Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cooking at home - Meatless Carbonara

I picked up some pea shoots at the farmer's market last weekend. Pea shoot, or dou miao (豆苗) in Chinese, is a common cold weather vegetables regularly found in local market this part of the world. It's leafy with soft and tender stalks, with a distinct flavor (fresh but not grassy) which didn't require a lot of extra seasonings, and hence very versatile to cook - in Chinese cuisine, you can sauteed with or without garlic, boiled in superior broth, most of the time on its own but worked equally well with dried scallops, meat or seafood. Think of it as peas but in vegetable form. During hairy crab season (usually from September to November every year), there's nothing better than a dish of sauteed pea shoot topped with hairy crab meat and roes.

But I reckoned pea shoot would work equally well in western dishes too, perhaps as a (better) substitute of spinach. Well, I like spinach, but sometimes there is this bitter/metallic aftertaste in spinach that I could do without. Pea shoot, on the other hand, is delicate and sweet, provided you don't overcook it.

Here's one example of what you can do as I turned this into my Green Monday dinner, not to mention this would be a good weekday dinner recipe as it can be prepared within 30 minutes. This is essentially a carbonara pasta without the usual pancetta or bacon, and with good flavors coming from the egg, parmesan and pea shoot, the lack of meat was hardly noticeable. I know many Carbonara fundamentalists despise the inclusion of cream but I did add a spoonful to compensate for the fat that would have come from the meat, and for holding the sauce better together as I used a slightly cooked egg instead of a raw one. Normally I would use my sous vide machine to cook the eggs to the perfect 63-degrees, but this time I used a more conventional method - not as precise but much easier.

Meatless Carbonara Pasta (serves 2)


200g pea shoots (or 2 handful bunches)
250g pasta (linguine, fettucine and spaghetti probably work best)
0.5 Cup of Parmagiano-Reggiano, grated, plus more for serving
2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tablespoon of double cream
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 large eggs
Salt and Peppers

Note on cheese: Italian authorities dictate the use of animal rennet in the making of traditional parmagiano-reggiano, or parmesan cheese as it's commonly known, hence makes it non-vegetarian in the strictest sense. Look for cheese that use vegetarian rennet in the supermarket instead if you so choose.


1. Put 2 eggs in a medium pot (cast iron one works best as it retains heat well), pour boiling water into the pot until the eggs were fully immersed, put the lid on for 30 minutes. At the end, the eggs should be half cooked.
2. Gently wash the pea shoot and discard any wilted bits. Set aside.
3. Cook the pasta according to the package's instruction. Once cooked, drain and set aside. Retain 2 tablespoon of pasta water.
4. Meanwhile, in a pan over medium-high heat, put in olive oil, garlic, then pea shoot. Stir-fry the pea shoots quickly, switch off heat and remove them from the pan once they turned into a slightly deeper color. Season with salt and set aside.
5. In the same pan - I wouldn't even bother with wiping it clean - put in cream, cheese, pasta water and cook over medium heat. Don't let the sauce boil, and once the cheese started to melt, stir in the pasta and make sure the pasta mix completely with the sauce.
6. Serve by putting the pasta in the middle of a deep plate, leave a "hole" in the middle. Crack the egg open and put it in the hole. Top with pea shoots and season with salt, pepper and additional grated cheese to taste.
7. Mix everything well with a fork and enjoy!

1 comment :

Unknown said...

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