中国新的一年快乐 Happy Chinese New Year

( I hope this wishes everyone a happy Chinese New Year )

Following my post for Cantonese Pork and me highlighting authentic Chinese cuisine, I can only follow it by giving my version of a totally bastardised American Chinese dish. A sweet, slightly spicy and I am the first to admit very moreish dish called General Tso’s Chicken. The dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, a Qing dynasty general, and statesman, however any connection is very tenuous. The origins of the dishes invention are in the 1950’s influx of Chinese to the United States.

general-tso-chicken

The dish is reported to have been introduced to New York City in the early 1970s as an example of Hunan cooking, though it is not typical of Hunanese cuisine, which is traditionally very spicy and rarely sweet. Fuchsia Dunlop, in the New York Times, identified the claim of a Taiwan-based chef Peng Chang-kuei. Peng was the Nationalist government banquets’ chef and fled to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. In 1973 he moved to New York to open a restaurant and experimented and developed Hunanese-style cuisine adopting it for western tastes.

Other chefs claim that they created the dish or variations which include vegetables, meat other than chicken in a sweetened sauce. Later the chicken was deep fried before being added to the sauce, now almost every American Chinese restaurant has General Tso’s Chicken on the menu. Where the dish is cooked outside of the United States the dish is less sweet with more vinegar or rice wine vinegar and soy sauce in the ingredients, this is definitely more to my taste.

For more Chinese Recipes to celebrate in style with a Chinese Buffet go to my recipes for Crab and Sweetcorn Soup, Cantonese Pork, and Beef in Black Bean Sauce.

General Tso’s Chicken                                                             serves 4

As always a general note of caution

BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN FRYING IN HOT OIL.

For the Sauce

1 large Carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips

1 Red Pepper, diced

A small bunch of Spring Onions, washed and sliced in 1 inch pieces

1 small Red Chilli, finely sliced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

½ piece of Ginger, peeled and finely chopped ( approximately 1 tablespoon )

75 ml quality Chicken Stock

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 tablespoons soft Brown Sugar

1 tablespoon Tomato Paste

2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

2 tablespoons Rice Wine

1 heaped tablespoon Corn Flour

2 Cloves

A good pinch of Chinese Five Spice

 

for the fried chicken

2 skinned Chicken Breasts, washed and diced

2 Egg Whites

Juice of 1 Lemon

75 gr Cornflour

Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper

1 ½ liters neutral Vegetable Oil for frying

For the sauce heat the vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the carrots, mushrooms, garlic and ginger for two to three minutes being careful not to burn the garlic and then add the peppers. In a small pan heat the chicken stock, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, cloves and Chinese five spice and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes then thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water and the tomato puree. After another five minutes simmering, strain into the wok and set on a very low heat.

For the chicken, sieve the cornflour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and cayenne pepper the mix. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and lemon juice. Then dip the chicken pieces into the corn flour, the egg whites and back into the corn flour. In a second wok or a large heavy bottomed pan heat the oil to 160°C / 320 F using a thermometer to check. If you do not have a thermometer have a few cubes of stale white bread to hand then place a bread cube in the oil if it rises to the surface and cooks to a golden brown in a couple of minutes the oil is hot enough.

Fry the chicken in batches carefully lowering into the hot oil, for around six to eight minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning from time to time with a large slotted spoon.

When the chicken is cooked using the slotted spoon remove from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper and place into the hot sauce. Simmer for two more minutes and then serve with steamed rice and garnish with a few finely sliced spring onion tops.

Beef in Black Bean Sauce

So you may have guessed I love Chinese food. When I fly to the mainland it is difficult as I want to try every new restaurant but always hanker for a fantastic Chinese extravaganza, a rather greedy feast I am afraid. I recall a delicious Chinese meal in Oakham, Rutland, see I once lived and worked geographically about as far from the sea as you can get in England. In particular, one dish,  crispy, chilli beef served in a deep fried potato nest was fantastic, it was from over fifteen years ago, however, so I cannot guaranty that the restaurant even exists now, just a fabulous memory. Then moist, flavoursome steamed scallop wontons and prawn and pork dumplings from Hakkasan  in Hanway Place, London *, for which I would almost give anything to learn how to make. Finally an awesome crab with ginger and scallions ( Spring onions fellow English readers ), in East Harbor, New York, with a mind blowing Chinese and Japanese menu.  It is rather sad that I have yet had the opportunity to go to China but it is on my list to do, perhaps one day.

Chinese Meal

What I have done was an inspiring course in London with Ken Hom, equipped myself with numerous books, woks, steamers and ingredients from quaint little Asian speciality suppliers and set to work as only a chef can and chopped, pounded, crushed, fried and ate my way through the Chinese canon. Cantonese, Shandong, Hunan and spicy Szechuan cuisine with noodles, rice, black beans, bok choi and lots of seasoning; garlic, chilli, cloves and ginger, and the wonderfully pungent star anise. Am I giving my little local take away a bit of a run for his money what do you think? Enjoy.

* Here is a great little review of Hakkasan to whet your appetites if I haven’t already manage to do so from Frost Magazine.

My Top Tip Add splashes of water or vegetable stock occasionally while stir frying – this will produce steam helping to quickly cook the vegetables and prevents sticking.

Beef in Black Bean Sauce           serves 4

750 gr quality Rump Steak

2 Carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips or julienne

2 large Onions, Peeled and cut into thin slices

1 Green Pepper, cut into slices

1 Red Pepper, cut into slices

75 ml neutral Oil for stir frying

50 gr Fermented Black Beans

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

3 cm piece of Ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 small Red Chilli, seeds removed and very finely sliced

1 tablespoon quality Toasted Sesame Oil

 For the marinade

3 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce

3 tablespoons Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

¼ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

1 Clove of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 teaspoons Corn Flour, mixed with a little cold water

 For the sauce

100 ml quality beef Stock

1 tablespoon Caster Sugar

1 tablespoon Corn Flour, mixed with a little cold water

2 Cloves

Place the rump steak in the freezer for thirty minutes, this firms up the beef making it easier to slice thinly. On a secure board slice the beef with a sharp kitchen knife into thin strips and place into a glass bowl. Add the marinade ingredients, mix well to combine together and fully cover the steak strips.

Cover and chill in the fridge for a minimum of two hours. Meanwhile, prepare the black beans by first rinsing thoroughly in cold water then soaking in fresh water for around half an hour, changing the water once. Drain thoroughly, chop finely and set aside.

When ready to cook, drain the meat from the marinade pouring any remaining marinade into a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the sauce ingredients to the marinade and heat gently to thicken, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps forming. Heat the oil in the wok until smoking and carefully add the meat. Stir-fry until cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on to some kitchen paper

Heat a little more oil then stir fry onion over medium heat for five minutes before adding the carrots and peppers, continue cooking for a couple more minutes until they are just starting to go soft. Add the black beans and cook for two more minutes stirring continuously, be careful not to burn, then add the garlic, ginger, and chilli and cook for a further two minutes. Return the beef to the wok, strain the sauce through a fine sieve and add as well. Mix in the sesame oil and cook for one more minute stirring all the time to heat the beef through and serve immediately with egg fried rice or noodles.

Wine and Beer

What to Drink? Matching wine with Chinese food used to be considered impossible but more modern sommeliers are making innovative pairings try your beef with a fruity, Chilean Pinot Noir and why not try a refreshing Continental wheat beer with citrus and coriander seeds as your beer choice.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Sesame Seeds  Flour

There may be gluten in your Soy Sauce

Please see the Allergens Page

My Cantonese Pork

When you go out to eat or have a take away from your local Chinese Restaurant you will most likely be eating Cantonese style cuisine. The recipes are often crude copies of authentic Cantonese adapted for Western tastes, which is a huge shame as Cantonese is revered in China as one of the most celebrated national styles of cooking. In the eighteenth century, the Qing Dynasty allowed the Guangdong region, home to Cantonese, to be opened to the first foreign traders and natives from the area were amongst the first immigrants to settle in the United Kingdom and America exporting their traditions and food.

Cantonese PorkCantonese cuisine is all about simple dishes, letting the flavour of the key ingredients stand out, using fish and seafood from the region’s coast and the abundant agricultural produce.  The key additional flavours in Cantonese cooking are the ‘trinity’ of scallions or spring onions, ginger, and garlic, with the addition of rice wine and soy sauce. Spices and herbs are only used in moderation although fresh coriander is used as a garnish, perhaps the most popular is Chinese Five Spice. The key method of cooking is stir-frying in a wok.

The most abused Cantonese recipe is the probably Sweet and Sour with cannonball sized lumps of stodgy, deep-fried dough floating in over-sweet, violent orange coloured, gloopy sauces and don’t even get me started on pineapple.  The following recipe is I hope a little more authentic and delicate, although I am not so sure about the fried egg, but it is a delicious addition! The joy of many, but not quite all, Chinese recipes is they are very quick and easy and once you have a few key staples in your cupboard you have any number of dishes available to you. Enjoy.

Cantonese ( Sweet and Sour ) Pork                                   serves 4
AS ALWAYS A NOTE OF CAUTION BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN FRYING IN HOT OIL.

1 Carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips

1 Red Pepper, diced

A small bunch of Spring Onions, washed and very finely sliced

1 small Red Chilli, finely sliced ( you can omit this but I like a little kick of Chilli )

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

½ piece of Ginger, peeled and finely chopped

A good pinch of Chinese Five Spice

2 Cloves

1 tablespoon Corn Flour ( approximately )

100 ml quality chicken stock

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 tablespoons Soft Brown Sugar

2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

2 tablespoon Rice Wine

1 tablespoon Tomato Paste

1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce

A small bunch of Coriander to Garnish

for the fried Pork
500 gr Pork Loin, skin removed, washed and diced
2 Egg Whites
Juice of 1 Lemon
60 gr  Cornflour
Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper

1.5 litres Vegetable Oil

For the sauce heat the vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the carrots, garlic and ginger for two to three minutes then add the pepper. In a small pan, heat the chicken stock, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, cloves and Chinese five spice and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes then thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water and the tomato puree. After another five minutes simmering, strain into the wok and set on a very low heat.

For the pork, sieve the cornflour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and lemon juice. Then dip the pork cubes into the corn flour, the egg whites and back into the corn flour. In your wok or a large heavy bottomed pan heat the oil to 160°C / 320 F using a thermometer to check. If you do not have a thermometer have a few cubes of stale white bread to hand. Place in a bread cube in the oil if it rises to the surface and cooks to a golden brown in a couple of minutes the oil is hot enough.

Fry the pork in batches carefully lowering into the hot oil, for around six to eight minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning from time to time with a large slotted spoon. When the pork is cooked using the slotted spoon remove from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper and keep hot in a warm oven. When all the pork is cooked place into the hot sauce with the finely sliced spring onions. Stir and then serve with steamed rice and garnish with fresh coriander ( add an egg if you are feeling adventurous ).

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk  Celery

Please see the Allergens Page

Spicy Crab & Prawn Fishcakes with Sweetcorn and Coriander and a Thai style Dipping Sauce

Everyone who cooks has a list of purely personal favourite dishes, their own or at a restaurant, they can be terribly simple or frighteningly complex. As a chef, you develop a list of go-to classic recipes that work every time, easy to cook and as incredible eating for family, friends or paying guests. Thai Spiced Crab and Prawn Fishcakes would get an entry near to the top on to both of my lists although a little extravagant. I know living on an island spoils you with the ability to get hold of great ingredients like fresh crab every day. I love the layers of flavours in Thai cooking and while this dish is only my interpretation I hope it has a little of the depth, spice, and variety with the typical hot, sweet and sour tastes. The Thai style dipping sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator but is best served at room temperature.

Thai style Crab Cakes

Spicy Crab & Prawn Fishcakes with Sweetcorn and Coriander

and a Thai style Dipping Sauce                                            serves 4 – 6

150 gr firm White Fish such as Cod, Haddock or Coley

100 gr freshly picked White Crab Meat

50 gr fresh peeled Prawns, roughly chopped

50 gr cooked Sweetcorn Nibs

1 medium sized, fresh, free range Egg

2 stems Lemon Grass, peeled and finely chopped

2 small, hot Chilli Peppers, finely diced

1 piece of Preserved Ginger, finely grated

1 tablespoon of Fish Sauce

Zest and juice of 2 fresh Limes

½ teaspoon of ground Coriander

¼ teaspoon of freshly ground Black Pepper

1 Bunch of fresh Coriander, finely chopped

A large knob of Butter and Vegetable oil for frying

for the dipping sauce

1 small Carrot, peeled and very finely diced

1 Banana Shallot, peeled and very finely diced

1 stick of Celery, very finely diced

1 sweet Red Pepper, very finely diced

2 small hot Chilli peppers, finely diced

2 stems Lemon Grass, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed to a pulp

1 piece of Preserved Ginger, finely grated

3 tablespoons of Fish Sauce

2 tablespoons of Palm Sugar or soft Brown Sugar

Zest and juice of 2 fresh Limes

1 tablespoon of fresh Coriander, finely chopped

freshly boiled Water

First, prepare the dipping sauce by placing all of the ingredients excluding the coriander in a glass bowl just covered with boiling water. Stir and allow to cool. When completely cooled down stir in the coriander. Adding the coriander whilst hot can discolour the chopped leaves, allowing the sauce to cool will ensure an appealing fresh green colour. The temperature of the boiling water is sufficient to soften but not cook the vegetables leaving a slight crunch.

Blitz the fish in a food processor for two minutes on the pulse setting. You do not want to let the motor get hot as it will start to cook the fish. For a professional finish, you can pass the fish through a fine sieve to remove any unprocessed lumps. Add the egg, fish sauce, lime zest and juice and process for a further minute. Transfer to a bowl and work in the remaining ingredients. Do not worry if the mixture seems quite loose as it will produce a moist crab cake.

Cooking Crab CakesHeat a thin coating of oil in a heavy bottomed nonstick frying pan over a medium-high heat add the butter and using an ice cream scoop drop in four or five balls of the crab mix. Flatten gently with a spatula and cook for five to six minutes before very carefully turning and cooking for a few more minutes. When the crab cakes are golden brown on both sides and firm to the touch but not solid, remove on to kitchen paper and keep warm. Wipe out the pan and repeat the process to use up the crab mixture. Serve with the dipping sauce and lime wedges.

Wine and Beer

 

What to Drink? Spicy Thai style fishcakes need something to refresh the palate and pair with the chilli heat try a dry New Zealand Riesling wine or the complimentary coriander and citrus zest  flavours of Continental Wheat beers.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Raw Fish  Eggs  Crab  Celery

Please see the Allergens Page