Sunday, November 07, 2004

The worthy watercress

when purchasing, inspect closely for little snails; wash thoroughly by placing watercress in a colander over a large bowl...

Back in 1986 a friend, who hails from Ifugao province in Northern Philippines, served this sauteed leafy vegetable. She cooked it with garlic and fish bagoong (fermented fish sauce). It was a fine dish! We were very hungry, it was monsoon season, and the new vegetable was such a change from the usual "guisado."
Since then I've encountered watercress at my in-laws where they serve it with soup as a last minute addition.
Here they are sold in Asian groceries secured tightly by rubber bands. My own ma had never encountered it before (she is Manila born) so she was very happily surprised when I first cooked it for her. In Western cuisine it is served usually raw in salads and to give crunch to subs. In the unusually mordant children's book about sibling revenge,Sam's Sandwich it was served with cold cuts and tomatoes on bread(& accompanying snails)...I have never tried watercress salad.

Sauteed watercress:
peanut oil
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot
1 slice ginger
1 tsp. or more of fish bagoong (or fermented bean curd, shrimp bagoong, or patis-- fish sauce)
2 bunches of watercress, well washed and picked over

Heat oil in wok or large skillet. Saute garlic, shallot and ginger over medium high heat until fragrant. Add watercress and fish bagoong, stir fry quickly and cover. Let steam about 2 minutes. Stir fry until cooked but still bright green.
**The dish can be "dressed up" with a splash of broth, soy, a grating of fresh black pepper, a pinch of sugar or rice wine, according to individual taste.**
This is an ideal side dish to fried whole fish and hot steamed rice.
I like to chop the watercress bunch down the middle so my kids can chew the crunchy stems better. My kids' favorite soup is chicken-ginger broth with watercress and firm tofu cubes.
I feel like such a virtuous mommy when I make them something with watercress.