Three Fried Stuffed Treasures 煎釀三寶
By Ellen L. Published: 2016-07-03If you've ever been in Hong Kong or Macau or Guangdong, you've probably run into these little snacks. These fish paste stuffed vegetable treats have evolved over the years to become a popular and long standing street side snack, usually skewered to allow you to eat the snack right there in the street. I really love these snacks and rather mourn the fact that, nowadays, they are rather hard to find done in the old-fashioned tasty way, meaning pan fried rather than deep fried. Most street vendors have them precooked and waiting around all day and then just stick it in the hot oil to heat it up after you order. Um...not too fresh, nor tasty as a matter of fact. So we decided to make our own the traditional way, stuffed and pan fried Three Stuffed Treasures 煎釀三寶, a delectable treat that celebrates the original sweet tastiness of the fresh vegetables while a stuffing of fragrant tangerine peel infused fish paste provides just the right contrast of texture and taste.
This dish originated in Shunde 順德, a region of Guangdong 廣東 that is very famous for its sophisticated food culture and top notch chefs. The original Shunde three treasures are the bitter melon 苦瓜, the eggplant 茄子, and the long chili 尖椒. Many years ago I first tried the stuffed long chili from a particular street vendor in Causeway Bay and immediately became a huge fan of the stuffed chili. Unfortunately the Hong Kong government has since successfully strangled off most of the street culture in this city and it has been a long time since I last had a stuffed long chili. Until we made them at home. They are soooo good! And I'm not a big fan of chilies. But these long chilies stuffed just so with that fragrant fish paste...ohhhh! So fresh, sweet, a bit spicy... so very yummy, period.
Buying tips: When buying chilies look for large 6-7" long chilies. Not sure exactly what the name is as there are so many kinds of chilies. Do know that if you prefer less spicy get bigger fatter chilies and if you like a bit of heat, the smaller the chili the hotter. (I think the heat level also depends on the type of chili.) For the bitter melon look for the long thin bitter melons as opposed to the fat one in the photo above (for explanation read on). For the eggplant buy the chinese eggplant which is long and thin and between 6-10 inches long and not the big american kind.
The great thing about this dish is that the fresh taste of the vegetables stands out first. You can really enjoy the unique taste of each vegetable. But just vegetables is not enough to satisfy, so the second flavor layer is that of the complex, meaty yet tender, fragrant fish paste. The fish paste is seasoned already (there's dried tangerine peel 果皮 in it!) so you really don't need any more seasoning for the vegetable.
Preparation is easy. Just wash and slice the vegetables. You'll want to slice the vegetables in such a way that each piece can be smeared with fish paste and the cooking time for all is approximately the same.
The paste traditionally used for Three Treasures is dace fish paste 鯪魚滑. Naturally, as dace fish paste also originates from Shunde. We are lucky to have found a vendor in our local Hong Kong wet market that sells pretty incredible dace fish paste that they make themselves. If you've only ever had fish paste from restaurants and street vendors, let me tell you, the fresh stuff tastes phenomenally better. I used to dislike fish paste, as a matter of fact, until I got the chance to try the fresh stuff. If you're interested in trying fresh fish paste, check out the fish vendors and the tofu vendors at your local wet market. If they make it you will see a big tub of the stuff in their display. But of course, not all fish pastes are created equal and as with any "artisanal" product, you have to explore to find out the best ones.
Of course, if you can't find dace fish paste, just go ahead and use your favorite fish or squid or shrimp paste.
The word 釀 (joeng6) in the Chinese name 煎釀三寶 for this snack means "to stuff". And thus you can see that the vegetables are indeed stuffed with the paste. A knife will help you to stuff and the stickiness of the fish paste will help it to stay with the vegetable. We had trouble with the sticking on with the bitter melon so I think it better to buy the thin long bitter melons instead of the fat ones we got. Then slice the bitter melon into rounds and stuff inside the rounds. When all your vegetables are stuffed it's time to pan fry in your non stick cast iron pan!
We used the original three treasures but you can use other vegetables if you like. Popular alternatives are bell peppers, tofu (see our Fried Stuffed Tofu post here)and Chinese red sausage. If you can, however, do try the long chilies and the eggplant. These two veggies are our family's favorites for making Three Fried Stuffed Treasures!
Three Fried Stuffed Treasures Recipes 煎釀三寶
1 large eggplant or 2 small
1 bitter melon 苦瓜
7 long chilies
14 oz dace fish paste 鯪魚滑, 400 g
1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)
Wash all vegetables. Slice eggplant at an angle (to make the slices longer) into 1/4" thick slices. Slice long chilies in half and remove seeds. Slice bitter melon into 1/4" thick rounds and remove the inside pulp and seeds, leaving only the green rind. Smear the fish paste into/onto all vegetables.
Heat up a non stick pan (we use cast iron) over medium heat, add 1 tbsp oil and add in green chilies, fish paste side down, and turn heat to low. Cook for 3-4 minutes until fish paste is a golden brown, then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Check bottom, when golden brown spots appear, remove to serving plate.
Turn heat to medium, add another tbsp of oil, then add in eggplant, fish paste side down and turn heat to low. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the fish paste is a golden brown, then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add 3 tbsp of chicken stock, cover and turn heat up to medium. When the stock boils turn down heat to low and let cook until the eggplant is cooked through. Remove to serving plate. Repeat for the bitter melon.
You can serve with dipping sauce of good soy sauce or chili sauce. Enjoy your Three Treasures!
More Sea Fresh Delights at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Pan Fried Tofu Stuffed with Fish Paste 煎釀鯔魚滑豆腐
Fragrant Pan Fried Squid Paste 香煎魷魚滑
Dried Shrimp Steamed White Rice 蝦乾蒸飯
Chinese Fried Fish Skins 炸魚皮
Chinese Pickled Yellow Mud Clam 黄泥螺