Woohooo! Ngaku chips in d' house! lol. Finding the arrowhead here in the Chinese grocer would be the biggest discovery I have had so far in terms of my grocery shopping experience here where we live. Not exactly those large and pretty ones that often come sold in bulk with the stock replenished just so often back in Malaysia, those sold here came in a very limited quantity. So yea, they come and go in a snap! But hey, it's ngaku in Michigan! And that gets translated to some ngaku chips at home! Plus it's technically Chinese New Year still! They collectively make quite good a picture on the whole, do they not? lol. Contented with the only option I have got, I got myself about 2lbs of those. Happy happy me!
Ngaku 芽菇 or chiku 慈菇 in Chinese and arrowhead in English, these are seasonal starchy tubers with a natural hint of sweetness in them. With a texture very similar to potatoes, probably just a little grainier, they make a real good candidate for chips. Their existence in the market and especially during the Chinese New Year wasn't made known to me until I was in my teens when mom bought home a canister of the ngaku chips and got us all addicted to the chips lol. It was such an immediate hit! But they sure didn't come cheap. Soon mom started making her own having gotten plenty of tips from all the housewives and homemakers friends of hers in the wet market she frequents.
A real simple recipe with just the ngaku, some salt and enough cooking oil for deep frying, the challenging parts about making the ngaku chips lie in getting them evenly and thinly sliced and frying them to perfection with the right heat. Slicing has surely been made easy with the use of a good mandoline these days. But time consuming it still is nonetheless. As with the frying, patience will be all you need apart from getting just the right heat. Applying the same rules of thumb with all the deep frying delicacies, using too low a heat and you'll turn them into chips laden with oil; too high and you will get chips with burnt rims and the center of the chips mostly undone in the end. But once that gets under control, everything else should come easy.
Ngaku (Arrowhead) Chips 炸芽菇饼
Makes enough chips to fill a 64oz cookie canister
1/4 tsp salt
enough cooking oil for deep frying
1. Working on a ngaku at a time, trim off a thin layer at the bottom end of the ngaku until you get a clean and smooth surface.
2. Leaving the stalk intact, peel the ngakus using a peeler or a small paring knife.
3. Give the ngakus a good rinse, drain and leave to dry on a plate lined with paper towels.
4. Using a mandoline, slice the ngaku thinly and evenly. This is when the stalk comes in handy. Hold on to it while you carefully slice it against the mandoline.
5. Heat up the wok with enough cooking oil for deep frying on a medium heat. Make sure it is well heated. I have it tested by dipping a wooden chopstick into the pool of oil. If a stream of mini bubbles can be seen emerging from the end of the chopstick, the oil is ready. Give it a couple minutes more otherwise. Scatter in the salt.
6. Drop in the ngaku slices straight down the center of the wok, one piece at a time. The ngaku will appear to sink right to the bottom of the wok before getting afloat. Working in small batches, bring in just enough slices to form a single layer of ngaku each time.
7. Let fry undisturbed. Notice how the bubbles surrounding each slice of ngaku lessen with time. The ngaku is ready to be picked up and removed from heat once the bubbling has ceased completely.
8. Transfer to a tray lined with layers of paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the ngakus.
9. Let cool completely and store the ngaku chips in air-tight containers.