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Similar to red-braising (紅燒 hóngshāo)—the Shanghainese technique of slowly cooking in a flavorful concoction of ingredients like soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar—smother-braising (燜 mèn) is simpler and shorter and often relies on more delicate, lighter-colored condiments. In this braised winter squash recipe, the technique allows the vegetable’s beautiful orange hue to shine through.
In this dish, from cookbook author Hannah Che, winter squash’s natural sweetness is complemented by salty, savory fermented black beans. The squash cooks until buttery and tender, on the verge of falling apart. Che suggests seeking out kabocha squash, which has a velvety, starchy softness and flavor reminiscent of roasted chestnut, but any firm-fleshed winter squash, like red kuri, butternut, or Hubbard, will also work.
Adapted with permission from The Vegan Chinese Kitchen by Hannah Che © 2022. Photographs by Hannah Che. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
- One 1-lb. winter squash
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 4–5 dried Tianjin or Sichuan chiles, snipped into ½-inch pieces and seeds shaken out
- 1 Tbsp. fermented black beans, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 cup unsalted vegetable stock of any kind, or water
- 1 tsp. sugar, plus more as needed
- ½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
- ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
- Pinch freshly ground white pepper
- 1 scallion, green part only, thinly sliced