Fuchsia Dunlop’s Twice-Cooked Swiss Chard (Hui Gua Niu Pi Cai)

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Chard is a mainstay in my kitchen during the long winter months. The fast-cooking greens are chock full of vitamins to counteract all of that rich comfort food. But even a tender green such as chard gets dull as we wait for the exciting vegetables of spring.

Leave it to Fuchsia Dunlop to reinvigorate chard by treating it like pork. In Every Grain of Rice, Dunlop presents an array of recipes using chard and other leafy greens, but it was the twice-cooked recipe that really caught my eye. The chard is, indeed, cooked twice (a quick blanch followed by a turn in simmering sauce). The real draw, however, is the brawny sauce: chili bean paste, fermented black beans, garlic, ginger, chicken broth, and a generous pour of oil transform the green into an almost meaty dish.

Why I picked this recipe: I’ve eaten my fair share of twice-cooked pork at my favorite Chinese restaurants, so I was eager to apply these flavors to one of my favorite winter greens, Swiss chard.

What worked: Once again, everything was on point. The chard was deeply savory, with a hint of spice from the chili bean paste.

What didn’t: Nothing; you may find it strange (as I did) to blanch the greens in unsalted water, but the intense saltiness of the sauce more than makes up for the lack of seasoning in the blanching water.

Suggested tweaks: You could use this sauce for any manner of vegetables or leafy greens. Blanch until they are tender, and toss in the simmering sauce at the last minute. Small pieces of tofu would also not be out of place here, should you want to turn this side into an entree.

Reprinted from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop. Copyright 2012 by Fuchsia Dunlop. Photographs copyright 2012 by Cris Terry. Published by W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

  • 14 ounces (400g) thick-stemmed Swiss chard
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil, or 1 1/2 tablespoons lard and 1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Sichuanese chili bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup (100ml) chicken stock or water
  • 3 tablespoons celery (Chinese celery if possible), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced
  1. Cut dark green chard leaves from the stems. Snap each stem into a few pieces, which will allow you to peel away and discard the stringy bits, as you would with celery.

  2. Bring a potful of water to a boil, add stems and boil for about three minutes, until tender. Add dark green leaves and boil for another minute or so until they are also cooked. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

  3. Squeeze chard dry, then cut into bite-size lengths. Pour oil into a seasoned wok over a medium flame, swirl it around, then add chili bean paste and stir-fry until it smells delicious and the oil is richly red. Add garlic, ginger, and black beans, and stir-fry for a few moments more until you can smell their fragrances. Then add stock, bring to a boil, add chard and stir until it is piping hot once more.

  4. Finally, stir in celery, cilantro, and spring onion, stir a few times, then serve.

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