I figure I’d better give you my lovely readers a few new recipes soon or you will begin to think that this is less of a food blog and more “The Ramblings of a Besotted Nai Nai”. So to start with here are two I practised at Hutong Cuisine in Beijing – Sichuan spicy chicken salad and homemade chilli oil.
I learned such a lot from the lovely Chunyi and Chao at Hutong Cuisine. Their cookery school has a cosy, personalised feel as if you were in your Granny’s kitchen – if your Granny was Chinese and lived in a courtyard house in a hutong that is! Claire and Mike also attended a class there and were equally impressed.
Once I got over jetlag I relished getting back into the kitchen at home at the end of a busy day although I miss using a gas hob and the ease with which you can tell on sight whether you have the “fire heat” correct. I had discovered that the single biggest mistake I was making in my Chinese cooking was the assumption that “high heat = good” and I have been over-using the boost function on my induction hob as a result. In nearly every new recipe I learnt, the trick in releasing flavour lay in cooking the oil over moderate or gentle heat. Already this has begun to transform the results.
Take home made chilli oil for instance – la jiao. Many Sichuan recipes call for a tablespoon or two of chilli oil with sediment and a dash of it can enliven milder Cantonese dishes. Up to now I’ve been making do with bottled chilli oil from the Asia market but not any more. The recipe below can be prepared and cooked very easily and bottled to use when required. Once tasted there is no going back to a shop bought Chinese version. So when I had a sudden longing for a Friday evening Sichuan kick and a fix of Dan Dan noodles, it was as good a time as any to make up a batch so that I could use some in the sauce.
Home Made Chilli Oil – la jiao
I used a good quality organic Irish rapeseed oil to make this as I love its flavour and I guessed its rich golden colour would become a beautiful shade of red as it became infused with the spices and seasonings. Crushed chillies, picked up on my expedition to Jiang Tai market with qing jia mu, added flecks of colour, texture and sediment to the oil. (At cookery class we used vegetable oil and ground chilli powder). This oil will keep indefinitely in an airtight jar.
- 200g rapeseed oil (or sunflower oil, groundnut oil or vegetable oil)
- 2 pieces star anise
- 2 thumbnail size pieces of cinnamon (preferably the wider Chinese type)
- 1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 large cardamom pod, crushed to release seeds (I use the large black Chinese cardamom pods)
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 tsp Pixian broad bean paste (Lee Kum Kee Toban Djan chilli bean sauce, which is readily available in Ireland can be used instead or you could try Laoganma chilli bean sauce made with black beans)
- 2 slices of ginger
- 1 spring onion, white part only, cut in two
- 4 tbs crushed chillies (chilli powder can be used instead)
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- Heat the oil in a wok over low heat and add all the ingredients except the chillies and sesame seeds. Stir slowly over gentle heat until the spices have begun to turn brown in colour, released their fragrance and infused the oil. This took roughly 8 to 10 minutes but slow and low is good.
- Sieve the oil and discard the spices. By this time it should have turned into a gorgeous warm red colour. Return it to the wok with the chilli and sesame seeds. Stir over a very low heat until the chilli has turned light brown in colour.
- When cool, pour the oil into a glass container and keep over night, or at least for several hours, before use. Store unused oil indefinitely in an airtight jar and shake well before use.
Sichuan Spicy Chicken Salad – la wei ji si
I’m already fond of Bang Bang Chicken which I prepared for Taste of China to a recipe given to me by Kevin Hui of China Sichuan. The spicy chicken salad below is a variation on this theme also using boiled chicken but you could use leftover chicken or turkey instead (moisten with a little stock if too dry). I served it at our Shananigans Feast for Claire and Mike’s friends in Sydney and it was a great success.
This dish makes a lovely starter to an Asian meal or served, in the Chinese way, as a cold dish alongside other hot dishes to share at dinner. The big advantage is that it can be prepared in advance.
- 2 chicken legs
- A few slices of ginger
- A few pieces of spring onion
- 2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
For the dressing:
- A good pinch of salt
- ¼ tsp sugar
- 1 ½ tsp light soy sauce
- 1 garlic clove minced
- The equivalent amount of minced ginger
- 1 spring onion finely sliced
- 1 tbs sunflower or groundnut oil
- 10 Sichuan peppercorns
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp chilli oil or more to taste
- Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add the chicken, ginger, spring onion and rice wine. Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes until just cooked. (You can test this by inserting a skewer in the chicken legs and once the juices run clear the chicken is done).
- Once cooked, remove the chicken legs from the pot and plunge into cold water to cool down.
- When cool, shred the chicken into small pieces and mix well with the salt, sugar, and light soy sauce. (The Chinese used the skin and bits of gristle because they like the “mouth feel” but you can just use the chicken meat if your western palate prefers this).
- When ready to serve, place the chicken on a platter. Scatter the garlic, ginger and spring onion on top.
- Heat 1 tbs of oil in a ladle or small pot until smoking. Add the Sichuan pepper and, once the pepper turns brown in colour, quickly pour the hot oil over the dressed chicken.
- Drizzle with the sesame oil and chilli oil and serve looking pretty – that’s the dish I mean, not the server. 🙂
- Mix well at the table to mingle all the flavours just before eating.
You see, not one mention of my lovely grandson who I’m missing like crazy. Oh all right then, just one photo (don’t tell Shane on me…)