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May 21, 2014 06:25 PM

pea tendrils with garlic - restaurant secret?

I'm sure you Chowhounds all know what I'm talking about - Chinese restaurants make the most amazing "do miao" with "suan yu" (pea tendrils with garlic oil).

I've researched and attempted every recipe I can find online. I have a wok, so the heat is not the issue. There's a "flavor" the restaurant version has that I can't capture. A "slickness" that makes the garlic cling to the veggies, but isn't overly oily.

Anybody think they've got the recipe and have cracked the code on this delicious dish? Thanks!

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  1. The general method in this Serious Eats post on greens sounds like it is worth a try - the cornstarch being the addition you might not be using.

    1. It is the heat. Yours is not high enough.

      Plus, it's a bit of chicken stock to finish off.

      6 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        The heat is a big thing. I took a Chinese cooking course recently which was held using a restaurant wok burner, and my home burner (which is a pretty strong for home use gas burner with a built in wok ring) just doesn't cut it.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Agree. We do it at home on a big but not wok grade burner. The only way to even come close is to let the wok e very hot and then cook a very small batch. Otherwise, adding too much veggie drops the temperature too much and you end up w soggie veggies.

          1. re: FattyDumplin

            Some of the Asian markets here in LA County have the burners and accessories, so if I wanted to get hardcore I'd just need one of those things, a heatproof pad for my outdoor table, a tank of propane and a real wok instead of my frou-frou All-Clad wok-ish pan. But as I don't want to achieve or maintain that level of intensity, I'll stick with the dishes the All-Clad and my puny cooktop can handle well enough to suit us.

            1. re: Will Owen

              If you have the space, just buy a crawfish rig, get a tank, and a good wok. Mine came with a wok ring. I got a cheap wok from an asian market that's wonderfully seasoned now. That's how you get that smoke flavor in the final product. The seasoned wok transfers that flavor that you are talking about. Finishing with the slurry takes that into the dish.

              I do all my stir-frying on the front porch - keeps the smoke outside. It's kind of fun, plus, you can do your stocks in the pot, fry turkeys, and boil crawfish. Those rigs can go from a very low simmer to white-hot.

              1. re: rudeboy

                My back patio has electricity, water, a drain connection and gas plumbed in, so if I had the money and ambition I could go ape***t with the Outdoor Kitchen thing. As it is, there's a gas grill, a Weber kettle, a water smoker and an electric cooker we call R2D2. Overload, it's called. A wok setup would probably spark rebellion only slightly less emphatic than another car would, so I'm leaving well enough alone …

          2. re: ipsedixit

            i agree. the chicken stock is what makes it.

          3. Wok Hay is what you want.
            Unfortunately, that doesn't mean a fuel source ["throw some straw into the fire!"] but the term for the specific flavour that a well-season high temperature wok imparts to the dish.

            This is an excellent essay that also has some cooking tips:

            And here's an eGullet thread with similar info in smaller chunks:

            3 Replies
            1. re: Kris in Beijing

              " smaller chinks...."

              Paging Dr. Freud...

              1. re: ricepad

                I changed it!!
                I changed it!!

                Fat fingers disease. u IS next to i on the keyboard...

                "And here's an eGullet thread with similar info in smaller chunks:"
                was originally typed as
                And here's an eGullet thread with similar info in smaller chinks

            2. Just wanted to thank all of you for your input.

              Cornstarch and chicken stock were the key. I DO have a wok with a high BTU so heat wasn't the issue. But t never used cornstarch before when I cooked the veggies, it never released enough liquid to justify cornstarch…so I added it anyway this time, and sure enough, once you take the veggie off the heat, liquid continues to release but the cornstarch helps to keep it coagulated.

              Success! Thanks again Chowhounds!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Lynndsey Rigberg

                i love this dish. glad you got it figured out.