Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Marriage Of A Tuscan And Nyonya - Chap Chye With Cavolo Nero (Nyonya Vegetable Stew With Black Cabbage)

So delicious is this classic Nyonya Chap Chye / Chap Chai that it frequently make an appearance in many Peranakan dining table and quite rightly so. It bear a strong resemblance to the Chinese vegetarian dish Lo Hon Zai and as you might have guess, it is in fact inspired by the dish. But like many wonderful Nyonya dish (I am biased I know), the addition of the pork, prawns and the intense flavoursome stock just immediately transformed this Chinese classic into another level. Along with the usual suspect of the superb Nyonya ingredients, taucheo (fermented soy bean paste), this is a rich and gorgeous stew that will please any hungry Nyonyas and Babas (ME!)

For this Chap Chye, I am using Cavolo Nero, also known as black cabbage or Tuscan cabbage, which is perhaps not the most traditional cabbage to use for this dish. However, I do love the dark green colour which add to a visually even more appealing dish as well as the strong flavour that it contribute to the finished stew - a delectable match made in heaven. If you can't get hold of this, you can certainly use any seasonal cabbage at hand.

Ideally, this should be cooked at least a day in advance. Like many wholesome Nyonya dishes such as Ayam Rendang, Beef Rendang and Babi Pongteh etc, the flavours develop overnight to yield a far richer stew. If you are making this in advance, leave out the cabbage and add only when you are reheating it the following day to retain the bright greenness of the leaves.

Ingredients (Serves 4 - 6)

200g pork belly
200g medium raw prawns, shelled and deveined, keep the shell for the stock
200g cavolo nero (alternatively use 1 cabbage), remove tough stems and cut into rough 5 cm squares
30g glass noodles/mung bean noodles
50g dried shiitake mushroom
30g cloud ear mushroom, break into small pieces
50g tiger lily buds
50g dried beancurd sticks, break into 2cm strips
8 sweet beancurd strips/thim chok, cut into 2cm strips
3 garlic cloves
4 tbsp taucheo/fermented soybean paste
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp sweet soy sauce/kecap manis
2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
Sea salt, to taste
Groundnut or sunflower oil


Place the pork belly a pan, pour over enough water to cover and bring to the boil. 

In the meantime, heat up 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan until smoking. Stir-fry the prawn shells until turn bright orange and fragrant. Add to the boiling stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard the prawn shells and slice the pork belly thinly. Strain and reserved the stock. 

In a bowl, soak the shiitake mushrooms in warm water for at least an hour. Once soften, snip of the tough stalk, strain the soaking liquid and add to the reserved stock. 
(Tops: This will give you an even richer flavour)

In a separate large bowl, soak the glass noodles, cloud ear mushrooms, tiger lily buds, beancurd sticks in warm water for an hour. Drain.

Heat up some oil in a pan over medium heat and deep fry the sweet beancurd sheets for 1-2 minutes, until crispy and lightly golden n colour. Drain on some kitchen paper and set aside.

Heat up 2 tablespoon oil in a wok over medium heat. Stir-fry the garlic for 30seconds, until fragrant. Add the sliced pork belly and prawns, soy bean paste, sweet and dark soy sauce, chillies and sugar along with some of the reserved stock, roughly 300ml ( Note: you can add more at a later stage if necessary) and turn up the heat to bring to the boil.

When the broth is boiling, add all the soaked ingredients and fried sweet beancurd sheets. Add more stock if necessary until all the ingredients are covered and cook for 10 minutes before adding the cabbage and glass noodles and cook for another 5 minutes, until the cabbage is tender. Do not overcook or you will risk breaking up the contents of the stew.

Season with salt to taste and serve hot.


  1. Yum! This is a great dish for cold weather like we have now.

  2. This looks so ridiculously delicious! I feel like I can smell it from here...

    I love, love, love your blog - thanks so much for sharing so many amazing recipes. I look forward to many more :-).

  3. Absolutely, it's perfect for cold and windy weather....comfort food! :)

  4. This looks brilliant; I tried to make it once from my peranakan recipe book but misread it and used rice vermicelli instead of mung bean noodles. Still excellent though.

  5. I can imagine, the mung bean noodle were used more for textures but I think using vermicelli might actually be quite a good alternative as they tends to soak up the sauce better.



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