Taro Nest

Taro Nest

Taro nest is a Indo-Chinese dish. Once it appears on the table, it disappears with lightning speed because it is just that tasty.

Growing up, my absolute favourite cuisine for eating out was Indo-Chinese dishes. So, what is Indo-Chinese exactly? It is Chinese food adapted to Indian tastes, or marriage of Chinese ingredients like soy sauce and vinegar with garlic, ginger, and chilli. Indo-Chinese cuisine originated in India and is a uniquely South Asian phenomenon, drastically different from the Cantonese Chinese cuisine available in the rest of the world. 

The most popular vegetarian Indo-Chinese dishes are vegetable manchurian, hakka noodles, chilli paneer, American chopsuey and fried rice amongst a whole array of other dishes.

I have distinct memory of eating ‘taro nest’ at a Chinese restaurant maybe 25-30 years ago. I had gone out for Indo-Chinese dinner with my family and we ordered ‘Taro nest’ as it was a new dish on the menu at our favourite Chinese restaurant. It was so delicious that we went back quite a few times just for this dish.

I taught this dish to an old friend few years ago for a special event and it was a huge success. Although our friendship has parted ways this dish holds a special place in my heart owing to the beautiful memories of time spent with my family while relishing this dish and also of the day I spent teaching this dish to an old friend.

Traditionally in China, grated ‘taro’ is formed into nests, deep fried to a delicious crisp and used as the base for fillings. I had eaten it with noodles hence I have used noodles as the base for the nest.

Ingredients

150 gm medium noodles
3 tablespoons cornflour
2/3 cup diced baby corn
2/3 cup diced carrots
2/3 cup diced peppers
2/3 cup bamboo shoots
2/3 cup diced onion
2/3 cup fine beans
1 cup quartered mushrooms
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
3 tablespoons sesame seeds oil
1 ½ tablespoons ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
2 tablespoons green chillies paste
Salt to taste
Oil for frying
1 ½ cups water/vegetable stock

For Sauce
2 tablespoons dark soya sauce
1 teaspoon vinegar
1-2 teaspoon chilli sauce
½ teaspoon black pepper powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1-2 tablespoons cornflour slurry

Directions

Step-1

Boil noodles as per the instructions of the packet. Drain in a colander and then spread it out in a tray to cool.

Step-2

Once noodles are dry and cooled down, add 3 tablespoons cornflour, and coat the noodles evenly and leave aside.

Step-3

Mix black pepper powder, sugar, vinegar, soya sauce and chilli sauce. Keep it aside.

Step-4

Heat oil for frying. Take 2 sieves making sure they fit on top of one another. Dip them in the oil to grease them.

Put a layer of boiled noodles on the sieve making sure it is not too thick. Place the other sieve on top and cut the extra overhanging noodles using scissors.

Step-5

Once oil is hot gently place the double sieve in the oil to fry the noodles. Keep rotating the sieve, so that the noodles are fried from all sides evenly. It takes approximately 8-9 minutes to fry them till golden brown.

Step-6

Take the top sieve off carefully. If some noodles are stuck, you can use scissors to cut them off.

Gently pull the noodles nest out from the second sieve and leave it aside. If the nest is not coming out with some gentle push, then it might need some more cooking. Drain the nest on an absorbent paper.

Step-7

Heat oil in a wok and add the ginger, garlic and chilli paste and sauté for couple of minutes.

Step-8

Add the diced carrots and baby corn and sauté for 1 minute.

Next add the other vegetables and salt and cook on high heat for 2-3 minutes.

Step-9

Add 1½ cups water/vegetable stock and let it boil. Add the prepared sauce and gently mix. Add the cornflour slurry and cook for another minute while the sauce thickens.

Add the finely chopped spring onions and mix.

Step-10

Gently fill each taro nest with the vegetables, garnish with spring onions and serve hot.

Tips & Variations

  1. You can use any noodles for this dish. I would recommend using medium sized noodles.
  2. The vegetables are diced in approximately 2cm dices. You can add other vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, sugar snaps, Chinese cabbage and tofu. I usually think 5-7 vegetables is a good number of vegetables while making this dish.
  3. I have used sesame oil in this recipe as it adds nutty flavour to this dish. It also enhances the flavour and gives a rich aroma to the dish. You can also use chilli oil or any other vegetable oil.
  4. I have used a Chinese wok to cook the vegetables as it helps in quick cooking of the vegetables, however you can use any thin bottom pan.
  5. If you want to make it spicy simply increase the amount of chilli sauce or the amount of green chilli. Or if you do not like spicy you can reduce the amount of chilli too.
  6. Make sure to cook the vegetables on high heat as it keeps the vegetables crunchy and fresh.
  7. I have used dark soya however you can use light soya sauce. Sometimes I add a teaspoon of hoisin sauce too as it adds a lovely umami flavour to the dish. So, if you have it in your pantry do use it.
  8. Instead of water you can use vegetable stock while making the sauce.
  9. It is best served immediately otherwise the noodles will begin to get soggy.
  10. If celery is available, you can use 2 tablespoons of finely chopped celery while frying the chilli, garlic and ginger for the sauce. I have not used it in this recipe as I did not have celery at home.
  11. The temperature of frying should not be too high or low. If you fry on high heat, noodles will be cooked from outside but uncooked from inside and if fried on low heat then they will absorb more oil. Always fry the noodles on medium-high heat.
  12. While mixing corn flour in water, take care there should be no lumps in it.
  13. Always use cold water to mix in the corn flour.
  14. To adjust the consistency of the sauce you can use corn flour slurry or hot water. If it is too thin add some more corn flour slurry. If it is too thick add some warm water.
  15. If the sauce taste too sharp you can add half a teaspoon of sugar to balance the flavour. Like I said earlier, taste the sauce and balance it according to your taste. I use the exact proportions as given in my recipe and do not have to make any changes.
  16. I have in the recipe the proportions of the ingredients that I use while making the sauce. You might want to tweak them slightly to your taste. If you think a little more depth and saltiness is needed, add some more soya. If you want more tang, add another splosh of the vinegar. Go with your taste buds!
  17. Taro Nest are best served immediately otherwise the noodles will begin to get soggy.

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