Recipe: Eight-Treasure Trini Chow Mein

This is another dish that demonstrates the Chinese influence on the island. Except for the bean sprouts, there are no "traditional" Chinese ingredients as you would find in authentic stir-fries. Although in the United States, crispy noodles are the hallmark of chow mein, the original Chinese meaning of chow mein is "a dish using soft noodles." Thick soy sauce is available in Chinese and Asian markets and looks like molasses. A little goes a long way, so use sparingly and up the amount as you go to suit your personal taste. The recipe is adapted from my book Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad & Tobago (Hippocrene 2010).

Eight-Treasure Trini Chow Mein i i
Jean Paul Vellotti for NPR
Eight-Treasure Trini Chow Mein
Jean Paul Vellotti for NPR

Makes 6 servings

3/4 of a 12-ounce package of lo mein noodles or Caribbean chow mein noodles (available in Caribbean markets)

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 cup shredded red cabbage

1 carrot, julienned

1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded

1 medium christophene (chayote) squash, seeded and thinly sliced

1 cup bean sprouts (optional)

1/2 small Scotch bonnet or other hot red chili pepper, minced, or 1/3 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (preferably habanero-based)

1 large chicken breast, or 1/2 pound boneless beef, pork or shrimp, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon thick soy sauce

1/3 cup vegetable or chicken stock or water

Bring a large pot of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil and add the noodles. Lower heat to a simmer and boil noodles until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

Heat the canola oil in a large, deep frying pan or a wok and add the onion, cabbage, carrot and red bell pepper. Fry, stirring often, until the onion turns translucent.

Add the squash, bean sprouts, if using, and hot pepper and toss well. Add the meat and fry until well browned on all sides.

Mix in the soy sauce and stock or water and simmer 5 to 7 minutes to ensure the meat is cooked through.

Add the noodles to the pan and toss well so all ingredients are incorporated and any liquid is absorbed.

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