The third and final recipe in our wok-cooking trilogy comes from a paperback titled The Classic 1000 Chinese Recipes. Though it certainly delivers on the quantity, we found ourselves frustrated as we read through recipes in the hopes of finding one we wanted to make for the June Cookbook Challenge. The reason: this cookbook is long on recipes, but short on directions.
Because we still had half of the crab on hand that we had purchased for the spicy pork meatballs, we decided to see what Classic 1000 had that used crab. As luck would have it, there were plenty of choices. We opted for a Chinese take on that Chesapeake favorite, the crab cake, eager to see how it would differ from local favorites (like the ones at Chris’s Marketplace).
Right away, the ingredient list suggested that we were heading into very different territory. Even though these things were described as crab cakes, there were four ingredients listed before crab. More disturbing? The recipe called for as many bean sprouts (8 ounces’ worth) as crab. This would be an adventure.
We heated two tablespoons peanut oil in a wok and then stir-fried eight ounces of bean sprouts, four ounces of bamboo shoots (we used canned shoots from Harris Teeter), and one chopped onion until they had softened. Once everything was soft we pulled it from the wok and mixed it with eight ounces of crab meat, four lightly beaten eggs, one tablespoon cornstarch, and two tablespoons of soy sauce.
Heating two more tablespoons of peanut oil in a cleaned-out wok, we started cooking handfuls of the mixed ingredients that we had shaped into small cakes. Each one fried about two to three minutes on a side, after which we would flip it so it could brown on the other side. We blotted them on a paper towel and then served them hot.
Were they anything like the crab cakes we enjoy here in DC? Not really. Though they weren’t heavy or bready the way a crabcake that’s heavy on filler would be, they still had only a taste of crab that shared the stage with the bamboo shoots (a refreshing taste) and the bean sprouts (earthy). We didn’t dislike them – we actually kinda liked them, really – but we’d have some serious explaining to do if we tried to serve them to friends as crabcakes.
Sadly, I don’t think the Classic 1000 will have much opportunity to redeem itself. Too often we’d find ourselves scratching our heads as a recipe failed to include cooking times, temperatures, or other key bits of information. With the internet at our disposal (usually), there’s no reason to keep this confusing collection on the shelf.