Conpoy and egg white fried rice (瑤柱蛋白炒飯)

Posted on April 8, 2014

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I’m one of those jerks who usually scoffs at egg white omlettes. If you’re going to eat an egg dish, eat it properly. Egg white omlettes are about as confounding as sugarless lollies. I mean seriously, why bother? So here I am somewhat sheepishly writing about this conpoy and egg white fried rice (瑤柱蛋白炒飯) that I aboslutely love. Yes love. L. O. V. E.

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In my defense though, the reason for not using the whole egg in this dish is not due to calorific concerns, but rather the egg yolk might overpower the subtle and nuanced flavours of this dish’s star ingredient: conpoy.

Conpoy is a Chinese style dried scallop that is used to add rich sweet and savoury notes to dishes. It is often as a flavour enhancer (think of it as nature’s own stock cube), with a couple of pieces thrown into soups/broths, sauces and congees. For example, it is a major component of XO sauce. Conpoy is a phonetic adoption of the Cantonese word 亁貝, meaning dried shell.  For the extra keen-eyed readers, you will notice that the Chinese characters for conpoy is not actually contained within the Chinese name of this dish. This is because in Cantonese, conpoy is actually more commonly referred to as 亁瑤柱 or 瑤柱. It is considered a premium product and you should be able to find conpoy in select Chinese grocers or specialty stores.

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In this dish, the conpoy is not acting as a background taste enhancer, it is the reverse. You are eating this fried rice for the conpoy, so the other ingredients are there to help frame it. This is why the egg here serves a textural purpose only, it should not detract from the conpoy. In fact there is hardly any seasoning in this dish at all, and aside from the conpoy, everything else going in there is pretty bland.

The creation of this dish does not come from me. It comes from Dessert House (Shop 18 Mid City Arcade, 200-202 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC), and was one of my (and my lunch buddy’s) most frequent orders there. To give you an indication of my love for this dish, this is coming from the girl who practically lived at Dessert House during her uni years. Unfortunately for those who want to sample it from the orginal creators, it is no longer available on the current menu :(. Thus I was forced to recreate it. Otherwise I wouldn’t even try because in my domestic kitchen, I simply cannot reproduce the flavour of the ‘wok breath’. So while this recipe is as true to the original as possible, I lack the tools to make a genuine copy. Can you believe it; the one time I seriously want to replicate a recipe to the tee, with no tweaking, I’m let down by my kitchen! Maybe that needs be my birthday wish this year, a commercial grade wok burner in my backyard. Hint hint 😉

Anyhoo now that I have teased you enough, on with the recipe. To make this dish, you will need to a small handful of conpoy soaked in room temperature water overnight. Covered on the kitchen counter is fine, it’s not necessary to put it in the fridge. Don’t throw away the lovely soaking water, use it like you would a stock to impart a gentle sweetness to anything.

Day old rice at room temperature is best for frying because it is drier and you will end up with a fluffy fried rice with distinct grains. Freshly cooked rice may yield a stickier fried rice, which will be a fail by Chinese standards. This recipe also makes use of Chinese broccoli stems – now you see why I told you to save those stems/stalks in the last post. Measurements for this recipe are very approximate, because anything goes when you fry rice and besides, there would be no stranger sight than seeing a Chinese cook measure out how much rice they want to fry. The key to Chinese fried rice is speed and high heat, who has time to measure? It goes without saying that the following recipe works best with a big flame.

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RECIPE – Conpoy and egg white fried rice (瑤柱蛋白炒飯, serves 2)

Ingredients:

  •  8 conpoy (soaked overnight in room temperature water)
  • 4 egg whites
  • ~2 1/2 cups cooked day old rice at room temperature (break up any clumps of rice)
  • ~1 cup Chinese broccoli stems diced
  • ~1 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • oil for cooking
  • chopped spring onions to garnish

Method:

  1.  To cook the conpoy, drain soaking water and steam on low to medium heat until tender and the scallop fibers easily fall apart (~8 minutes). Once cooked, gently break apart fibers with a fork. Reserve.conpoy
  2. Swirl ~1 1/2 tablespoon of oil into a wok on medium heat until it reaches smoke point. Add in egg whites and stir around quickly with spatula to create curds.IMG_8473
  3. Turn flame on highest setting. Add in Chinese broccoli stems, cooked rice and conpoy and toss around to combine. You may need to add a little more oil to the wok to prevent the rice from sticking. Make sure you have no clumps of rice, they should be distinct grains.
  4. Salt to taste and give it a final quick toss to mix through.
  5. Garnish with chopped spring onions and serve immediately.IMG_8476

This is exemplary of good Chinese food. So simple and so elegant. Cooking in a flash.

Conpoy aren’t usually featured in the Chinese dishes that tend to be popular with non Chinese folk, so you may not have come across it before. But believe me, conpoy is a stalwart ingredient for Cantonese cuisine and one I highly recommend you try. And this fried rice does an excellent job of showcasing this beautiful ingredient.

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