Smart friend hunts down duck-bones-based dish


POSTED: Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The best time to make today's recipe is right after you've had a nice Chinese dinner, provided you ordered roast duck and provided you were able to collect all the bones off everyone's plates.

The dish is Gai See Mein—sometimes spelled Kai See Mein—a noodle dish made with shredded chicken, bamboo shoots and mushrooms, although it may be dressed up with other veggies, shredded pork and/or ham and/or shrimp.

The goodness is in the gravy, though, and for that, you need duck bones.

My old buddy Marilyn Ige remembers the dish from the late-'70s, early-'80s, as served at a restaurant on King Street. She can't remember the name of the restaurant, but the taste of the dish is forever embedded in her brain. She'd done a lot of research, but no recipe she could find came close.

Well, the best tool you can have in this job is smart friends. Mine in the world of Hawaii-style Chinese cooking is June Tong, author of the 1989 cookbook “;Popo's Kitchen,”; now long out of print (and no, you can't borrow mine).

Tong remembers the dish being a specialty of Lau Yee Chai and popular at many restaurants a generation ago. She took a day to think about it, then called back with a recipe reconstructed from memories of her family's version of the dish. Marilyn and I both made it—she says it's very close and she's going to keep tinkering with it. I thought it was delicious as is.

Tong says you can use any type of cooked chicken—a supermarket rotisserie bird is fine, or leftovers from KFC. The key is the gravy with its base of duck bones simmered in chicken broth. This is how she makes all her chow mein dishes. “;If the gravy is good,”; she says, “;you know the noodles will be good.”;

Gai See Mein

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 pounds Hong Kong chow mein noodles
1-1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup slivered ham
Diced green onion and cilantro leaves, for garnish
» Vegetables:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1/2 pound string beans
1 8-ounce can bamboo shoot strips
1 10-ounce bag bean sprouts

Pinch salt

» Gravy:
2 14-ounce cans chicken broth
Bones from 1/2 roast duck
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water, squeezed dry and slivered
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/4 cup cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

To make gravy: Bring broth to boil. Add duck bones, mushrooms, salt and oyster sauce. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Remove bones. Thicken with cornstarch mixture.

To prepare noodles: Heat oil in wok or skillet. Pan-fry noodles until slightly crisp. Remove noodles.

To prepare vegetables: Heat oil in same wok. Stir-fry vegetables until tender-crisp, adding bean sprouts last. Season with pinch of salt.

Combine noodles, vegetables, chicken and ham. Pour hot broth over all. Garnish with green onions and cilantro.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving (not including salt to taste): 500 calories, 17 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 650 mg sodium, 66 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 23 g protein.

Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).