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Similar to red braising (紅燒 hóngshāo) – the Shanghainese technique of slow cooking in a flavorful concoction of ingredients like soy sauce, rice wine and sugar – stew braising (燜 mèn) is simpler and more short and often relies on more delicate foods, lighter condiments. In this recipe for braised winter squash, the technique lets the beautiful orange hue of the vegetable shine through.
In this dish, from cookbook author Hannah Che, the natural sweetness of winter squash is complemented with salty, fermented black beans. The squash cooks until buttery and tender, about to fall apart. Che suggests looking for kabocha squash, which has a velvety, starchy sweetness and a flavor reminiscent of roasted chestnut, but any firm-fleshed winter squash, such as red kuri, butternut squash, or Hubbard, will also work.
Adapted with permission from Vegan Chinese cuisine by Hannah Che © 2022. Photographs by Hannah Che. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
- A 1 lb. winter squash
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 4 to 5 dried Tianjin or Sichuan chili peppers, cut into ½-inch pieces and seeds shaken out
- 1 tbsp. fermented black beans, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 cup unsalted vegetable broth of any kind, or water
- 1 C. sugar, more if needed
- ½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
- ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
- Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
- 1 green onion, green part only, thinly sliced
Peel and core the squash and cut into 1½ inch wedges. Cut each wedge into ½ by 1½ inch pieces.
Heat a wok over high heat, then add the vegetable oil, stirring to coat the inside surface. Add the dried chiles and sauté until they begin to darken, about 10 seconds. Add the fermented black beans and garlic and let them sizzle until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and stir to coat it with the fragrant oil, then pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and salt, then cover and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the squash has absorbed most of the liquid and is tender enough to pierce with a chopstick, 5 to 7 minutes.
Uncover wok and adjust seasoning to taste with more sugar and salt. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and a white pepper, scatter the sliced green onions over the top and serve.