Mermaid's Tresses

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Make sure the leaves are quite dry or they will spatter when dropped into hot oil.


1 bunch bok choy
oil for deep frying
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pinches caster sugar
2 tablespoons very tiny dried shrimp (optional)


With a sharp knife cut away the white central rib of the leaves and set aside for braised bok choy (recipe below). Place 3 or 4 green leaves together and roll up tightly. Shred in very fine even slices, and separate the shreds.

Heat at least 2 cups oil in a wok or other deep pan, and drop in a large handful of the shredded leaves at a time. Stir-fry for about 60 to 80 seconds, scoop them out on a large perforated spoon and drain on paper towels. The colour should be brilliant green. If cooked for even a few seconds too long they will turn brown.

In a few minutes, when the leaves have cooled and crisped, sprinkle lightly with the merest pinch of salt and caster sugar. If using the dried shrimp, deep fry in the same oil, drain, and sprinkle over the fried cabbage. Serve while crisp, as an hors d'oeuvre or as a background for fried scallops or other delicate, unsauced foods.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)