Jiu hu char is a stirfry yam bean or jicama dish. Yam bean is cut into strips and stir-fried with shredded cuttlefish to be enjoyed with rice or as a wrap. If you are looking for an Asian meal which is light, healthy, low in fat and calories, jiu hu char is the one for you.
‘Jiu hu char’ is a plate of delicious stir-fried yam bean with dried squids and is a common favourite in a Peranakan household, especially in Penang. Stir-fried yam bean or jicama is delicious on its own as it is crunchy and contains a unique combination of vitamins, fiber and minerals. There is so much to like about this dish. Moreover, the actual cooking process did not take too long. This is another reason why jiu hu char is a common dish during Chinese festivals or any reunion meal.
Jiu hu char history
Jiu hu refers to cuttlefish which is one of the two main ingredients in this dish. The word ‘char’ refers to stir-fry. Hence jiu hu char actually means stir-fried cuttle fish. The other main ingredient is jicama. This combination of jicama and cuttle fish is a favourite stir-fry dish especially during Chinese festivals or any reunion meals such as Chinese New Year and Qing Ming (Tomb-Sweeping Day). Just as many other Nyonya or Peranakan dishes, jiu hu char uses dried shrimps for the extra pungent flavour. The other obvious Peranakan style of eating is with the pairing of sambal belacan in the dish.
Soak ingredients before cooking
Do soak the julienned yam bean to remove the starch or the dish might end up in a gooey mess. Also, you will need to soak the dried squid strips overnight in room temperature water. If the dried squid strips are too thick and you would like to ensure that they are soft enough for cooking, here is a tip for you. Just add half a teaspoon of baking soda when soaking them
Adding meat to jiu hu char
For those who wish to enjoy the dish with some pork belly or minced pork shoulder, you may also add it when stir frying the aromatics. The flavour of the rendered pork fats would further contribute to the aroma of the dish.
Vegetarian jiu hu char
To prepare vegetarian jiu hu char, simply omit dried shrimps and dried squid from the dish. Adding kombu broth to the dish helps to provide the seafood flavours which is usually provided by dried shrimps and dried squid. Making kombu broth requires one to combine the 300 ml water and kombu (ca. 5 cm x 5cm) for about 8 hours. Besides that you may also add julienned king trumpet (pleurotus eryngii) mushroom to the dish.
Sambal for jiu hu char
Enjoy it with some fresh lettuce and a few dollops of sambal belacan or sweet Thai chili sauce to tantalize your taste buds. It will be quite an explosion of flavours, I can assure you.
As yam bean is rather hard, allow some time for the dish to simmer at low heat. If you noticed that the water had lessened but the yam bean has not softened, feel free to add more hot water. Just give the dish a few stirs before allowing it to continue simmering.