food for thought

by michelle

Posts Tagged ‘chinese food

roast duck

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Roasting a duck is not really as daunting as it seems. This Chinese-style roast duck is best cooked on a charcoal barbecue.

Clean the duck, remove the wing tips and any lumps of fat from inside the cavity and pat it dry with paper towels. Rub salt over the entire duck (about 2 teaspoons) and tie the neck tightly with string. Roughly chop 2-3 spring onions, 1-2 cloves of garlic and an equal amount of fresh ginger.  In a small bowl combine ¼ of a cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of dark soy, 2 teaspoons of five-spice powder and 1 tablespoon of honey  (if you need to liquefy the honey heat it briefly in a microwave). Stir well to combine the ingredients and brush the mixture all over the duck, brushing some into the cavity as well. Place the spring onion, garlic and ginger into the cavity and seal the duck by sewing or securing tightly with skewers. When you’re ready to cook place a disposable aluminium roasting pan under where the duck will cook to avoid flare-ups from the dripping duck fat. Regulate the temperature to approximately 160ºC (325°F). If you’re cooking with charcoal you can add 2 – 3 chunks of smoking wood. Allow the duck to roast for approximately 2½ hours until the skin is golden brown and crispy and the internal temperature of the breast has reached 74ºC (165°F). Serve chopped into pieces with hoisin sauce (diluted with a little water) and chilli oil.  



Written by michelle picker

April 17, 2019 at 12:28 am

Posted in poultry & game

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red-cooked whole chicken + mushroom and kangkong stir-fry

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This is a popular cooking method in China where it is used for all kinds of meats and hard-boiled eggs. Served either hot or cold, the remaining stock is reused as a master stock. Ingredients vary from cook to cook but usually include soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, rock sugar and whole spices such as star anise and black cardamom.

Place your chicken into a pot which is not too big. Add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, some large slices of ginger, a few cloves of garlic, 2 star anise, a black cardamom pod and some cassia bark (or a small cinnamon quill). I don’t usually add rock sugar. Fill the pot with cold water until the chicken is just covered and bring to a boil very slowly. Simmer, turning the chicken at least once, until it is cooked. You can tell when the chicken is cooked if the juices run clear when you cut into the thigh. If you have a meat thermometer it should read 74ºC (165ºF). Remove the chicken from the stock and drizzle with a little sesame oil before serving. Serve with steamed rice.

Here’s a lovely simple stir-fry to serve with the chicken.

Trim and slice a few king oyster mushrooms, wash and chop a bunch of kangkong (also known as water spinach or morning glory) and peel and lightly crush a clove of garlic. Place your wok over high heat and when hot, add some peanut oil. Fry the clove of garlic until just beginning to brown and discard it. Now add the oyster mushrooms and cook for a minute or two before adding the kangkong. Finally add a little salt, sugar and white pepper and toss well to combine.

Written by michelle picker

March 6, 2019 at 12:15 am

christmas 2018

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Only four of us this hot Christmas day, so we decided to have a Chinese hot-pot. Cooking everything at the table is the ultimate slow food but very satisfying and delicious!

Our home-made stock was made with pork bones, chicken and ginger. Before serving we seasoned to taste with salt and added a black cardamom pod, star anise, black peppercorns and Sichuan peppercorns. To cook we had: prawn and ginger dumplings; shiitake, king oyster and enoki mushrooms; a variety of fish balls; prawns; beef; pork; fried beancurd and beancurd skins; Choi sum and Chinese broccoli; quail eggs; and mung bean noodles. For dipping we chose our ingredients from soy sauce; black rice vinegar; sesame oil; sesame paste; minced garlic; minced ginger, chopped coriander (cilantro); chopped spring onions; and finely sliced fresh chillies. And some chilli oil.

Written by michelle picker

December 26, 2018 at 12:43 am


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New York’s second-largest Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, is worth a visit. It really feels like you’ve been transported to China. We headed for the Golden Shopping Mall, home of Xi’an Famous Foods, where we intended to try Xi’an noodles. But the call of dumplings was too strong and I have to say they were some of the best I’ve ever eaten!

We ate excellent pan-fried dumplings with chilli oil and vinegar…..

….but the steamed dumplings in spicy chilli sauce were truly amazing. They were served with chilli oil and sesame paste and topped with choy sum and spring onions. The casing was super thin and the filling was a wonderfully tasty mix of pork and chives.

I forgot to take a photo of the pan-fried dumplings, so the one above is modified from an image by Ken Marshall licensed under CC BY 2.0


Written by michelle picker

September 26, 2018 at 11:10 pm

Posted in pork & ham & bacon, travel

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shiitake mushrooms

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Shiitake mushrooms are used widely in Asian cuisines and considered to have many health benefits. They are widely available in their dried form but are a little harder to find fresh, although Asian stores are a good place to try. We decided to attempt to grow them. This a lengthy procedure with some inherent difficulties for those of us living in urban areas. The first problem was finding living branches from a suitable tree. This took some time but we finally found some fairly large oak branches without any signs of fungus or mould. Shiitake are grown by drilling holes into the branches and hammering in dowels impregnated with the mushroom spores – we ordered these online. The holes are covered with beeswax and the logs then need to be kept damp and in a nice semi-dark place, similar to a forest floor. We waited approximately 18 months before we induced the first crop by soaking the logs for a day and then dropping them to shock them into fruiting. This can be done in Spring, Summer or Autumn. Hopefully they will now fruit twice a year. Although our first crop wasn’t very large it was exciting to finally see the mushrooms growing and they tasted amazing!

This recipe for a Chinese-style omelette is perfect for featuring shiitake mushrooms. Begin by slicing some medium to firm tofu and fry it in a little vegetable oil. Season with soy sauce and honey and set aside. Remove the stems from the mushrooms (Shiitake stems don’t soften when you cook them) and slice the mushrooms. Heat a pan and add some finely shredded ginger into the dry pan until it is fragrant. Add some sesame oil and the mushrooms, season with a minimal amount of salt and cook them until they are just softening. Add the tofu to reheat it along with some spring onions. Keep this mixture warm while you make the omelette. Whisk 3-4 eggs with a little water and a drop of sesame oil, and season them with soy sauce and white pepper. Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a wide frypan, add  the eggs and allow them to cook, without turning, until almost firm. Place the mushroom and tofu mix onto one half of the omelette and, using a wide turner, flip the other half over the top. When the omelette is cooked carefully slide it onto a serving plate and garnish with spring onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Written by michelle picker

April 11, 2018 at 12:33 am

Posted in eggs, tofu, vegetables

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chilli oil

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For those of you who love chilli, you’ll know that chilli oil is an important condiment at Chinese tables and a useful pantry staple. Made with facing heaven peppers, chilli oil is not very spicy (for a chilli oil) and has a nutty, toasty flavour enhanced by aromatics.

To make this chilli oil you will need 110g (4oz) of chilli flakes. If you can’t find the correct chilli flakes you can buy whole dry chillies and crush them in a food processor. Put the chilli flakes in a heatproof bowl or stainless steel saucepan and add some salt to taste as well as aromatics of your choice such as Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, ginger or five spice. The addition of aromatics is a personal preference which varies from region to region and even family to family in China. Next you need to heat a little more than 2 cups of oil. I used peanut oil but any vegetable oil without too much flavour would work. Heat the oil over a high flame to about 200ºC (400ºF). Remove from the heat and allow it to cool to around 135ºC (275ºF). Carefully pour the hot oil over the chilli flakes. It should sizzle and bubble releasing wonderful toasty aromas. Allow the finished chilli oil to cool before decanting into jars to store.



Written by michelle picker

March 21, 2018 at 12:09 am

steamed fish with spicy sauce

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Here’s a spicy Sichuan-style sauce for any white fish.

This recipe is for 700g (1½ lbs) of fish fillets. Make a slurry of 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and set aside. Finely chop ½ an onion and mince 1 clove of garlic. Finely chop a few shiitake mushrooms and ¼ of a red pepper. Into a small bowl measure out 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine, 1 tablespoon of Doubanjan (spicy Sichuan bean paste), 1 teaspoon of hoisin sauce, ½ teaspoon of sesame oil, ½ a teaspoon of sugar, and ground white pepper to taste. Mix well and set aside. Prepare some chopped coriander (cilantro) and spring onion greens for garnishing. When you’re ready to cook the sauce, heat a wok to high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for another minute. Now add the prepared sauce ingredients and ½ a cup of water and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat while you prepare the fish. To steam the fish, place it in a shallow bowl and season with a little soy sauce. Place the bowl into a steamer over boiling water and steam until the fish is cooked through and flaking apart. Use a slotted spoon to remove it to a serving plate. Reheat the sauce and add the cooking liquid from the fish. Thicken the sauce with the cornstarch slurry until it coats a spoon. Stir in another teaspoon of oil to finish and pour the sauce over the steamed fish. Garnish and serve with steamed white rice.

* recipe adapted from this recipe.

Written by michelle picker

January 31, 2018 at 12:41 am