Pillbox

Make stir-fry, not jack-o’-lanterns

Slice the pumpkin into thick pieces. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Slice the pumpkin into thick pieces. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Drizzle Asian sauces over the pumpkin slices and mix well. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Drizzle Asian sauces over the pumpkin slices and mix well. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Serve the stir-fried pumpkin and fried egg warm with rice. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Serve the stir-fried pumpkin and fried egg warm with rice. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Add the sauce-coated pumpkin to the fried garlic in a pan. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff) Add the sauce-coated pumpkin to the fried garlic in a pan. (credit: Hannah Rosen | Photo Staff)

Halloween is all about tricks, and stir-fried pumpkin with egg is a tricky dish. Parents make this to trick their children into eating vegetables. Some mothers put this dish on the table to get their children over their fear of vegetables. But, no matter what it is used for, stir-fried pumpkin is a recipe that looks at the iconic Halloween vegetable in a non-sweet way.

Ingredients:
A generous amount of minced garlic
A tablespoon of neutral-tasting oil like peanut, grape seed, olive, or corn oil
Japanese pumpkin
Salt or soy sauce, fish sauce, Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce
A pinch of sugar
Egg (optional)

The easiest way to peel a clove of garlic, if you’re not using the whole vegetable or the sliced form, is to smash it with the side of the blade of a chef or Santoku knife, parallel to the surface of the board. Place the knife on top of the garlic, and with the other hand exert a significant force on the knife. The skin should separate naturally from the garlic. Once you’ve done this, you can mince the garlic.

For most cooking, I don’t mind if the pieces of garlic are of different sizes. Some food authorities might say that if the garlic is not evenly minced, some pieces might burn before others get brown. But I just cook until the smaller pieces start to brown and bigger ones are not so cooked. This way, you get a better depth of flavor with sweeter, cooked garlic and a more pungent aroma.

Slice the pumpkin into 1/8-inch thick pieces that are about 2 inches long. For Japanese pumpkin, I leave the green skin on. It’s easier not to peel the pumpkin; the dish looks prettier this way and it adds to the taste.

You can only season the pumpkin with salt, and for this reason, it’s better to get a local pumpkin from the farmer’s market, as, chances are, the flavor of pumpkin is better.

Of course, if you are stuck with a pumpkin from the supermarket, go with a heavy seasoning of soy, fish, oyster, and Hoisin sauce. For a regular serving size, start with a teaspoon of everything and give it a taste. If it’s too bland, add either Hoisin or oyster sauce, as they are not as salty as fish and soy sauce.

It is easier to put all the sauces on the raw pumpkin using the same bowl in which you prepared the pumpkin, or using the cutting board.

On medium to high heat, heat the oil in a wok, a pan, or a pot. When the oil starts to bubble, throw in the minced garlic and keep stirring, as you want to evenly heat the garlic. Once you start to smell the garlic, throw in the whole pumpkin mixed with the sauces. Stir so that everything is mixed well, add two tablespoons or 1/4 cup of water, and close the lid of the pot.

If you are using a pan, use more water, as it has a larger surface area. If you don’t have a lid, you can put aluminum foil over your vessel and crimp the edges with a cloth.

The steam will cook the pumpkin, and its color will darken as it becomes a little transparent. If the pumpkin is too dry, add a little bit of water to it.

If you want to add egg, do it right before the pumpkin is cooked. Turn up the heat on the stove, push the pumpkin to the side of your pot, and add another tablespoon of oil. Crack an egg or two between the pumpkin mixture and break the yolk. Let the egg sit until it is cooked and then stir it in with the rest of the pumpkin.

Enjoy this dish with rice, or eat as a side dish with any Western, meat-based meal. You can serve it next to broiled T-bone steak (then skip the Asian sauce and use the salt instead), stir in with cooked pasta, or have it with Thanksgiving turkey.