This is a versatile one: It can be served as a complementary side—perhaps a softening yin component to more robust yang dishes. Or you can think of it as a starchy base to your meal. I love eating it over white rice, sometimes with a fried egg and chile oil. There are no rules for how to eat it. Similarly, when it comes to cooking it, you can follow this recipe to have a more al dente texture to the potatoes. Or you can continue cooking them, adding more water as needed, for a softer, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
- Peel the potatoes. Cut in halves and place the flat, cut side down on the board. Slice thinly and evenly along its length, making half-discs about 1/8" thick. Pile a few of them up, and slice again into matchsticks of the same thickness. (Alternately, you can use a mandoline with a shredding attachment.) Repeat with the rest of the potatoes and set aside.
- Peel and slice the ginger into discs of about 1/8" thick. Stack up and slice into matchsticks.
- Heat the oil in a large, wide saucepan, chef's pan, or well-seasoned wok. Spread the oil all around the sides and reduce to a medium-low temperature. Add the ginger and heat till just fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the potatoes along with a generous pinch of salt and stir. Continue to stir frequently for 1-2 minutes, being careful not to brown the potatoes or allow them to stick (add extra oil if needed). Then pour in 2 cups of water.
- Stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are more translucent and just soft enough to eat (timing will depend on how thinly or evenly they've been sliced). Add more water as you go along if needed, and keep stirring occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom. Use a soft spatula to prevent the potato sticks from breaking. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. The water should be nearly all reduced.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the scallions. Serve as part of a multicourse meal with rice.
Cathy Erway is the author of the cookbook The Food of Taiwan and the memoir The Art of Eating In. She hosts the podcasts Self Evident, exploring Asian American stories, and Eat Your Words on Heritage Radio Network, and blogs at Not Eating Out in New York.