Crispy tofu dandan noodles

Now, all you need to know about Sichuan dandan noodles is that they’re blooming delicious and so simple to make! Dandan often uses meat such as pork mince however, after a meat heavy Christmas season, I have decided to lighten this up and use tofu. These noodles are also packed with other vegetables such as shitake mushroom, which give a wonderfully meaty taste and don’t compromise on flavour. Balance this with the savouriness of Tianjin preserved vegetables and you have a dish to die for! Preserved vegetables may sound strange but, believe me, they are divine. They add a wonderfully salty and garlicky taste that is hard to replicate.

I have cooked my tofu in an unusual way by crumbling it into smaller pieces that resemble mince; frying crumbled tofu adds a crunch to the dish which balances the texture of the vegetables perfectly. Use a firm tofu and, if you haven’t had it before, it is a good introduction to it. Sichuan peppercorns are also called for; you can find these in Chinese supermarkets and add a mouth tingling finish. The taste is completely different to the heat that a chilli provides so it is worth finding these.

IMG_20160107_200245

Ingredients- serves 2
2 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp Chinese chilli oil
1/2 tbsp sesame oil or tahini
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
200g firm tofu
1 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp Tianjin preserved vegetables
200g shitake mushrooms- roughly chopped
2-3 spring onions- chopped
1 head of pak choi- leaves shredded and stalk chopped
200g rice or egg noodles

1. Start by making the sauce that also provides the base for the dish. The Sichuan peppercorns need to be toasted; to do this, take a small frying pan and heat to medium, warm the peppercorns until they start releasing their fragrance. Remove from the heat and grind in a pestle and mortar before setting aside. Combine both types of soy sauce, the chilli oil and sesame or tahini. A word of caution: Chinese chilli oil can be rather warm on the old tongue so I always give mine a quick taste and adjust to my liking. Dandan noodles are meant to have a bit of kick!

2. To prepare the tofu, remove from the packet and drain off any excess water it comes in. Pat dry thoroughly between pieces of kitchen roll. Crumble the tofu into small pieces and sprinkle over the cornflour; this will help the tofu to crisp up. If you find your tofu is particularly moist, then you can add a touch more flour. At this stage, add half of the ground peppercorns and toss through the tofu. Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the tofu; cook over a medium heat until the tofu is crisp and golden. This may take around 10 minutes so give it a stir from time to time as you move onto the next step.

3. Boil a pan of water and cook the noodles according to packet instructions. Take a wok and add a glug of flavourless oil such as groundnut or vegetable oil over a medium heat. Add the remaining peppercorns, preserved vegetables and half of the sauce. Throw in the mushrooms, spring onion and the chopped stalks of the pak choi and cook for a minute or two.

4. Drain the noodles well and add bit by bit to the wok. I added a small amount at a time and then added another bit of sauce with each addition of the noodles to minimise the risk of them clumping together. Pop in the pak choi leaves and stir fry until the vegetables are cooked through and the noodles are warmed. The sauce should lightly coat the strands of noodle. Serve immediately in warmed bowls and divide the crisped tofu and sprinkle on top of the noodles.

Crispy tofu dandan noodles- a new way to use tofu for the New Year!

Advertisements

Sticky Szechuan pepper prawns

Now this is a must cook dish! Szechuan pepper prawns are sweet, sticky and spicy which in my mind is the perfect combination for these juicy beauties. Szechuan pepper can be bought in Chinese supermarkets or online from http://www.souschef.co.uk (I challenge you to have a look on this site and only buy what you were originally looking for!). The pepper gives a tingle and I toast my peppercorns before using to bring out the flavour. I also used kicap manis in this recipe which is an Indonesian soy sauce that adds a savoury hit which balances the sweetness of the honey. What are you waiting for? Read on!

IMG_20150827_194016

Ingredients- serves 2
200g raw peeled king prawns
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp kicap manis
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1 garlic clove- crushed

1. Start off by toasting the peppercorns- simply take a small pan and heat the peppercorns over a medium/ high heat for a couple of minutes. Don’t give them too long otherwise they will burn and turn bitter so keep an eye on them. When they’re ready, grab a pestle and mortar and roughly grind them. You’re after a coarse grind rather than dust!

2. For the marinade mix the honey, kicap manis, pepper and garlic and pop the prawns in. Cover and leave in the fridge for aroud 30 minutes. When you are ready to cook, take a small frying pan and add the excess marinade. Cook for a couple of minutes over a medium heat until it starts to thicken and turn lovely and glossy. Add in the prawns and toss to coat in the sticky sauce. The prawns should need around 3-4 minutes depending on their size. And that’s all there is to it! I served the prawns with a simple vegetable and noodle stir fry.

Sweet, sticky and spicy Szechuan pepper prawns- a tingly taste of heaven! I mean, just look at them…

IMG_20150827_210855

Chinese style sticky chilli pork

Yes, yes I know! It’s another Asian dish but I just can’t help it! This would also work well using chicken or even firm tofu if you prefer. This is quick, easy but super delicious so put it to the test and you won’t regret it. I mean just look at it…

wpid-img_20150525_204743.jpg

Ingredients-serves 4
Groundnut oil
400g pork tenderloin- cut into chunks
3 tbsp runny honey
3 tbsp dark soy
3-4 tsp Chinese chilli bean paste depending on how hot you like it
3 tsp Chinese rice wine
3 garlic cloves- finely chopped
inch piece of ginger- peeled and finely chopped 
1 banana shallot- finely chopped
3 dried facing heaven Chinese chillies- pricked but kept whole (optional)
4 spring onions- shredded

1. Get going by heating a little groundnut oil in a wok and brown off the pieces of pork. Remove and set aside until later. I don’t marinade my pork for this in advance as it is such a flavourful dish without it. Wipe out the pan and pop another glug of oil in over a medium to high heat.

2. Pop in the garlic, ginger, shallot and whole chillies and cook until softening. Meanwhile make the sauce by adding the honey, soy, rice wine and chilli bean paste. Have a taste and adjust if needed but this is the perfect blend of hot, sweet and sharp!

3. Add the sauce to the pan and allow to bubble for a couple of minutes until it looks like it is starting to turn gorgeously sticky. Return the pork to the pan and coat with the sauce. Continue to bubble away until the pork is cooked through and the sauce has reduced. At the last minute throw in the spring onion and serve straightaway. I served it with delicious sesame pak choi and rice.

Chinese style sticky chilli pork- a winning dish!

Kung Pao chicken

This has to be one of the most ordered and eaten dishes in Chinese restaurants so this is my take on it. The key here is to prep everything before you get cooking as once you get going it is really quick. I have used cashew nuts as a bit of a change as I find they give a creamier finish but you can use peanut if you like. The recipe calls for Facing Heaven Sichuan chillies and they can be bought from Spice Mountain- you can visit them in Borough Market in London or online here. I challenge you to only buy those and not all the other chilli based goodies on offer!

wpid-img_20150323_141343.jpg

Ingredients- serves 4
For the marinade

4 skinless chicken breasts- cut into bite size pieces
1 tbsp dark soy
2 tsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp cornflour

For the sauce
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns- roasted and ground
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine vinegar
1 tsp dark soy
1 tsp oyster or Hoisin
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp sesame oil

Plus
8 dried Facing Heaven Sichuan chillies
1 small red and 1 small green bell pepper- cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
3cm piece of fresh ginger-grated
3 spring onions- finely sliced
2 handfuls of unsalted cashew nuts (or peanut if you prefer)

1. Start off by marinading the chicken breasts pieces in the soy, rice wine and corn flour. Make sure that when you combine the ingredients that the cornflour had no lumps- give it a good whisk! Cover and leave to rest for around 15 minutes but a little longer if you have time.

2. Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and check the levels of sweetness and heat so it suits you. Set aside.

3. When you are ready to cook, simply add a splash of groundnut oil to a hot wok and fry the dried chillies for a minute or so. This may smoke a little so be careful- this releases the flavour of the chilli. If you can’t get hold of these specific chillies, any medium heat dried red chillies will be fine. Next up goes the chicken pieces and the peppers; cook the chicken so it is nearly cooked through. Add the sauce you have set aside and the rest of the ingredients except the nuts and onions and then stir well. The sauce should begin to reduce down and leave a coating over the chicken. Just before serving, add in the onion and nuts to warm.

Serve with rice and Asian greens and dig in.

Kung pao chicken- you’ll never pick up that takeaway menu again!

Slow cooked sticky Chinese pork belly slices

Forget your favourite Chinese takeaway this week and give this a try. The sweet pork belly meat is balanced with a savoury and punchy marinade which is a surefire winner!

wpid-wp-1424603983910.jpeg

Ingredients- serves 4
8 pork belly slices
1 tsp five spice
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns- ground (optional)
2 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 garlic clove- finely grated

1. This pork benefits from being marinated in advance, even the night before if you can so the meat can take on the different flavours. To make the marinade, simply mix the spice and wet ingredients before massaging into the belly slices. Cover and keep in the fridge before you need it.

2. When you’re ready to cook the belly, preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Place the belly slices onto a baking tray and cover with foil. Cook in the oven for 1 hour. As the pork cooks, check it occasionally and use the sticky juices to baste as needed. After the first hour, turn the oven up to 200c/ 180 fan, remove the foil and cook for a further half an hour.

Serve with long grain rice and a vegetable side dish. I served with a mixed vegetable stir fry of shredded pak choi, tenderstem broccoli, sugar snap peas and spring onion which was finished simply with soy sauce and sesame oil.

Unctuous pork belly- move over takeaways!

Chinese lamb stir fry

Thinking of a midweek Chinese takeaway? Here is my version of a simple but moreish take on a traditional dish from Beijing. Chinese wood ear mushrooms are worth seeking it as there is no other variety like it.

wpid-wp-1409600992185.jpeg

Ingredients- serves 4
400g lamb leg fillet
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsp cornflour paste
20g dried wood ear mushrooms
2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 spring onions- finely chopped
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp yellow bean sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

1. Slice the lamb fillets into delicate, thin pieces and place in a shallow dish or bowl. Mix the sugar, soy sauce, rice wine or sherry and cornflour paste and coat the lamb in it. At this stage, if you like a bit of a tingle then add 1/2 tsp ground Szechuan pepper to the dish, or alternatively drop in a couple of whole peppercorns for a more mellow hint and set aside to marinade for 30 minutes.

2. Soak the dried wood ear mushrooms in a bowl and leave for 25 minutes. The mushrooms will expand on size so make sure they have room! When they are ready cut into small pieces.

3. Heat half of the oil in a hot wok and stir fry the lamb for 1 minute. Remove from the wok and set aside. Take the remaining oil and add to the wok. Add the spring onions, ginger, mushrooms and yellow bean sauce (if using) and stir well to combine and fry for 2 minutes before adding the lamb back in to heat through.

4. Serve in a dish and drizzle over the sesame oil. I serve this with rice on the side and Chinese greens such as pak choi or tatsoi.

Try this recipe and you’ll soon forget about your local Chinese takeaway! Not a soggy prawn cracker in sight!