
So this is a very homecooking dish, people have a million ways of approaching it.
Some people will skip the garlic at the end, and some will finish it with a little bit of vinegar.
Some will pre-boil the potatoes before they deep fry them, And some people just stir fry everything together and then drizzle a pre-made sauce into it.
So feel free to play around with it, and then find your own favorite way.
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