Chinese

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. 


Sticky Rice Lotus Parcels aka. Lo Mai Gai

Lo Mai Gai Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaves

I grew up going to Yum Cha every Sunday as a kid. Growing up in the very Anglo suburbs of Sydney, it was one of the traditions we had during the week where I felt we connected to our Chinese culture - unsurprisingly, it’s always about food. One of my favourite dishes is this one, little packages of sticky, fragrant lotus-scented rice, and succulent chicken and all kinds of other savoury, umami goodies packed within. Mum used to buy a few extra so we could take them to school, obviously I was THAT kid with the weird lunches (and proud of it, to this day).

Moving to Melbourne recently, the amount of Chinese grocers that stock these to take home and steam yourself are fewer and far between than Sydney, so I decided to learn how to make them myself. There are a heap of great recipes out there, and this one is an amalgam of a couple of the best, with a few amends of my own. These are great to make in a batch to store in the freezer, the perfect little savoury parcel of comfort food…and I can definitely vouch for the fact that they make a sustainably-packaged lunchbox all star.

For ingredients like dried lotus leaves, glutinous rice and any condiments your local supermarket doesn’t have (these days, the Asian grocery aisle is packed full of the staples you need), you can find them at any good Asian grocery store.

Makes about 8 parcels

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups glutinous rice

4 dried lotus leaves

6 dried shiitake mushrooms

1/4 cup dried shrimp

For the marinated chicken

2 chicken thighs

1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (available in the Asian grocery aisle at the supermarket)

1 tbsp light soy

1 tbsp dark soy

1 tbsp oyster sauce

1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder

The rest

1 thumb sized piece ginger, finely sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 heaped tbsp mushroom XO

2 lap cheong (cured Chinese sausage, found in the Asian aisle at most supermarkets), sliced into 1cm pieces

Sesame oil

For the seasoning sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

1 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tsp light soy

1 tbsp cornstarch

Vegetable oil

Salt flakes

White pepper, ground

Method

Rinse the rice thoroughly and then place in a rice cooker and cover with one knuckle of water, cover and cook. Cut the lotus leaves in quarters and soak in hot water for about 45 minutes, to soften. Soak the mushrooms and shrimp in separate bowls for half an hour in warm water. While the rice, leaves, mushrooms and shrimp are doing their thing, cut the chicken thighs into cubes, around 3cm. Place in a clean bowl and add the rice wine, soy sauces, oyster sauce and five spice and stir thoroughly, to combine. Set aside to marinate for 15-20 minutes. When the mushrooms and shrimp are soft, squeeze any excess moisture from them and give them a rough chop. Reserve about a cup of the combined mushroom/shrimp soaking water for later.

In a heavy based pan or wok on medium to high heat. Add about a teaspoon of vegetable oil, then add the chopped lap cheong and shrimp. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and bubbling, then remove from pan and set aside. Add another good slug of vegetable oil to the pan, then add the ginger and garlic, and stir fry briefly, to allow the flavours to infuse into the oil. Add the chicken and stir fry for 3 minutes (it will be ‘just’ cooked for now, but they will finish cooking once steamed in their parcels). Add the mushroom XO and a few drops of sesame oil, then stir to combine, then pour in the cup of reserved mushroom/shrimp water. Add the seasoning sauce ingredients; shaoxing, oyster and soy sauces, and stir to combine. Dissolve the cornstarch in a tablespoon of water and whisk into the sauce, to thicken. Add the lap cheong and shrimp mixture back to the pan, season with white pepper to taste and set aside (the mixture should be salty enough from the sauces).

Next, prepare the rice. Drain the sauce from the filling mixture and pour it into the rice, combine well.

When ready to assemble, trim the hard stem part of the lotus leaves to allow the parcels to fold easily. Place about a third of a cup or so of rice into the centre and flatten out to make a bed for your filling. Place a spoonful of the filling on top. Cover with about the same amount of rice, then fold in the two opposite sides of the parcel, then the other two, to form a sealed parcel. Flip over, so the edges are underneath, and set aside. Continue until all parcels are made; you should be able to make about 8 or so parcels or more, if you go smaller.

Steam the parcels for 20 minutes in a bamboo steamer, and they’re ready to eat! You can also cool them after steaming and store them in the freezer. Throw them straight into a steamer straight from frozen for 20-25 minutes when you’re ready to eat.



Chinese-style Egg White Omelette with Prawns, Chilli and Mushroom Floss

Chinese Eggwhite Omelette with Prawn, Caviar and Mushroom Floss

I fell back in love with egg white omelettes recently because there are only so many meringues you can make when the yolks are being used for custard or mayo (hellooooo holiday season!). The upside is, that egg whites are high in protein, low in fat and make for some super fluffy omelettes and scrambles aside, if you don’t want to head to Pavlova Town.

This recipe was inspired by an amazing brunch dish served by the very talented chef duo of Jemma Whiteman and Mike Eggert at their restaurant pop up Pinbone in Sydney’s Woollahra; a light, yet complex and indulgent combo of Chinese-style omelette - golden and crunchy on the edges and base, fluffy and cloud-like on top; capped with prawns, mushroom floss (more on this later), and because I was feeling extra, some Yarra Valley golden caviar as well.

Despite looking fancy, it’s actually a very quick and simple dish to make; and a total winner on your next brunch table. Perfect on its own, but also fantastic with a bowl of steamed rice on the side.

Ingredients

Serves 2 as a decent breakfast, or 4 as part of a brunch meal.

1/2 long red chilli, finely sliced

1 thumb sized piece of ginger, smashed

1 garlic clove, smashed

6 -8 large king prawns, peeled, deveined and halved lengthways.

1 shallot (scallion), green part finely sliced

4 egg whites

Mushroom floss (a flavour bomb of umami, made by dehydrating mushrooms - there are also meat versions available at most Asian grocers; pork floss being the most commonly available). This is a garnish and not completely necessary, though highly recommended.

Trout roe (again, not crucial, but it amps up the luxe factor)

Vegetable oil

Salt

White Pepper, finely ground

Method

Heat a small, non stick frying pan to a medium-high heat. Once hot, and add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and the chillis. Fry for around a minute, then remove the chillis from the pan and set aside. Add a little more oil to the pan, then throw in the ginger and garlic, and stir fry for a minute, to allow their flavours to infuse the oil. Add in the prawn meat, allowing it to lightly colour before flipping. Cook for about 2 minutes, until they’re almost fully opaque, but not quite- you don’t want them cooked all the way through, as they will continue to cook once placed in the omelette. Remove the prawns, and set aside. Discard the garlic and ginger. Remove the pan from heat for a moment.

In a blender, place the egg whites, a good pinch of salt and white pepper and blitz for about 30 seconds, until frothy. Going back to the stove, place the frying pan on medium high heat. Once hot, add a generous slug of vegetable oil. This is what will make the edges go golden and crispy, so don’t be afraid to use more than you think you should (this dish is very low in fat, you can stand to use a little more oil in the cooking for the right result). Once the oil starts to shimmer, carefully pour in the egg whites. The edges should start to bubble crisp. You can use a spatula to loosen the edges if you get a little paranoid of sticking.

Once the omelette is almost set in the middle, gently arrange the prawns on top. Allow the omelette to set for another 30 seconds or so (you don’t want it to be fully cooked solid). Using a spatula, gently ease the omelette onto a serving plate. Garnish with the spring onions, the fried chili, mushroom floss and caviar. Add a few drops of olive oil and an extra pinch of salt flakes to finish, and serve immediately.

A Vegan Chinese Hot Pot

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Ok, so by now we all know that even the most dedicated of meat eaters should probably eat a few more vegetables...not only for health, but also for sustainability of agriculture. That aside, they're bloody delicious when treated with a little love. Here's probably the simplest recipe I've ever posted, it's a Chinese-style hot pot that's full of flavour, texture and is super good for you as well, lots of protein, healthy carbohydrates and good fats to keep you full. 

Serves 1 hungry person or 2 as part of a meal

Ingredients

1/2 small brown onion, finely sliced

1/4 large sweet potato, washed and chopped into 1 inch cubes*

1 heaped tablespoon, mushroom XO sauce (from the Asian grocery aisle at most supermarkets)

100g firm tofu, chopped into 1 inch cubes (about a third of a packet, as a guide)

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1 handful fresh green or butter beans, trimmed

2 tablespoons pickled mushrooms (optional)

1-2 sprigs green peppercorns (you could use a teaspoon of dried Sichuan peppercorns instead)

Method

Preheat an oven to 200c. In a heavy based frying pan on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil with the onions and stir fry for 1-2 minutes until translucent. Throw in the sweet potato and turn up the heat to lightly brown the edges of the sweet potato for 2-3 minutes. Add the XO and turn down the heat, coating everything evenly. Throw in the tofu and gently stir to combine. Add a pinch of salt flakes and the stock and bring the hot pot to a simmer. Add the beans, pickled mushrooms and peppercorns, stir briefly to combine season, to taste.

Pour the hot pot into a small cast iron dish or any heavy casserole pot that 'just' fits the ingredients (you don't want a heap of space, because you want the liquid to bubble, not evaporate completely). If it's looking a little dry, top with more stock but do not cover completely. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden and the liquid has reduced to a sauce consistency. Carefully remove and set aside until cool enough to serve. Serve with brown rice, noodles or a super fresh cabbage salad.  

*Basically, you want everything to be roughly the same size so everything cooks evenly. Bite-sized pieces are roughly what you want to go for!

Chicken, Ginger, Sweetcorn & Egg Drop Soup

As seen on Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield Season 8

As seen on Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield Season 8

There are certain dishes you need to learn when you move out of home and start cooking for yourself. I would highly advise 1. A good hangover cure (mine's a 3 cheese toastie with heaps of black pepper and Dijon mustard), 2. Something to impress any guest (a cracking roast chicken is a solid submission), 3. A mid-week no-brainer (my braised lentils with bacon as seen in Good Food)...and 4. A sick-remedy cure-all. 

While I've painstakingly perfected my Jewish Chicken Soup, I've evolved my mum's chicken and sweetcorn soup over the years for maximum ease (handy when you're the sick patient in question), speed (takes about 15 minutes all up) and deliciousness (even less than that to slurp down). It is, also ideal as a quick and healthy snack even if you're not ailing. 

Watch the how-to below!

Makes 4 serves

Ingredients

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock (bonus points if you make it yourself!)

4 chicken thighs, skin off

1 thumb sized knob of ginger, peeled and finely sliced

1 x 410g tin creamed corn

1 x 125g tin corn kernels

1 egg, lightly whisked

Sea salt flakes

White pepper

1 stalk spring onion (scallion), finely chopped into rounds

Sesame oil

Method

In a large pot, add the stock and ginger, then bring to a boil. Carefully add the chicken thighs and simmer for 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Carefully remove the thighs and allow to cool slightly before handling, then coarsely chop, or shred the meat. Return the chicken pieces to the stock, then add the creamed corn and corn kernels. Bring the soup back to the boil and when it has reached a rolling boil, slowly pour in the egg mixture a little ribbon at a time, gently stirring through the soup as you go (the egg flowers will form while gently moving around the soup - too slow and you'll have a rubbery clump, too fast and you'll just have a cloudy soup). Continue until all the egg is poured into the soup. Season to taste with salt and white pepper, then remove the soup from heat to cool slightly before serving.

To serve, garnish with more white pepper, a few drops of sesame oil and the chopped spring onions. Feel the life flooding back into your body!

Dan Dan Noodles

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I truly believe I have a separate stomach for dumplings and noodles. Not so much for cake, but definitely for savoury things of the Asian persuasion. One of my favourite quick lunches in Melbourne is Le Ho Fook's take on Dan Dan Noodles...a dish from Sichuan origins, with a recipe that is notoriously fought over for whose is better and/or more authentic. This is by no means the most legit version you will find out there, but it's a faithful enough representation that's easy to pull off at home without too much trouble, with delicious results. Enjoy! 

Ingredients:

Noodle sauce

3 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp light soy

1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar

2 tbsp Lao Gan Ma chilli flakes in oil

1 tbsp Mushroom XO sauce

1 bird's eye chilli, finely chopped

2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and blitzed

1 tbsp mild chilli flakes

1/2 tsp Japanese togarishi powder

1/2 tsp ground white pepper

Castor sugar, to taste

125ml chicken or vegetable stock, added as needed

Seasoned mince

1 large thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

500g pork mince (not too lean!)

2 tbsp Shaoxing Chinese cooking wine

1 tbsp dark soy

3-4 tbsp ya cai (Sichuan pickles, from Asian grocers and regular supermarkets), finely chopped

The rest

Guan Miao dried noodles (or fresh medium width lo mien noodles, from Asian grocers)

1 bunch bok choy, blanched and refreshed

2-3 stalks spring onion (scallions), finely chopped into trounds

1 small Lebanese cucumber, julienned

Japanese togarashi powder

For the noodle sauce, combine all ingredients except for the stock and mix well. Add the stock, a  little at a time, until you reach a smooth, spoon-coating texture (like runny honey). Season to taste with sugar, salt or chilli, but it should be spicy and numbing. 

For the mince, add vegetable oil, ginger and garlic to a pan on medium high heat and continually move the ginger and garlic around to minimise it sticking to the pan. Once fragrant (about 1 minute), add the mince and brown in batches if necessary. Add Shaoxing wine and soy and season to taste. Transfer the mince to a bowl and stir fry the pickles in a little more vegetable oil for 1-2 minutes. Combine with the mince and set aside to cool. 

When ready to eat, bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the noodles. Cook until al dente, then drain and refresh in cold water. Transfer to a large bowl and spoon over enough noodle dressing to coat the noodles. Transfer into bowls and add the blanched bok choy. Top with the mince and garnish with the spring onions, cucumber, togarashi...you can add some fried shallots or peanuts for extra crunch, too.


 

Fast and Furious Raid-The-Fridge Leftovers Fried Rice

As seen on Channel 10's The Cook's Pantry with chef Matt Sinclair

As seen on Channel 10's The Cook's Pantry with chef Matt Sinclair

Nobody in the history or cooking rice, ever makes exactly the amount they need. There are always leftovers, which are perfect for making fried rice. I love this dish because it makes short work of throwing together a hot and delicious meal and is a resourceful way of using up leftovers and elevating vegetables that are perhaps past their prime, to new heights. This is a great meal for anytime of the day, from a quick and nutritious snack, to a full-on feast. Add it to your mid week arsenal! 

Serves 2 as a main meal or 4 as part of a feast

Ingredients

2 rashers middle bacon, rind removed, coarsely chopped

1 thumb sized piece ginger, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 stalks shallot (scallion), trimmed and finely chopped

2-3 cups day old boiled/rice cooker rice

1 cup leftover veggies, chopped into 1cm pieces (leftover roasted veg like carrots and Brussels sprouts are great, as are frozen peas or tinned corn)

1 tablespoon kecap manis

1 tablespoon Lau Gan Ma chilli flakes in oil

2 free range eggs, lightly whisked with a fork

Salt and white pepper

A handful fresh beansprouts, to garnish

Method

In a hot wok, add the bacon and stir fry until golden. Add in the ginger, garlic and shallot and stir fry until translucent, but not browned. Throw in the rice and use the spatula to break it up to remove any clumps, then stir fry for 2-3 minutes to allow the rice to take on the flavours and reheat.

Throw in the vegetables, then the kecap manis and chilli flakes in oil (to taste). Bring the wok back up to a high heat, then, in a gradual ribbon, pour in the egg, tossing/stir frying the ingredients constantly, to evenly distribute the egg throughout the rice. The egg will cook very quickly and will continue to cook off the heat from the residual heat in the wok, so it’s important not to overcook. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat. Serve with fresh beansprouts and more chilli oil on top. 

To make this dish more substantial, or to use up any leftovers, you could also add in leftover cooked meat such as roasted chicken or pork, or tofu.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

As seen on Channel 10's The Cook's Pantry with chef Matt Sinclair

As seen on Channel 10's The Cook's Pantry with chef Matt Sinclair

If I had to choose a death row meal, this would, without a question, be it. The succulent chicken, richly aromatic rice and punchy ginger and scallion relish is all kinds of magic in one bite. I learned how to make this dish from my mother and it's not only time honoured in our family, but a love letter to our Singaporean heritage. Love it, as I do, served at room temperature with plenty of hot broth on the side, no matter what the weather. 

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 whole free range chicken (the quality shows in a dish like this)

1 bunch shallots (scallions)

1/2 bunch coriander, thoroughly washed

A couple of knobs of ginger (it will be used in 3 parts of this recipe, so make sure there’s lots)

1 head garlic (make sure the cloves aren’t too small)

White pepper

Sesame oil

Chinese five spice powder

2 cups jasmine rice, rinsed thoroughly about 3 times to remove as much starch as possible.

Table salt

To serve

Kecap manis

Sambal olek 

1 Lebanese cucmumber, sliced

2 vine ripened tomatoes, sliced

Method

In a colander, thoroughly scrub the chicken inside and out with a handful of salt (the secret to smooth Hainanese chicken skin is exfoliation!). Set the chicken aside to drain while you prepare the aromats.

Take a thumb sized knob of ginger, bash it lightly with the base of a knife handle, just to break it slightly. Do the same with 2-3 cloves garlic. Place the ginger and garlic inside the chicken cavity, along with 2 stalks of spring onion. Cut off and reserve a small piece of chicken skin from the neck to cook the rice with. Rub the outside of the chicken with a teaspoon of sesame oil and a good seasoning of salt and white pepper and place in a deep pot. Cover with water and bring to the boil with the lid off.

Boil for 30-40 minutes on a gentle, rolling boil and then turn the heat off, cover with a lid and allow the chicken to sit in the water for a further 30 minutes. Remove, the chicken (reserving the cooking liquid) and refresh in cold water. Set aside to cool to almost room temperature, then rub with a few more drops of sesame oil and a sprinkle of salt.

Bring the cooking water to the boil, add a generous amount of salt and reduce by one third - this consomme can be served with the dish, or cooled and used as an Chinese accented chicken stock for soups (stores well in the freezer).

Meanwhile, in a frypan on a medium-high heat, place the reserved piece of chicken skin and allow to render the fat out. Smash a thumb sized piece of ginger and 2 cloves of garlic, add the to the pan along with 1 shallot stalk. Stir fry for 1 minute or until aromatic and then add in the thoroughly rinsed rice. Stir fry the raw rice to coat it in the fat and the aromats. In a rice cooker, transfer the rice and aromats. Add enough water from the cooking chicken to reach the first knuckle of your finger, from the top of the rice. Place the lid on and set to cook. 

Meanwhile, prepare the shallot and garlic relish/sauce. Peel and coarsely grate 2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, and finely chop about 3-4 cloves garlic. Reserve about 2-3 stalks of shallots, then top and tail the rest and then finely slice into rounds. Reserve a few coriander leaves for garnish, trim off the roots, then finely chop the coriander stalks and leaves.

In a saucepan on a low-medium heat, add 2-3 tablespoons grape seed (or any neutral oil like canola or sunflower) and about half a dozen drops of sesame oil. Add the ginger, garlic, chopped shallots and chopped coriander and stir regularly until the greens soften, but do not take on any colour. Season generously with salt, a good pinch of five spice powder and white pepper, to taste. Stores well in the fridge in a sterilised jar for up to a week and is great on sandwiches or stir fries. 

Once the chicken has cooled, carefully chop it up, trying to keep the skin on each part as intact as possible (half the pleasure of this dish is the skin). Serve the chicken with the rice, shallot and ginger sauce, a drizzle of kecap manis and sambal olek on the side, as well as the cucumber and tomato slices. 

(sorta) Chinese Chicken Stew

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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

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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.