Two different takes on Fish Fragrant Sauce – aubergine and pork

I’ve been enjoying cooking “fish fragrant” recipes since I started this blog and I have discovered several different ways of creating the salty, spicy, sweet, sour yu xiang flavour which the people of Sichuan love to use in their land-locked region to recall the flavours they associate with fish. The description often causes confusion among westerners as there is no fish or fish sauce used in these recipes.
The first time I made fish fragrant pork I used a recipe given to me by Chef Ricky when I went inside the kitchen of China Sichuan in Dublin and you can read it here. That version used chilli garlic sauce and owner Kevin Hui told me that in the early years they described it as Pork in Spicy Garlic Sauce on the menu to avoid putting off diners!

Chefs preparing fish fragrant pork at Taste of China (Photo by Solange Daini)

More recently I’ve cooked fish fragrant pork using fish fragrance marinaded peppers, as prepared by the chefs of China Sichuan at the Taste of China cookery demonstration. Before I left for China I promised to post the recipe for using this marinade and it is now below.
I know some of you have had these marinaded peppers in your fridge for at least 3 weeks now so it should be nicely flavourful. I used my now 9 week old marinade tonight, this time with chicken, and it was delicious.
Fish Fragrant Chicken with a dash of Chilli Oil

When I visited Beijing recently, I learned how to make a classic fish fragrant sauce based on pickled chillies chopped to a puree with a cleaver blade. The recipe for fish fragrant aubergine below is the one taught to me by Chefs Chun Yi and Chao at Hutong Cuisine in Beijing and is the way Chun Yi learnt to make it when she trained as a chef in Chengdu in Sichuan Province.
Hutong Cuisine fish fragrant aubergine – yu xiang qie zi
Practising Fish Fragrant Aubergines at Hutong Cuisine

Continue reading Two different takes on Fish Fragrant Sauce – aubergine and pork

A Taste of China with China Sichuan Dublin at Cooks Academy

Regular readers will recall that I came back from a visit to my son Shane and his wife Shan in China late last July brimful of enthusiasm for learning how to cook authentic Chinese food but with very little idea where to start. Shortly afterwards Kevin Hui, owner of the China Sichuan, Sandyford Dublin invited me inside his kitchen where I got to see his chefs in action. You can read about that day here. I got  lots of inspiration from the experience and as a result this blog began to gain momentum. Since then I’ve been encouraging Kevin to put on a cooking demo for a wider audience of food bloggers and home chefs so they too could share the experience of seeing Chinese chefs wield a cleaver and wok and work magic with dough for dumplings.
The opportunity came with a special event in Cooks Academy last Sunday to round off  the Taste of China part of the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival. Before an audience of around 30 people, head chef Ricky and his assistant Andrew demonstrated how to prepare the famous Sichuan dish “Fish Fragrant” Pork. Then we all did our best to replicate the dish under the watchful eyes of Michelin-star chef Colin O’Daly, Ciaran from Cooks Academy and the chefs from China Sichuan.
Later Ricky showed us how to make Waltip “stick to the pot” dumplings. As the afternoon wore on,  and we wrestled with what by then resembled play dough, in an attempt to recreate Ricky’s delicate and perfectly-formed jiaozi, the mood descended into giddy good humour. Efforts were compared, the thickness of the pastry was closely examined, rueful looks were exchanged over misshapen dumplings and there were some surprisingly expert looking results too. Joanne Cronin of Stitch and Bear earned herself a Cooks Academy Certificate and a goodie bag from Asia Market for the best looking dumplings of the day.
It was all great fun but we learned a lot too and got many tips and insights from our skilled, professional chefs. More than anything the afternoon reminded me of the Chinese belief that food is for sharing, in the making of it and the eating of it. Our cheerful celebration of the shared pleasure of Chinese food was a fitting end to this year’s Spring Festival. Thank you China Sichuan, Dublin Chinese New Year Festival and Cooks Academy for making it possible.
These photos of the afternoon, taken by my friend Solange Daini, capture the mood of the day better than words can. Thank you Solange!
PS: You can see all 21 recipes from Taste of China, including the recipes from last Sunday on the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival website here.

An attentive audience for Shananigans’ talk on Chinese food

Hope you learned something new

Ricky and Andrew get ready to rock and roll

Concentrate now

Hmm, these guys are good at this

That’s it, plated up in minutes

Read that recipe carefully

Yes chef!

Need any help ladies?

Getting stuck in

Advice from the Michelin man

Here’s how you do it

Now what next?

Looking good

And so you should be pleased with yourself

Now for the first round of washing up

This is not as easy as it looks

Even Andrew needs convincing

But let’s try anyway

Is this right?

Show me

How are you getting on?

Yeah, got it!

You see, like this

Guess which one Ricky make?

Ciaran has the knack

What do you think?

That’s right, let the chef do the work!

Oh that looks right

Just stretch it

A hive of activity

Time to build up a head of steam

Looking good

Part steamed, part fried

Getting some last minute tips from Ricky

Now what has she got there

Ah, prize-winning dumplings

Much more to talk about

Dumplings come in many shapes

But always taste delicious

Thank you Solange, from all of us!