Chinese Spiced Roasted Chicken

The last of the chicken thighs. Do not be surprised if you don’t see another chicken thigh on here until Easter, such are my feelings of ennui regarding the thigh at the moment. Another particularly easy recipe, just perfect after a busy day with a bowl of rice and perhaps, if you can face the effort, some stir fried veg. See how this chicken has made me? Too listless to consider chucking some chopped veg in a wok! I must confess, I didn’t have high hopes for this dish – my tolerance for dark chicken meat has waned recently, and there was nothing that sang out at me from the recipe.  But it was beautiful, rich and slightly sweet and, unsually for me, no chilli hit (that’s a  good thing, I think). This is one of those dishes far more than the sum of its parts – kitchen alchemy at work, which is the very best we can hope for. Anyway, you don’t need to use thighs – drumsticks or wings just as good.  To serve 4.

  • 8 chicken pieces, thigh or otherwise
  • 4 tbsp light soy
  • 6 tbsp yellow oil – groundnut is perfect
  • 1 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Combine all the ingredients apart from the chicken in a bowl. You may find the garlic easier to chop very finely if you chop it along with the salt, as this helps break it down. Put in the chicken and leave to marinate for at least an hour (any more than about three hours, store in the fridge, but remember to get out to bring to room temperature). Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and cook chicken in a roasting tin for 45 minutes to an hour, basting every 20 minutes or so with the marinade. Remember to turn the chicken over around halfway through to make it slightly crisp all over. Enjoy hot or cold, perfect for picnic workaday lunches.

Edgie’s Chinese Steamed Sea Bass

This is a recipe from my friend, Edge. I’ll leave you to enjoy it, but I feel there are a few references I should explain. BBC in this context, does not mean our favourite broadcaster but rather British Born Chinese. Gweilo means, well, white person. And, as the owner of this blog, I cannot definitively promise that eating sea bass will bring you luck at the poker table, but since that’s where I met him, and he has stacked me often enough, I’ll go along with it. Enjoy.

Steamed fish is a simple, popular, Chinese dish. For the BBC in me, it brings back memories of returning home on a cold evening, to be greeted by the smell fresh fish steaming in a rice cooker. Eating fish this way is very traditional, and known to bring luck to all who consume it, especially if they are of Chinese descent. In this modern age, it is particularly good for Poker players, though modern geeks also like to use statistics and software, as described at Poker Software and Analysis.

Unfortunately, this delight is rarely sampled by the Gweilo, as it is not readily available from takeaways and is expensive in restaurants. However, it can be easily cooked at home with non oily fishes such as trout, lemon sole or sea bass.

  • Fresh whole Sea Bass, Rainbow Trout or Lemon Sole
  • Spring Onion (a small bunch)
  • Ginger (2″ chunk)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Salt

Buy a fresh fish from your local fishmonger. Choose a fish with bright eyes and shiny skin. If it does not meet this criteria then it is not fresh, so don’t buy it.  Ask your fish monger to clean, gut and descale the fish. Be careful of young girls in supermarkets doing this, as they have been known to destroy rather than gut fish efficiently.

Back home, use a knife to gently remove remaining scales. Check the cavity for any remaining blood and guts, removing them by hand under a slow running cold tap. Also remove any loose bones.  Pat the fish dry, and rub a generous amount of salt into the skin and exposed flesh within the cavity.

Cut the ginger into matchstick sizes strips. Cut the spring onion into inch long sections.

Take half of the ginger and spring onion. Put half of it into your cooking implement of choice (e.g. steaming basket, or metallic dish). Place the fish onto this (you may need to cut it in half if the fish is too long). Stuff the fish with a third of the ginger and spring onion. Cover the fish with the rest.

Steam the fish for 12 minute. You can do it in a covered wok, rice cooker, or one of those steaming baskets that you place on top of saucepans. Any steaming device will do. When the fish is cooked, remove it from the steamer and place it on a dish.

Heat a wok up to a very high temperature. Pour some sunflower oil into the wok and let it heat. Then add the remaining ginger and spring onion, tossing it around quickly for about a minute. Then add a generous sprinkling of soy sauce. Remove the heat, and pour this garnish onto the fish. Serve with plain white rice and stir fried vegetables. Make sure you say grace and pray to the Poker gods beforehand.

Fiery(?) Dan Dan Noodles

So I’ve been thinking about making this dish for a while now. I have a bit of a strange relationship with Jamie Oliver recipes. Sometimes they’re fantastic but sometimes they’re really just ok. The only trouble is, Jamie Oliver is so enthusiastic about everything, that its difficult to tell from the outset what is amazing and what is merely alright. Anyway, I was attracted because there didn’t seem to be too much prep and it would be quick. Also, I really want to cook more chinese food.

The only way that I changed from the original recipe is that I didn’t use four types of greens – I just bought a large bag of choi sum from my chinese grocer. It doesn’t quite look the same as in Jamie’s picture but I didn’t have a food stylist or photographer. I just had my iphone.

Anyway, it was perfectly edible. I’d probably use fresh chilli next time rather than the chilli oil, as I think 5 tablespoons is too much – it tasted more oily than it did spicy – causing Greedy Guest to ask ,’Did you say they were fiery?’. I might also consider using finely chopped lean steak  instead of the mince . But it’s a very easy recipe, and it is quick. It wouldn’t serve four adults with average appetite, more like 2 hungry people. It didn’t set my world alight. But it was nice. Fine for a wednesday night quick dinner anyway.

Beef in Oyster Sauce

A proper cantonese dinner. You’re only really serving this with plain rice. Maybe a light vegetable side dish. Inspired by Kenneth Lo’s Sliced Steak in Oyster Sauce.

oystersauceWhen it comes to shopping in asian supermarkets, much as I love them, sometimes I feel a little set adrift. I simply have no idea what the right brand is to get… I am sure that in a lot of cases it is the difference between Daddy’s and HP sauce, personal preference, hardly matters. But the two shops I frequent, are probably used to me, and people like me, bent over in the aisle, eyes straining to read a list of ingredients,  the contents of which are similar, and often meaningless to the gweilo that are trying to deciper them. Maybe if I set up an european deli in China, the residents there would have trouble deciding over the different types of mustard or vinegar I would stock in much the same way.  But what does one do, when faced with 8 different types of oyster sauce? The clue is in the question, I ‘spose so I’m looking for the percentage of oyster derivatives – 9% in the bottle I bought, but 3% to 5% in comparable bottles. I’m guessing that oyster is fairly important. I will also look where phrases like ‘flavour enhancer’ and ‘modified corn starch’ appear in the list. I don’t care to know what modified corn starch is and I want as little as possible in my dinner. So, yeah, the nasties, as low as possible on the list, as things are always listed in terms of quantity. If its all fairly equal, I look at the price, and I buy the most expensive (and its never much money in a chinese supermarket) – here, the most expensive was just over twice the price of the cheapest – but had three times the amount of oyster. If I still can’t make a decision, I go for the best looking label. Really. The label  method has never, ever failed me yet.

Anyway, time ticks on. Serves 2  as a single main , or 4-6 as part of a range of dishes.

beef in oyster sauce

  • 45og rump steak (fat removed) or fillet steak if you are rich
  • 4 tbsps chinese rice wine, or dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 80 ml chicken stock
  • 4-6 spring onions – depending on the size of the onions. White parts of the onion only.
  • 3 slices fresh ginger

Cut the meat into thin strips, roughly 3 cm across. Mix half the sherry, half the cornflour, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and water and half the oyster sauce in a bowl and then add the strips of beef. Mix thoroughly into the meat with your hands. I did this about two hours before I planned to cook, for convenience really. I don’t know enough to know if it makes any difference when you do it.

In another bowl, add the remaining cornflour, the oyster sauce and stock. Cut the onions into one inch pieces. Heat your wok on a high flame, until smoking slightly, and then pour in around four tablespoons of vegetable oil, swirling it around the pan slightly. Put it back on the heat and when very hot, put in the beef and stir fry for 30 seconds. Remove the beef  to a plate and discard any excess oil. Put the pan back over the heat and fry the spring onions and ginger slices for the count of twenty.

Replace the beef in the pan and pour in the remaining sherry. Spread out the beef evenly in the pan and pour in the oyster sauce mixture. Cook for another 30 seconds and quickly serve with the rice. Scoff.

The ‘OMG, how easy was that?!’ Chinese Style Ducklegs

chinese duck

As well as a ridonkulous amount of food and recipe books in my household (153 at last count. Yes, I am the crazy-lady book hoarder – what of it?), I have what is known, somewhat ominously in our house as ‘the folder’. The folder is a stuffed foolscap file full of cut outs from papers and magazines, hand written recipes, lists (lots of lists), recipe cards from supermarkets and stolen liberated sample menus. Every now and then I get the folder out, in search of inspiration. After all, if I liked the look of  it enough to cut it out, write it down, or liberate it, I should like it enough to make it. It doesn’t always work like that of course and I might just settle for cooking some pasta and heating through some pesto. But every now and then I take a deep breath and try something out. And tonight, I had some duck legs hanging about in the freezer, so this was what I did. Serves 2, but completely easily doubled (or trebled, but boy would you need a big pot)

  • two duck legs, defrosted if frozen
  • 500 ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped (remove the seeds if you’re not into heat – its really the flavour you’re after)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 25ml rice vinegar (or cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar. Either will  do at an absolute push)
  • 35 ml soy sauce
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tbsp five spice powder
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp runny hunny
  • 10g cornflour, mixed with 50 ml water

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6. First, get a large frying pan and put it on the heat. When it’s hot, put the duck legs on it and brown them all over. Put the browned duck into a casserole dish. In the remaining duck fat, this time over a medium- low heat, put in the ginger, garlic and chilli and fry for a few minutes, continuing to move them round in the pan so they don;t stick and burn. Add these to the duck legs in the casserole dish.

Combine all of the rest of the ingredients, except the cornflour in a saucepan. Stirring, bring to simmering point and then pour it over the ducklegs in the casserole dish and put it in the oven. Cook for an hour. After this, remove the duck from the sauce and leave it in a warm place (the turned off oven with the door open is ideal). Add the cornflour and water mixture and slowly over a low heat, bring back up to simmering point again, stirring until thickened. This would suit serving on a bed of rice, but I had some stir-fried purple sprouting broccoli instead. My only disappointment is that simmering in the sauce makes the duck skin lose its crispiness, but the tender tasty meat more than compensated.