Da Lu MeinRecently, I went on a food-shopping treasure hunt at Kalustyan’s, where I bought many fantastic ingredients that I’ve never used before. One exotic item was a package of dried lily flowers. It turns out these will last a long time in your refrigerator and need only be rehydrated (overnight) to be used in any recipe. My familiarity with using dried mushrooms eased me into these. I found a recipe for a Chinese shrimp/pork/noodle dish called “Da Lu Mein” from Omnivore’s Cookbook, which did indeed incorporate dried mushrooms as well.

I soaked the stinky dried shiitakes for an hour. The potent marinating water from both the lily buds and the mushrooms were later poured into the gravy pan. I needed 3 tsp. salt added to that.

It was easy enough to marinate the shrimp and the pork for 20 minutes, in their Shaoxing wine and cornstarch slurries. (I had a leftover chunk of pork in my freezer that was easy to use, here.)

I was thrown by the inclusion of a tomato, but it turned out fine. Whisking in the cornstarch blend at the end made a thick gravy that was nice to slurp. I served this over rice noodles. How did the lily flowers taste? Woody, mushroomy, familiar. We were good.

Long Bean SaladSpeaking of rice noodles…I soaked them in the same pot of boiled water, after blanching 12 oz. of green beans for a “Long Bean Salad.” This recipe, from the July 2014 issue of Bön Appetit, allowed me to get some green veggies on my table too.

There was no way I was going to turn on the oven in order to roast 1/2 cup of coconut flakes. The job was aptly done in a dry frying pan on my stove top. Another shortcut: I wilted my watercress in a bowl in the microwave. Easy.

The toasted coconut was part of a list of cute ingredients: fish sauce, coconut sugar, lime zest, peanuts. Notice how no salt is mentioned (I was a bit nervous). But you know what? The funk of the fish sauce did all the right things.

This dish sure was addictive.

Tomato (1) = $1.35
Green Beans (12 oz.) = .66¢

PREP TIMES: overnight soak for lily flowers, hour soak for mushrooms, 20-minute marination for meats, quick stir fry and gravy; green beans blanch in 4 minutes, then are simply mixed with everything else
TASTES: thick mushroomy gravy and funky green beans

Next time, I’ll show you what rhubarb has motivated me to bake: the “Rhubarb Almond Polenta Cake” from Dunk & Crumble. Come back to my site next week, to see this one.