Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Discovering Tastes of China and celebrating "The Year Of the Horse"

The Chinese New Year 2014 is  "The Year of the Horse." It usually starts on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth when the moon will be brightest. But this year it started on the 31 January, the last day of the month, so the celebrations are still in full swing. Those born in the horse years are cheerful,skillful with money, perceptive, witty, talented and good with their hands.
Last month , I collaborated  on " A Taste of China " demo with my good friend Julie O'Neill . And here are two of the Cuisine we covered and some of the dishes we cooked.

Sichuan Cuisine comes from the South Western province of China. It has bold flavours from the pungency of garlic, hot and numbing seasoning of Sichuan peppercorns and spiciness from liberal use of Chilli oil along with Chillies itself, which are often dried and other preserved ingredients.
Hunan Cuisine on the other hand, from the Western province of China, is often spicier as nothing can be served here without fistful of fresh or preserved chillies. However, it contains a larger variety of fresh ingredients and is known for it's bold and colourful dishes.
Both Sichuan and Hunan Cuisine are part of The Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine .( Shandong, Sichuan, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan and Anhui ).

I never used to cook Chinese until I met Julie; Now I am unable to stop and  take -aways, are a distant memory of yester years. Julie regularly visits China and has gathered an amazing array of recipes from her various trips as well as from her Chinese daughter in law Shan.
Our " Taste of China "  demo was a great success but I was under pressure !!! as it so happened,we had the visiting O'Neill-Gao clan from China present that evening.
But help was there as I had invited another friend Marie McKenna to come and cook with me and we got the seal of approval from no other than Ching-He-Huang, the well known and very prettyTV Chef herself on Twitter.

Here are some of the dishes we cooked and I do hope you will give them a try as you would be foolish not to.
I used  Hutong Cuisine Chilli Oil
Recipe from  previous post : http://jacobcrackers.blogspot.ie/2014/01/red-hot-glorious-chillies.html

From Sichuan  Cuisine : Gong Bao Chicken

  • 300 grms of Chicken thigh, de-boned and cut into 11/2 cm cubes (or you could use chicken breast), scored in a x cross pattern.
  • 1/2 cup of dry roasted cashew nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves , sliced
  • 1 thumb of fresh ginger , sliced into matchsticks
  • 2 spring onions , sliced, white parts only
  • 10x 1cm pieces of dried Chinese long Chillies,
  • 2 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns
  • 200 grms of mange tout ( optional )
Marinade :
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tsp of light soy sauce
  • 4 tsp of water
  • 4 tsp of cornflour
Sauce :
  • 6 tsp of sugar
  • 3 tsp of light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp of Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tsp of dark soy sauce
  • 6 tbsp of water
  • 1 tsp of cornflour
In a bowl , combine the chicken pieces with the marinade until the liquid has been absorbed and the meat is sticky. Set aside .
Heat some oil( 4 tbsp ) in a wok over high heat, reduce heat and stir-fry the chopped chillies quickly, Remove and set aside. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and fry until they turn brown in colour, Remove leaving the flavoured oil behind.
Still on a low heat, add the ginger, garlic and stir to release their aromas. Add the spring onions and the chicken pieces. Keep all ingredients on the move so as not to burn them and ensure that they are cooked through.
When the chicken is cooked , add back the chillies, the mange tout if using and give it a good stir and pour in the sauce. It should thicken and coat the chicken pieces. Add the cashew nuts and serve immediately.

Sichuan Fried Green Beans

                                                           ( Photo by Solange Daini )

  • 500 grms of green beans, top & tailed and cut into 5 cm length
  • 100 grms of minced pork, marinated in 1/2 tsp of rice wine + 1/2 tsp of light soy sauce
  • 6 dried chillies, chopped into 1 cm pieces
  • 1 tsp of Sichuan pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of minced ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 spring onions , white parts only, sliced
  • 4 tbsp of Ya-Cai preserved vegetables ( see picture ) 

Seasoning :
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of sesame oil
Blanch the green beans in salted boiling water for 3-4 mins . Drain and refresh under cold water.
Heat some oil ( 3-4 tbsp ) in a wok over high heat, reduce the heat and add the beans, stir-fry until fragrant. Remove and set aside.
Add the Sichuan Pepper, chilli and stir. Add the pork , stirring to break up the pork and until it is cooked through. Add the ginger, garlic and spring onions, Return the green beans to the wok and add the ya-cai preserved vegetables and stir well. Pour in the seasoning and mix well.
Take off the heat and drizzle over the sesame oil.

 Crispy Chilli Beef

  • 400g sirloin steak or bavette of beef
  • 2 egg whites, beaten
  • Good pinch of salt
  • About 4 tbs potato flour
  • A pinch of baking powder
  • Oil for deep frying - use good quality sunflower or groundnut oil
  • 2 carrots cut into thin matchsticks
  • 2 spring onions thinly sliced at steep angles
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 red chillies, de-seeded and thinly sliced at steep angles
  • About 80 g caster sugar
  • 3 tbs Chinese black vinegar
  • 2 tbs light soy sauce
  • Roasted sesame seeds (optional) to garnish
Cut the beef into slices against the grain and then into thin strips.Dip in the egg white and mix with your hand, leaving it to rest for a few minutes.
Mix the potato flour with salt and baking powder.Drain off any excess egg white and dip the beef strips in the flour mix, shaking off any excess.
Heat up a full cup of oil in a wok on high heat.Add the beef quickly, stirring using long wooden chopsticks, a Chinese "spade" or a spatula to separate the strands. Cook the beef for 3 - 4 minutes, stirring to keep the strands separate, until it is really crispy. Remove with a mesh strainer or slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Pour the oil from the wok leaving about 1 tbs. and cook the carrot for 1½ mins, Remove with a slotted and place on a warm serving dish.Add another small amount of oil to the wok if necessary and re-heat over a medium/high heat. Add the spring onion, garlic and chilli and stir-fry for a few moments to release the aromas.Increase the heat to high, add back the beef and carrots and stir to mix and heat through. Add the sugar, soy sauce and vinegar and stir to combine and dissolve the sugar.

Garnish with coriander or lightly toasted sesame seeds and serve with steamed rice.

Hunan Steamed fish with Chopped Salted Chillies

                                                                ( Photo by Solange Daini )
250 g fillet of fish, any firm white fish, cut into portions

  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp rice wine
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce

  • 4tbs Hunan minced chilli – TanTan Xiang brand
  • 2 spring onions finely chopped, white part only
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp fermented black beans, rinsed (optional)
  • 1 tbs groundnut or sunflower oil


Mix the marinade ingredients and pour over the fish.
Mix the seasonings then coat the fish and leave for about half an hour at room temperature, turning half way through to make sure both sides can absorb the flavours.
Bring a wok or large pot of water on to boil and when boiling place the fish on a plate in a steamer basket.
Steam, covered, for just six minutes over a high flame. Heat about a tablespoon of hot oil over a high flame and, when smoking, drizzle over the fish.

 Serve immediately and garnish with some extra chillies and fresh coriander.

Xin Nian Kuai Le, 新年快乐

Happy Chinese New Year from Julie, Marie & I

                                                              ( Photo by Solange Daini )
Read more about Julie O'Neill Chinese adventures and tips on cooking Chinese http://www.shananigansblog.com

 Solange Daini @Bananahammock75

Tagged:  chinese cuisine- chilli oil- gong bao chicken- sichuan fried green beans- crispy chilli beef- hunan steamed fish

©2012-2014;Robert Jacob;jacob'scrackers;jacobscrackers9; All rights reserved

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