Monday, July 16, 2012

Dracontomelon – yàhn-mihn - 仁稔

Dracontomelon (or dracontomelum) is the no.4 on my wish list of vegetables/plants that I want to try in 2012.

July is the season for dracontomelon. It is also the time of the year where you can find stem ginger, one of the main ingredients required to make the “yàhn-mihn and minced pork” recipe Martha gave in her book. She used the Chinese characters 人面 which means person/man-face but this is only a nickname. N, one of my friends, told me the real characters were 仁稔 (lit. means human/seed - ripe grain) which are also pronounced yàhn-mihn.

If you look at the markings on the seeds you’ll understand why Cantonese called this fruit “man-face” (yàhn-mihn 人面)
I read that Vietnamese called it “Sau” or ugly.

Stem ginger - jí-gèung - 子姜

Dracontomelon is the fruit of a wild tropical fruit (same family as mango, cashew and pistachio). Dracontomelon trees are common in Hanoi. Vietnamese and Cambodian used the fruit mixed with sugar, chilli salt and stem ginger to make a cooling tonic drink.  Wow, it must be pungent!

Cantonese people also combine dracontomelon with stem ginger to make the recipe below.

Dracontomelon & minced pork

Here is the recipe (adapted from Martha’s book).

Dracontomelon - 2 parts (¼catty – about 150g – HK$6)
Stem ginger - 4 parts (½ catty – about 300g - HK$10)
Minced pork - 3 parts (225g)
Yellow bean paste - mihn-sih - 麺豉- 1 part (75g - almost 1pack -HK$2)
Sugar - 20g (1 heaped Tbsp) 

Wash the dracontomelons, cut off both ends of the fruit (don’t peel it), and crush the fruit with a cleaver to break it open (it is quite hard).
At that point I was not sure what to do as I could not detach the flesh from the seeds. I called M, a friend of mine. She told me that the pulp was delicious and the seeds had to be cooked in the dish. “Just be careful when you eat as the seed is very hard and it might break your teeth.”
Keep everything: the green skin and the seeds with the white pulp. Chop finely the green skin.

Wash the ginger and scrape the skin with the back of a spoon. Slice the ginger thinly, salt the slices and leave them for about ½ hour, tossing them from time to time (it is supposed to make the ginger crispier). Rinse well, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Shred ginger thinly.

Season minced pork with 1 tsp salt, ground black pepper, 1 tsp dark soya sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 Tbsp rice wine, and 1 tsp of tapioca starch diluted in a little bit of water. Mix well and let stand for 30 minutes.

When stem ginger and minced pork are ready, combine them in a large bowl. Add sugar, the yellow bean paste and chopped dracontomelon.
Put the mixture in the fridge and let it stand for 1 hour.

About ½ hour before eating:
Take out mixture from the fridge and put it in a metal dish.
Using a food steamer bring water to a boil. Once the water is boiled put dish on a wire rack and steam for about 15 minutes.
Dribble some cooked vegetable oil over before serving.

My “dish” was very special. My husband did not comment and had only a soup spoon. I knew what this meant (L). I liked the crunchy flesh and spicy taste of the stem ginger but it was overpowering and I could hardly taste the soft skin and sourness of the dracontomelon. M, was right: the flesh around the seed was delicious and its lemony flavour was refreshing after biting on ginger shreds. It would have been a pity not to keep it. The steamed rice and the stir-fried wild rice shoots tasted rather bland!  Did I put too much ginger? I kept wondering what would be best to serve it with. Why not making a wrap with a few lettuce leaves in? What do Cantonese people eat with this? I have not yet found an answer to my question as I have yet to meet people who have cooked this dish.

After my experiment I did further reading on Internet and learnt that Kowloon Soy Co. Ltd was making a sauce with dracontomelon. They only make it in June/July during the little fruit’s season and their supply is limited. M. told me later that she tried to make some (it has ginger, yellow bean paste and sugar but no meat) but it took her such a long time that she was not ready to make it again. The sauce can be stored in the fridge for a long period and is usually mixed with pork ribs (like steamed pork ribs with salted plums). 
I’d better buy a bottle and try it first before putting myself through such a 2nd (potentially unsuccessful) experiment (J). I already checked at a Chinese grocery store this afternoon and found jars sold for HK$63 each. But I will leave this story for another time and post!

Dracontomelon sauce
(Different Chinese characters- same pronunciation – yàhn-mihn)

Note: I also found out that an outstanding Chinese restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui had “Dracontomelon Sauce Smoked Baby Duck - 仁稔醬香燻BB “on its menu. 

PS: Can you answer my questions? I would be very happy if you could tell me (in the comment box). Thanks! ;) 

No comments:

Post a Comment