Asian Food

Pork and Prawn Wontons with Black Vinegar and Chilli Oil

I’ve been making this recipe since I was probably about 3. Like many kids who grow up in families who love to cook, you start with the most basic of cooking skills and build from there. From mixing the filling to forming the dumplings and cooking them, it’s the first recipe I remember my mother teaching me… and probably the last one I will forget . Over time, this recipe has evolved and that’s the beauty of it; once you understand the base recipe, you can customise it to your taste. Add chilli, XO, Chinese five spice, add mushrooms to the mix, like most great Chinese recipes, they’re open to a little free will and imagination.

Boil them, steam them or fry them, they’re a sure fire crowd pleaser. Click here to watch me make them while guest playing guest host on Studio 10, Australia’s favourite breakfast television show!

Ingredients

3 stalks shallots (scallions), green part finely chopped

1/2 bunch coriander, very thoroughly washed, stalks and roots very finely chopped, reserve leaves for garnish

1 thumb sized piece ginger, finely grated

1/2 small tin water chestnuts, coarsely chopped

150g green prawn meat, coarsely chopped

500g pork mince (nothing too lean as you need the fat content to make these babies succulent)

2 tbsp Kecap Manis

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tsp ground white pepper

Salt to taste

1 packet wonton wrappers

Dressing

1 tbsp Kecap Manis

2 tbsp Chinkiang Chinese black vinegar

1 tsp Lau Gan Ma chilli flakes in oil (from any Asian grocer)

Method

In a clean mixing bowl, combine the chopped shallots, coriander, grated ginger, chopped chestnuts, prawns and pork mince. Add the seasoning ingredients and mix well to combine.

Heat a small frypan with some vegetable oil to a medium high heat and fry off a teaspoon of mixture to check the seasoning. Once you have adjusted the dumpling mixture to your liking, you’re ready to make a batch!

Assemble the wontons by filling each wonton with about one teaspoon of mixture and sealing two adjacent sides with water to form a triangle. Make sure the edges are completely sealed to avoid unfortunate explosions if you fry, and to keep all the flavour and juiciness where it should be. If you want to get fancy, wet the two longest corners of the triangle and squeeze them together to make a tortellini shape (as pictured). Continue until all the mixture has been used up (though I love using this dumpling filling recipe as meatballs, or in a stir fry, too).

Heat a pan of water and place an oiled bamboo steamer on top. Steam the dumplings for 10 minutes or until the mixture is cooked through and the pastry is tender). While the dumplings are steaming, mix the dressing ingredients to taste. Dress the wontons in a bowl and then transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with more sauce and the reserved coriander leaves. 


(sorta) Chinese Chicken Stew

Chinese chicken stew.jpg

One of my favourite places to eat in Melbourne is Dainty Sichuan Hot Pot. There is nothing much better on a cold winter's night than sitting in front of a bubbling yin yang pot of aromatic stock, dipping your favourite meats and vegetables into the boiling broth, then slurping the flavour-laden soupy goodness at the end. My go-to broth at Dainty is spicy chicken; it's chock full of numbing Sichuan pepper, herbal ginseng and a tonne of chilli. I love it so much that I decided to use it as a basis of inspiration to make my (sorta) Chinese chicken stew. It's warming, aromatic, as spicy as you like it, and with the addition of fistfuls of Asian mushrooms and tofu, it's a comforting and substantial meal that will make your house smell brilliant and your belly happy. 

The process involves roasting and then stewing. Why the extra step? More flavour, la! While it's true that you could probably throw the chicken in and cook it down without the roasting step, all those roasty chilli flavours and caramelised chicken skin give a greater depth of flavour in the overall dish, plus you kind of get two recipes for one if you stop at the roasted chicken, so what's not to love?

Ingredients

For the Chinese roast chicken part

1 large brown onion, peeled and sliced into 1.5cm rounds

1 free range, organic chicken (you get what you pay for)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 thumb sized piece ginger, smashed

4-5 cloves garlic, smashed

2 star anise

1 tablespoon chilli flakes

1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns

1 teaspoon pink peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon white pepper, ground

2 long, red chillis, chopped in half, widthways

4-5 cloves, whole

For the stew

1 thumb sized piece ginger, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 bunch coriander, trimmed and chopped (stems and leaves) - reserve some leaves for garnish

3 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon Thai fermented chilli paste (or anything with a heap of dried shrimp and chilli in it)

1 tablespoons Lau Gan Ma chilli flakes in oil

2 teaspoons kecap manis

3 cups mixed Asian mushrooms (I like a combo of black fungus, shittake, enoki and shimeji)

1/2 block firm tofu, cubed into 1.5cm pieces

Steamed rice, to serve

Method

Chinese roast chicken.jpg

Preheat an oven to 200c. In a baking tray, place the onion slices evenly in the centre, as this will act as a trivet for your chicken (as well as add flavour). Thoroughly wash the chicken, pat the skin dry with paper towel and place the chicken on top of the onions. Pour over the vegetable and sesame oils and rub the entire outside of the skin, to evenly coat. Place the ginger and one star anise in the cavity and the garlic in the roasting tray. 

Sprinkle the chilli flakes and peppers, over the chicken, rubbing all over, to evenly coat. Throw in the remaining anise, fresh chilli and cloves into the baking tray and roast for 25-30 minutes, breast side up, until the skin is golden. Flip the chicken, continue to roast for 10-15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 170c and continue to roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. You could stop here, and you'd have a pretty cracking Chinese-spiced roast chicken, but we'll crack on, shall we?

In a casserole dish or heavy based pot on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and the chopped ginger, garlic and coriander. Fry for 1 minute until aromatic, then add in the chicken stock. Once cool enough to handle, chop the chicken into pieces, discarding the central frame (leave the rest of the bones in, I think it gives the stew a better flavour but if you wish, you can remove the skin and meat from the frame and throw that in, sans bones).

Bring a kettle to the boil and pour about half a cup of boiling water into the roasting tray and use a spatula to scrape all the baked on flavours from the sides. Pour all of this spicy, chickeny goodness, along with any chunks of roasted onion and chilli, into the pot.* Place the roasted chicken pieces into the stock, along with the chilli paste (I'm obsessed with this one), chilli oil and kecap manis. Bring to the pot to a simmer, stir to combine and season to taste. After 5-10 minutes, add in the mushrooms and tofu, stir to combine, then reduce the heat and continue to simmer to reduce the stock to a thick, stewy consistency. Season to taste, then set aside to cool slightly. 

Serve with steamed rice, or if you like, mix the rice and the stew together, then serve. Garnish with fresh coriander. This will, as with any soup, stew or curry, taste better the next day. 

*This step will not only add a greater depth of flavour to your stew, but get you a head start on clean up. 

 

Beef Rendang

Everyone has at least a couple of comfort food dishes that will, without fail make you feel better when you're sad, sick or just needing the gastronomic equivalent of a hug. Many of mine are deeply connected to my family's Singaporean roots, and include things like pork and century egg congee (with plenty of crunchy, fried wonton chips on top), pork and prawn wontons...and my mum's aromatic, spice-laden, fork-tender beef rendang. 

Beef Rendang mise en place

When I moved out of home during my university days, this recipe became a much called on heirloom for when I was homesick. Despite being a very basic cook at the time, I learned that 1. Making curry paste is a lot easier than you'd think to make. 2. Fresh curry paste tastes SO MUCH better than store bought (though there is no shame in using a good one in a pinch).

Equipment-wise, you will need:
1. A blender/food processor
2. A heavy based, oven friendlysaucepan with a tight fitting lid (a cast-iron pot like a La Creuset is perfect)
 
 

 

Ingredients
Paste
1 tbs coriander seeds
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh turmeric
1 generous knob of galangal, coarsely chopped
2 red eschallots, peeled and halved
3 bird's eye chillis (de-seeded if you prefer a milder heat)
1 thumb-sized piece of young ginger, 
1/2 stalk of lemongrass, coarsely chopped
2 green shallots (scallions), topped and tailed
1 tsp white mustard seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 candlenut

The rest
500g beef oyster blade, chopped into large chunks (beef chuck, lamb neck or shanks also work)
200ml coconut cream
1 tbs kecap manis
1 medium eggplant, cut unto large chunks
                                                                                                                                         
To serve
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 kaffir lime leaf, very finely sliced (chiffonade, like this)
4-6 Brussels sprouts, finely shaved using a mandoline
Olive oil
Sea salt flakes
Fried shallots (they come in jars in the Asian aisle at the supermarket, or any Asian grocer)
Brown rice, cooked


Method
Preheat an oven to 180c. Blitz the paste ingredients in the blender until you achieve a rough paste. Add a small amount of water to the paste if it has issues combining. In a heavy based pot on a medium heat, add a slug of olive oil and stir fry the paste for 2-3 minutes, until aromatic. Stir the mixture continuously to prevent it catching on the bottom. Remove the paste from the pot and set aside while you brown the meat. 

Add a little more oil, then in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Once all the meat is browned, return all of the meat to the pot, along with the paste and stir to combine. Add in the coconut cream and ketchup manis and combine well. Bring the curry to a simmer, then season with salt and ground white pepper to taste and place the lid on the pot. Place the pot in oven and reduce the temperature to 120c for 4 hours. At the third hour, add the eggplant pieces and stir to combine, replace the lid and return to the oven. 

When the time is up, remove the pot from the oven and check the meat. The meat should be soft enough to break apart with a spoon. If the meat is still a bit tough, place back in the oven for another half hour until tender. If the meat is done, place the pot on the stove on high heat with the lid on for 15-20 minutes to thicken the sauce. Once thickened, taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary, then set aside to cool slightly.

To serve, combine the sprouts and kaffir lime leaf, then dress with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice and season with salt, to taste. Serve the curry with brown rice, the sprouts and garnish with fried shallots and a lime wedge.