It’s a great truism of Australia that every country town is likely to have a pub and a Chinese restaurant to feed and water the weary traveller. Yes, even now.
I can’t remember the last time I was in small town restaurant, with its faded wallpaper or red lantern light fittings and it’s been a long time since I’ve had anything other than broccoli in an oyster sauce, but this is a recipe worth revisiting.
Continue reading Day 12 – Beef in Oyster Sauce
From Malaysia, Char Kway Teow is hawker food, street food made of fresh seafood and specifically, cockles or vongole as they are often called here. But here in deepest Australian suburbia, cockles are not always easy to find: Not surprisingly, the original recipe has become somewhat lost in translation. Often it’s made with no seafood at all, and instead uses chicken.
Continue reading Day 3 – Char Kway Teow
Mongolian Lamb. It’s not authentic of course, no more authentic than sweet and sour pork, but it still consistently rates as one of the most popular of all takeaway items from chinese restaurants around the country.
It would be terrific to recreate at home, except for one small factor: Lamb is still the most expensive meat in Australia.
I’ve said before that cost is the main reason I don’t include more lamb recipes but that hasn’t stopped me from having a hankering for this meal for the longest time. It’s been on my to-do list to include this recipe for ages but at no time has the price of lamb dropped far enough to make it.
So, it’s time for an adaptation.
Mind you, beef isn’t exactly cheap, especially when you consider the cuts of meat you need for a quick stir-fry. The result I want is exquisitely falling-apart tender meat, providing the right contrast for the crunch of spring onions and the robustness of the sauce that accompanies it. Beef so tender as to be velvety.
Continue reading Day 8 – Mongolian Beef and Noodle Stir-Fry
Earlier in the week I gave you all heartfelt encouragement to try some salt and pepper tofu to overcome your (quite correct) aversion to tofu. I suggested that you accompany it with some stir-fried greens and steamed rice.
When I was thinking of stir-fried greens, this is what I had in mind.
When Perfection Fresh gave me a box of broccolini to play with, asian-style stir fries came straight to mind, and really, why wouldn’t it? This is the sort of meal that would not be out of place in your local takeaway, but without a trace of carrots or water chestnut or bamboo shoots, it’s not going to make it on any westernised menu any time soon.
With mushrooms and sweet-scented new season and local garlic, there’s no reason you couldn’t adapt this to whatever green crispy veg you have. Try it with snow peas later in summer for example. Continue reading Day 4 – Ginger Soy Broccolini
There’s no reason not to make your own curry paste, but too often we tell ourselves it’s all too hard. Of course, it’s not hard at all, but it does help to have access to a range of ingredients that you don’t always find in your local supermarket. Luckily, at this time of year, you may well find galangal in your fruit and vegie market – it looks a little like ginger (it’s closely related) but with a darker skin and flesh.
Likewise, keep an eye out for kaffir lime leaves and when you find them (often in small punnets), pop them into a ziplock bag and put them in the freezer for use throughout the cooler months. Frozen lime leaves will lose a little of their colour but their flavour will last beautifully and you can throw them into your curry while they are still frozen. Dried chillies are always available in supermarkets and surprisingly cheap. Look for them in the asian food aisle, nestled amongst dried mushrooms and rice sticks. Store them in an airtight container in your pantry and they will keep for ages.
Continue reading Day 3 – Red Chicken Curry
This started as a way to use up leftover prawns following Christmas celebrations, but as useful as it was, I over did it with the fish sauce. So, back to the kitchen, and this time, a more budget-friendly option has been made. The results? Brilliant.
Depending on your budget, you can use fresh rice noodles, available in supermarket fridges (including in Aldi), or the cheaper and always-useful dried rice sticks. You can use chicken breast if you must, but thigh fillets work well and are much tastier and better value. I used boned-out chicken marylands at $7.99 a kilo with lovely results.
Those of you who are a bit iffy about coriander can always adjust the amount you use, but don’t be too concerned that this recipe asks for a large amount – the garlic counteracts the strong flavours beautifully. Like all good Thai food, it’s all about balance between salty, sweet and citrus. Feel free to adjust the flavours to suit.
Continue reading Day 2 – Thai-Style Garlic Chicken with Rice Noodles
My friend suggested chow mein as one of her favourite ways to use mince. I haven’t eaten chow mein for years, let alone made it. That alone was enough to get me thinking about it.
You can make chow mein with a packet sauce mix but it’s very easy to make a great sauce that’s better tasting and uses pantry staples. You pay more initially for a bottle of this and a bottle of that, but the dividends will pay off over the next year in countless ways as you share the resources in other meals for a completely different taste.
Continue reading Day 9 – Beef Chow Mein
A week ago I posted a recipe for plum sauce and as promised, cooked with it later that week by adding it to some pork and vegetables for a classic plum sauce stir-fry.
I used pork fillet, that narrow strip of meat that is so well-loved in chinese cooking and for which you only need a small amount, but you can add any cut of meat you want. If you don’t want to do a stir fry, marinate loin chops or even forequarter chops in half a cup of plum sauce, a quarter of a cup of hoisin sauce and two tablespoons of soy for a few hours before grilling or barbecuing them.
Continue reading Day 7 – Pork in Plum Sauce
Calamari should be cooked either as quickly as possible or as slowly as possible, so any stir-fry you are considering has to be a well organised affair. This is the one time you should always attempt to have everything chopped, diced, trimmed and ready to go – precious time spent searching the pantry shelf for the oyster sauce could be the time it takes to turn the calamari rubbery.
That said, this is a fantastically speedy mid-week meal. It’s so good I can make it in the time it takes to cook some rice in the rice cooker.
Continue reading Day 9 – Calamari with Garlic and Oyster Sauce
Popular in restaurants around the country, a panang curry is much milder than might first appear. Select milder long red chillies for the curry paste rather than the hotter and smaller bird’s-eye chillies. If you are really worried, cut down the amount of chillies you put in the paste, but don’t forget that the inclusion of coconut cream and pineapple really takes the sting out of the chilli heat.
Continue reading Day 10 – Beef Panang