Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chinese medley

It's been a while since I posted some recipes, despite alot of cooking going on in the Planethalder household. On Monday, M made Singapore prawn and noodle laksa. On Tuesday, I made Ken Hom's Rainbow Vegetables With Curry. American-born of Chinese origin, Ken Hom needs no introduction. I grew up on his recipes and he was the first celebrity chef I came across on TV along with Madhur Jaffrey. I always delighted in seeing his handsome, grinning face on the screen. According to a recent interview in the FT, he now seems to have considerably downsized and is living in Bangkok.
  • Roughly chop a mixture of carrots, Chinese cabbage, baby aubergines, daikon or mooli, pak choi or gai lan greens, red pepper and spring onions enough for two and set aside.

  • In a saucepan large enough to eventually accomodate the chopped vegetables, fry a chopped onion with an inch of fresh ginger slivers in sunflower oil for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.

  • In a small bowl, mix together a heaped tablespoon of mild Madras curry powder with a tablespoon each of oil and hot water, stirring into a paste and adding a little more water as necessary.

  • Stir the curry paste in with the onion and ginger mixture and fry on a medium heat. Mix in a small 250 ml tin of coconut milk, a teaspoon of red chilli flakes, a teaspoon of sugar, a pinch only of salt, 1.5 tablespoons of Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil.

  • As the curry mixture is simmering, fry all the vegetables in a hot wok with a little sunflower oil for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Then transfer the vegetables to the saucepan and stir the vegetables in with the curry sauce. Put the lid on and leave simmering for 10 minutes.

  • Serve with Basmati or jasmine rice with a handful of chopped coriander leaves on top.

Last night, M made Fuchsia Dunlop's Numbing-And-Hot Chicken. Dunlop is a fascinating woman who has travelled extensively around the Hunan province of Southern China collecting vibrant recipes studded with bold red chillis and numbing Sichuan peppers. During the mid-90s, she was the first westerner to study fulltime in the province's famous cooking school, the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine, in the Sichuanese capital Chengdu. Fluent in Chinese, she spent her spare time exploring the kitchens of the region's restaurants and of her friends, as well as food stalls and markets. Do buy her book, because it gives a wonderful sense of the smells and sights of Chairman Mao's home region.
  • Cut enough chicken meat for two into cubes and marinade in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing rice wine, 1.5 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of potato flour mixed with a tablespoon of cold water.

  • Slice a red pepper into slivers and three spring onions on the diagonal. Crush 1 teaspoon of whole Sichuan pepper in a pestle and mortar. Set aside.

  • In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of clear rice vinegar, 0.5 teaspoon of potato flour and 3 tablespoons of chicken stock and set aside.

  • Heat some groundnut oil in a wok, fry the chicken and set aside. Add 1 teaspoon of red chilli flakes, the spring onions and the Sichuan peppers until they are fragrant then stir in the chicken again. Tip the sauce into the wok and stir briskly as the sauce thickens.

  • Turn off the heat, stir in a teaspoon of sesame oil and serve with jasmine rice and steamed baby aubergines and steamed greens, for example pak choi or gai lan.
It must sound quite labourious to be cooking such meals on a weeknight, but it honestly isn't. It helps that we've stocked our shelves with the essential basic ingredients such as rice wine, rice vinegar, potato starch, Sichuan peppers and the like. It helps that I work so close to Chinatown that popping out for ingredients takes 10 minutes. It helps that we cook so much Asian food that we're used to it now. It's all become quite effortless. Yes, it means we eat at 9 or even, on a bad day, 10, but hell, food is our hobby so it's always worth it for us.


Broom said...

looks DELICIOUS! Feel free to invite me to dinner.

Silent One said...

second and third broom :))
looks lovely.. will try the vegetarian one.

Planethalder said...

Thanks girls. Actually, the spices used in the chicken recipe works equally well in a vegetarian dish - we ate Sichuan vegetables in Chinatown over the weekend.