Shananigans Chongqing Chicken

Some of my regular readers don’t eat red meat and have been asking for more recipes using chicken or fish. This Chongqing Ji Rou is especially for you Siobhan and there are more chicken recipes to come.
Chongqing is a mountainous city that lies east of the capital of Sichuan Province, Chengdu. It used to be part of Sichuan Province but is now a separate municipality. It’s one of the so-called “huo lu” furnace cities, like Turpan in Xinjiang Province which I visited with Shan’s family last summer. The response of  residents to summer heat and humidity is to eat even more chillies and Sichuan pepper than their neighbours in Chengdu.
According to local lore the Chongqingers look down on the people of Chengdu for being lazy and out-of-date in their eating habits, while the inhabitants of Chengdu regard Chongqing food as coarse and crude and in need of the refining touch of Chengdu chefs. Chongqing Chicken – Chongqing Ji Rou – is a simple dish but what it lacks in complexity it makes up for in colour and flavour.
I had Chongqing Chicken in the China Sichuan restaurant in Dublin a few months back and loved its authentic ma la, hot and numbing flavours. It contained diced chicken pieces seasoned with coarsely ground Sichuan pepper and mixed with chunky cashew nuts and lots of dry and fresh chilli. The large pieces of dried Chinese chilli topped the serving dish and added texture and colour. The dish packed a powerful and delicious punch – just enough chilli heat perfectly balanced by the numbing and addictive Sichuan pepper, the chicken succulent and tender.

China Sichuan’s Chongqing Chicken

Dried Chinese chillies from Sichuan, sometimes known as “facing heaven” chillies because of the way the plants grow, are a lot milder than their more fiery Thai cousins but they are not intended to be eaten. Chinese people pick them up with their chopsticks, suck any sauce that adheres to them and pile the discarded chillies shells in a neat pyramid beside their rice bowl.
I couldn’t find a recipe in any of my Chinese cookbooks so this is my attempt at recreating Chongqing Chicken at home based on what I know of the principles for creating a Sichuan stir-fry that I learnt at Hutong Cuisine in Beijing. The results were pretty close to the original and went down well in our house last night. I could probably have used a little more dark soy sauce to deepen the colour but that’s a matter of taste. I made it with chicken thighs as I prefer the flavour and texture of the meat. It’s a particularly quick and easy dish to prepare.
Shananigans’ Chonqing Ji Rou
Shananigans’ Chongqing Ji Rou


  • A good handful of cashew nuts
  • 2 chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 tbs light soy sauce
  • 1 tbs of Shaoxing rice wine
  • A pinch of salt
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp of Sichuan pepper finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion
  • I large fresh green chilli
  • A handful of Chinese dried red chillies
  • A dash of dark soy sauce
  • A dash of Chinese black vinegar
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Vegetable or groundnut oil


  1. Roast the cashew nuts on a baking tray in the oven at 180 degrees C or dry fry in a hot wok until golden. This should take no more than 10 minutes but keep an eye on them as it is easy to burn them.
  2. Meanwhile dice the chicken into small pieces (about 2 cm cubes). Mix first with salt and light soy sauce and then with the rice wine and let rest in a dish while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Finely dice the ginger and garlic.
  4. Finely chop the Sichuan peppercorns.
  5. Finely slice the spring onions, separating the white and green parts.
  6. Finely slice the green chilli.
  7. Break the dried chillies into pieces about 2 cms long and discard any seeds.


  1. Heat some oil in the wok to over a medium heat.
  2. Fry the minced garlic, ginger, spring onion whites and Sichuan pepper for a few moments until they soften and the fragrances are released, being careful not to burn them.
  3. Increase the heat to high and add in the marinated chicken and stir-fry over high heat until cooked (about 3  minutes).
  4. Add in the spring onions greens and green chilli and stir-fry until heated through and the fragrance is rising from the pan (you don’t want the green chilli and spring onions to lose their texture).
  5. Add the dried red chillies and cashew nuts and heat through quickly.
  6. Add a spash of dark soy sauce and Chinese vinegar to darken the colour and a pinch of sugar to taste.
  7. Serve with steamed rice.

Fish Fragrant Pork Shreds with Shan's Bashed Cucumber

Since I started this blog I’ve been fascinated by the flavours of Sichuan cooking. It would be a mistake to think these are all about hot and spicy dishes, even if numbing Sichuan pepper is currently my favourite ingredient.
In her memoir Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper, Fuchsia Dunlop talks of learning the 23 ‘official’ complex flavours of Sichuan cooking. One of those is yu xiang wei or ‘fish fragrant flavour’ which came about as a result of the desire of chefs in that land-locked province to make more use of the flavourings used in traditional Sichuanese fish cookery. It is a unique combination of salty and spicy, sweet and sour which doesn’t drift over into the more familiar, and sometimes cloying, sweet and sour flavours of Cantonese cooking. It is heavy on garlic, ginger, spring onions and uses soy sauce and sometimes chilli bean paste for seasoning. The gorgeous dark Chinkiang vinegar and Shaoxing rice wine also make a regular appearance.
This is what the Chinese call fu he wei – engaging the palate simultaneously on several levels and is what I most LOVE about Chinese food.
When I cooked Fish Fragrant Aubergines the other night from Every Grain of Rice, I remembered that I hadn’t yet tried Fish Fragrant Pork Shreds – Yu Xiang Rou – one of the dishes Ricky the head chef made for me in the China Sichuan when I visited their kitchen. See Inside the Kitchen of the China Sichuan.

Fish Fragrant Pork Shreds Shananigans style

The owner Kevin Hui gave me their recipe for this dish and I tried it out my own version of it tonight along with Shane & Shan’s recipe for Bashed Cucumber – Pai Huang Gua. The quantity below serves 4 to 6 people. Make the bashed cucumber first and leave it in the fridge to allow the flavours to mingle.while you are preparing the pork.
Bashed Cucumber

I suspect if I had a Sichuan Master Chef standing over me tasting my dishes he would have things to say about the balance of flavours but to my developing palate this tasted just like I remember it in China Sichuan. I love the way the cornflour sauce adds sheen to the dish and the chilli bean paste, dark soy and Chinkiang vinegar give it a rich dark red colour – a feast for the eyes as well as the palate, especially when set against the contrasting bright green cucumber.
Continue reading Fish Fragrant Pork Shreds with Shan's Bashed Cucumber

Dan Dan Noodles with Minced Beef (niu rou dan dan mian)

I’ve a head teeming with ideas for blog posts and recipes I want to try but it’s been a hectic week since I came back from Sicily and I haven’t yet had time to cook anything new. A Twitter conversation with Elaine (@LainerC) on how and in what combination with other ingredients to use Sichuan pepper reminded me of Fuchsia Dunlop’s version of Xie Laoban’s dan dan noodles which I tried for the first time just before I went on holidays and captured all the flavours of Sichuan in one simple dish. This dish is also a good example of ma la – the balance of numbing, cooling ma with spicy la, and I’m grateful to Ronan Farrell (@ronan_farrell) for reminding me of that lovely Chinese expression.
I love the Chinese characters for noodles 面条- mian tiao where the first character is the symbol for “face” and the second for “twigs”. I always remember it by thinking of a man piling “twigs” of noodles up to his face.
I also love Fuchsia’ story, told in detail in Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, of the inscrutable and often cranky Xie Laoban who made this legendary version of dan dan noodles in a tiny restaurant in Chengdu and her painstaking efforts to recreate the recipe by getting little nuggets of information from him over time and by closely examining the dish.
Increasingly for me Chinese food is not just flavour, it’s story and history woven into a tapestry on a plate. Noodles are a very significant part of the Chinese diet and, while I sometimes craved something more like a Western breakfast while I was there, Shan was constantly in search of noodles, eating little and often as the Chinese do. I can never eat them now without thinking of her Mum explaining the importance of serving them when welcoming family home, because of their symbolism in binding people together.
The dish below is unapologetically spicy, one for the spice girls – or the la men zi as they are known in China – and is the version Fuchsia included in her seminal cook book on Sichuan cuisine Sichuan Cookery. Get this right and you know exactly what balance of flavours to look for in a Sichuan dish.
The joy of this recipe is that it can be prepared in minutes from store cupboard ingredients and a 100g of minced beef. I got some extra lean minced beef today and froze it in 100 gm portions as an emergency supply so that I can avoid the need for mid-week takeaways. It has already become one of our favourites.
Dan Dan Noodles – Niu Rou Dan Dan Mian*

Friday night comfort food – dan dan noodles

300 g dried Chinese noodles Continue reading Dan Dan Noodles with Minced Beef (niu rou dan dan mian)

Sichuan Seafood "Duncannon" Style

Fuchsia Dunlop describes Sichuan food, Chuan Cai as the spice girl of Chinese cuisine “bold and lipsticked with a witty tongue and a thousand lively moods.” Too true. Even the Chinese warn you against the chilli heat of Sichuan cooking “Ni pa bu pa la?” “Are you afraid of chilli heat?” but once you get it in the right balance it’s addictive and milder alternatives seem bland. Since I returned from China I’ve been hoping to re-create those taste sensations at home.

Sichuan mixed seafood “Duncannon style”

Drumroll everybody… this is my first time ever to create a dish without a recipe. It’s based on the Seafood Typhoon Style prepared for me Inside the Kitchen of the China Sichuan. One of the things I’m determined to do as I learn to cook Chinese food is to use the best of Irish ingredients along with authentic Chinese spices and flavourings. I’m convinced there’s a marriage made in heaven to be had here. After a morning spent yesterday at Cavistons of Glasthule, thanks to @mumofinvention, learning how to prepare crab and lobster with Peter Caviston, seafood was on my mind as I made my way south to Wexford.
Arriving in Duncannon yesterday evening

Seafood is not readily available in the land-locked province of Sichuan which explains the popularity of Fish-fragrant flavours there – see recipe for Fish Flavoured Pork Shreds. But fish is abundant here in Wexford in the south east of Ireland where I was born and where I spend many weekends in the little fishing village of Duncannon. I recently tracked down, through Twitter, a relatively new fish shop in nearby Arthurstown called Fish Ahoy. They are on Facebook and on Twitter @Fishahoy1. That means that it’s now possible to get fresh fish from Bernie by arrangement on a Sunday morning if a new boat load comes into Dunmore East or Duncannon late on the Saturday night. So I made this dish with the zingy fresh fish that had come in with the last catch of the day yesterday rather than the combination of sole. monkfish, prawns and scallop used in China Sichuan.
Fish as fresh as it gets from Fish Ahoy

So here goes with Sichuan (Chuan Cai) Seafood “Duncannon” Style. It doesn’t pretend to be an authentic Sichuan recipe but it captures the flavours all the same,

Chuan Cai Seafood “Duncannon” Style
Now don’t be expecting very precise amounts of ingredients – I’m new at this lark after all – just play around to suit your personal taste. Continue reading Sichuan Seafood "Duncannon" Style

China Sichuan's Fish Flavoured Pork Shreds

I’ve been feeling very chuffed and excited today to see in print in Food File in the Irish Times magazine. A big thank you to Marie Claire Digby for her review and to Aoife of Babaduck (@babaduck71) fame for having the thought to send me the screen grab below.

Food File, Irish Times Magazine, !8th August 2012

I’ve started reading Fuchsia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper – a fantastic insight into her discovery of China and its cuisine. Fuchsia was the first westerner to train as a chef at China’s Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. She writes beautifully and she describes vividly her first encounter with Thousand Year Old Eggs – preserved duck eggs in her case. “They leered up at me like the eyeballs of some nightmarish monster, dark and threatening.” She made me giggle because I had a very similar reaction to them and like her I had resolved to dive into the China experience this time and to eat whatever was put in front of me without question. And so I did. I swallowed every single preserved egg I encountered on my trip and felt they deserved their Chinglish title of “perservered eggs” See post on Upper East Beijing and Yuxiang Kitchen.
Fuchsia’s memoir is a testament to how much has changed since the early 1990s, not just in China but in world-wide communications. Imagine if Fuchsia had a blog and Twitter at her disposal on that first visit to Chengdu where, in reality, she was almost completely cut off from the outside world. My own 21st century China odyssey seems very tame by comparison. And yet the superficial modernisation of China can be deceptive. The “otherness” of the culture can jump out and catch you unawares.
It took me a while to figure out that “Fish-Fragrant Flavour” dishes in Sichuan cuisine have no fish in them. These You Xiang Wei Xing dishes are based on the seasonings traditionally used in fish cookery – what Fuchsia describes as salty, sweet, spicy and sour notes, heavy on garlic, ginger and spring onions and using soy sauce and sometimes chilli bean paste for seasoning.
Yu Xiang Rou – Fish Flavoured Pork Shreds is one of the dishes Ricky the head chef made for me in the China Sichuan when I visited their kitchen recently. See Inside the Kitchen of the China Sichuan. Kevin Hui kindly gave me their recipe for this dish which is one of their favourites. It’s pretty straightforward and I look forward to trying it at home (which I subsequently did and you can see my results here.)
Ingredients: Continue reading China Sichuan's Fish Flavoured Pork Shreds

Inside the Kitchen of the China Sichuan, Dublin

My first experience of Chinese food was at The Universal in Wicklow St, Dublin. As a 17 year old just out of school and “up from the country” there was a heady excitement about spending Saturday morning in the Dandelion market followed by a 10 shilling lunch of chicken and sweetcorn soup, chicken curry with fried rice and pineapple fritters with ice-cream. Oh the sophistication. I can still taste those thick gloopy slices of onion and chicken in their curry sauce. Later I graduated to Wong’s and to this day a Chinese meal doesn’t seem quite right without a few After Eights with the bill. I hankered for them in Beijing.
Sometime in the early 80s, when Claire and Shane were small children, I started cooking Chinese food at home using recipes and sauces from Sharwoods – yellow bean, black bean, hoi sin, sweet and sour, hot chilli. Our first dinner guests sent us a thank you note (people used to do that in those days) asking if we had a bevy of Chinese staff working away in the kitchen. Little did I know where this was heading…

My first Chinese cookbook

A few years ago I re-discovered the China Sichuan – – when food critic Tom Doorley reviewed it in its new location in Ballymoss Rd., Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin and I was lured there by the scent of tea-smoked duck and drawn back by the fiery taste of sichuan peppers, a far cry from the Cantonese food of my early Chinese food experiences.
China Sichuan, Sandyford Dublin

Yesterday Kevin Hui allowed me into his kitchen to watch his head chef Ricky prepare 4 dishes that I should be able to reproduce at home. Well that’s the theory anyway.
China Sichuan is a good example of the challenge top end Chinese restaurants face in the current climate – stick to traditional versions of, in this case, Sichuan cuisine and run the risk that the food will be perceived as too heavy and oily for current tastes; or give the dishes a fresh modern take with the danger of alienating loyal customers and Chinese chefs who like to do things the old way. I encountered the same tensions in China but was bowled over by an emerging lighter, experimental cuisine that still respects traditional ingredients. China Sichuan strives to get the balance right using quality Irish meats and importing specialist spices. I just hope they keep on experimenting.
Sichuan Grilled Chicken
The first dish they showed me is one of the Head Chef’s new dishes – chicken thigh off the bone, marinated for a few hours in chilli bean paste, chilli powder, sichuan pepper (dry-fried and ground) and grilled for about 20 minutes on a medium heat. Simple, light and delicious served with a hot chilli and garlic sauce. It is still work in progress and doesn’t even have a name yet.
Sichuan grilled chicken

Seafood “Typhoon” Style
The second dish was the one that plunged me back into the heart of China and the Sichuan flavours I had come to love. Similar sized pieces of sole, scallops, prawns and monkfish were scored, dipped in egg white and potato flour and very quickly deep fried in a wok while Choi Sum (Chinese spinach) was plunged into boiling water for a minute in the wok next to it.
Most of the oil was discarded from the wok and a paste of minced ginger and garlic added, followed by fresh chilli and spring onions cut at steep angles into “horse ear” slices, dried chilli, Sichuan pepper and fermented black beans which had been soaked in water for a few minutes. The fish was added back in for a few moments to warm through and some chilli oil and Maggi sauce were added to finish it off. This dish made me almost want to cry with pleasure so evocative were the flavours of my recent trip to China. The name “Typhoon” is a literal translation of a modern Sichuan cooking style.
Deep-frying the fish in a wok

Seafood “Typhoon” Style

Fish Flavoured Pork Shreds in Garlic and Ginger Sauce
Third up was Yu Xiang Rou – Fish Flavoured Pork Shreds in Garlic Sauce. Kevin gave me the recipe for this and I will post it in the next day or two. Using fillet of pork, it is probably one of the more famous dishes from Sichuan. Nary a fish or even fish sauce gets near it but in this land locked province it uses ingredients and spices normally associated with the preparation of seafood.
Yu Xiang Rou – Fish Flavoured Pork Shreds

Ma Po Tofu
I loved tofu dishes when I was in China, the extraordinary ability of the bean curd to absorb the flavours of spices and oils. Ma Po Tofu is a Sichuan classic and Kevin recommended I source an original recipe for it from Fuchsia Dunlop author of Every Grain of Rice and Revolutionary China Cookbook among others. Kevin was the second person to mention Fuchsia Dunlop to me recently. Food blogger Joanne Cronin (@dudara; also said she was a must-read for my growing Chinese bookshelf.
Ma Po Tofu uses diced tofu soaked in water and heated through in a mixture of yellow bean paste, chilli bean paste, dried chilli, Sichuan pepper and Chicken broth. I’m sure I’ve left out ingredients here – spring onions, a pinch of sugar, a dash of sesame oil and chilli oil perhaps – but I promise to track down a complete recipe.
Ma Po Tofu

Fried Green Beans
As we were finishing up, I mentioned the difficulty I had re-creating the fried green beans from Shan’s recipe for fried green beans so the chef grabbed a handful of beans and showed me how to do it. I was beside myself with excitement when I discovered that the secret to those crinkly edges on the beans is that you deep-fry the un-cooked beans for a few minutes in the hot oil until the skin bubbles, then drain them, discard most of the oil and fry off your ginger and garlic paste, Sichuan peppers, pieces of dried chilli and salt.The chefs believe the inner seeds of the green beans will cause you food poisoning if not fully cooked and they do not like steaming the beans as this draws out too much water and loses the texture of the vegetable.
Today’s version was a vegetarian one using Sichuan pickled vegetables but a similar approach will work with minced pork as in Shan’s recipe.
Draining the deep-fried green beans

Now this is what I had been missing!
“Proper” Sichuan Fried Green Beans

A few random insights
One of the great pleasures of my visit to China Sichuan was to watch the deftness with which the chefs used their woks, the flick of the wrist with the ladles, the back of the deep ladle used to constantly keep food on the move, the versatility of the woks – within moments changing from a deep fat fryer to a steamer to a pan of boiling water to a shallow fryer, the lightening speed of cooking, the instinct for a pinch of this, a dash of that to get the balance just right. I know sugar, salt, sesame oil, chilli oil, soy sauce, chicken powder featured in many of the dishes as well as the holy trinity of ginger, garlic and spring onions but I wasn’t fast enough to catch them all. I just marvelled at the ease of the chefs and their effortless familiarity with their station and tried to visualise this relatively small space on a busy Saturday night with every dish freshly cooked in minutes.
So this is how you use a ladle

I learnt that chicken thigh is more tender and tasty than chicken breast and that sichuan pepper can be dry-roasted and ground down to provide a more subtle seasoning. Apart from some cook books I’ve added a few items to my shopping list – Maggi Sauce, Chilli Paste, Sichuan Vinegar and Sichuan Garlic Sauce as well as a proper Chinese strainer.
I am also contemplating, with some glee, setting Shane and Shan the challenge of re-creating the first 4 dishes, in their own style, in Beijing.
So a big thank you to Kevin Hui, to Head Chef Ricky and his team and to Alan the waiter who interpreted between Mandarin and English for the afternoon.
With Head Chef Ricky at China Sichuan

And a special thank you to Pat O’Reilly of Alexis Bar and Grill, Dun Laoghaire (@alexisdublin; who made this all possible by picking up on my Twitter plea for a chance to learn from the professionals and connected me up with Kevin.
Of course all this has left me even more determined to learn how to wield that cleaver and use that wok properly. Cookery lessons anyone? 😉

Home Made Dim Sum and Exploring China

I don’t usually feel compelled to write two blog posts in one evening but a number of things came together over the last few days which have my mind whirring with the endless possibilities of Chinese cuisine.
Exploring China – A Culinary Adventure
The second episode of BBC2’s Exploring China – A Culinary Adventure with Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang plunged me back into the “feel” of the China I experienced – the passion for colour, texture and taste, the array of dishes, the attention to perfection in technique and authenticity, the extraordinary, numbing sensation of sichuan pepper on the tongue, the mothers and “nãinai” (grannies), especially the grannies, so devoted to preparing the meal for everyone else that they are usually the last to eat and often eat alone. Shan told me she never saw her beloved Granny sit down to eat with the family and yet this woman, with her bound feet, was the powerhouse of her family.
This 2nd episode of Exploring China was set in Chengdu the capital of Sichuan Province and the images of ever-expanding and developing China, while the old traditions linger, evoked my own experience of Urumqi in the far north-west in Xinjiang Province, a city which now has a population of over 4 million people.

The cityscape of Urumqi, Xinjiang Province

Gok Wan’s Dim Sum
Meanwhile I set out yesterday to see if it was possible to create genuine dim sum at home using Gok Wan’s recipes from his Channel 4 Gok Cooks Chinese series. So I prepared:

  • Prawn and Scallop Moneybag Dumplings
  • Chilli and Salt Squid
  • Pickled cucumber
  • Steamed Rice Parcels with Chinese Mushrooms wrapped in lotus leaves
  • Chicken and Leek Potsickers
  • Pork and Prawn Potstickers
  • Steamed Beef and Coriander Balls
  • Steamed Pork Ribs
  • Fried Rice

The short answer is that it IS possible, provided you don’t mind being on your feet from 11 am to 6 pm and enjoy the pleasure of playing around with endless small quantities of ingredients, making up tiny, delicious parcels of delights and have VERY patient friends who can tolerate their Sunday dinner coming at them in a haphazard way – but that’s what happens in China after all.
For me the real kick of yesterday was discovering the sensuous pleasure of cooking with a bamboo steamer, the speed with which pork ribs and minced beef meatballs cook and absorb flavours with no oil added, the scent of the steaming wood and the sizzle of water added to sticky dumplings, their bases already crisped, which turned out exactly like the real thing served at home by Shan’s family in Urumqi.

Home-made chicken and leek potstickers ready to cook

Learning to make dumplings at an early age in Urumqi

I loved making the prawn and money bag dumplings and tying them up with chive “lasoos”.
My version of Gok Wan’s Prawn & Scallop Dumplings

Once our guests arrived it was impossible to cook, serve, be hospitable and take photos at the same time but I can honestly say that the part-fried and part-steamed dumplings turned out just as I remembered them from Urumqi.
We finished the meal with chilled watermelon dipped in lime and raspberry coulis from the Exploring China cookbook – simple and palate-cleansing.
Shan’s Xinjiang Spaghetti
Then I woke this morning to a new recipe from Shan in my inbox. This time it was for Xinjiang spaghetti with lamb, one of my favourite recipes from Urumqi and another reminder of the common ground between Italian and Chinese cooking. As luck would have it I had 2 small lean side-loin lamb chops in the fridge and it was easy to pick up Chinese Celery and Hu Jiao Fen pepper in the Asia Market.
Chinese pepper aptly labelled

The white pepper seems slightly more aromatic than ordinary white pepper but I suspect the latter would be a good substitute.
Chinese celery

The Chinese celery has a lovely crunchy texture and more flavour than ordinary Irish celery.
I notice I tend to use a bit more meat in her recipes than Shan recommends but it’s not really necessary and these stir-fry dishes are a great way of “stretching” meat for a quick family meal. I used spelt tagliatelle because that’s what was in the cupboard and it reminded me of the flat noodles in Urumqi. I would also love to try this dish with “Pici” pasta from Tuscany.
It took about 20 minutes, if even that, from the time I started slicing garlic to serving up the meal. It was filling and delicious but not heavy. Not a scrap was left at the end.
Shan’s Xinjiang Lamb Tagliatelle – Irish style

What next?
When I started out on this blog a few short weeks ago I said I had no idea where this journey would take me. Well tomorrow, on the strength of it, I get my first chance to be inside a Chinese restaurant kitchen in Ireland. This is how half-formed dreams take shape.
A word of acknowledgement
Over the weekend I visited various Twitter Foodie friends for ingredients so a special thanks to @brid_h2g for fresh produce at her Honest to Goodness Market. @pat_whelan for pork, lamb, beef and chicken from James Whelan Butchers at Avoca, @RobertsofDalkey for scallops, prawns and squid from Roberts of Dalkey and @AsiaMarketIrl for endless patience in meeting my requests for ingredients at the Asia Market, not to mention Enter the Panda @enterthepanda and @ClaireB_Oz for supporting their enthusiastic Ma in this new endeavour 🙂
If you’d like to try a hand at this dish yourself, have a look at Shan’s Xinjiang Spaghetti recipe. Please leave a comment too. I’d love to hear how you got on!

Upper East Beijing and Yuxiang Kitchen, Lido Square

Just over six years ago our son Shane travelled to Beijing for what was intended to be a brief visit to a friend who was studying Mandarin there. Thus began a personal voyage of discovery which led to him settling in the city, starting a business called Enter the Panda Ltd. and finding the love of his life Shan to whom he is now engaged. But that is his story.
We visited him in 2008 prior to the Beijing Olympics when he was still a student and got our first experience of Shanghai and Beijing, taking in all the usual tourist sites, including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall. That was a typical tourist experience giving us a sense of the “otherness” of the place and some day I will attempt to recall those first impressions, formed while Shane was barely finding his feet in the city.
This summer we travelled back with a different purpose – to spend some time with Shane and Shan in Beijing and to travel into the far northwest to Xinjiang province to the city of Urumqi to meet Shan’s family – an important part of the ritual of “betrothal” in China. We were also to be joined in Beijing near the end of our holiday by our daughter Claire and her Welsh husband Mike who live in Sydney Australia, so the trip provided a rare chance for a reunion with our far-flung offspring and their other halves.
Continue reading Upper East Beijing and Yuxiang Kitchen, Lido Square