Red Chilli Oil for Dumplings

This red oil is great for serving with dumplings, but it is also an essential ingredient in Sichuanese food. Combined with soy sauce and sugar it becomes “Red Oil Flavour”, one of the key flavours of Sichuanese cuisine. It may look spicy, but the level of heat will depend entirely on the chillies you use. Chinese dried chilli flakes (available from Asian grocers) are often much milder than those found in the West. I’d strongly suggest finding them if you’re making this oil, as you’ll get a stronger chilli flavour and colour, without as much of the heat.

Ingredients

1L peanut or canola oil

4 star anise

4 black cardamom, bashed

2 large pieces cassia

5 bay leaf

6 spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

5cm ginger, thickly sliced

2 cups Chinese dried chillies flakes

Method

Heat the oil to 200C and add the star anise, black cardamom, cassia and bay leaves. Then add the spring onion, onion, and ginger and continue to fry until the wet aromatics appear dry and lightly browned. Remove all the ingredients from the oil with a strainer scoop and remove the oil from the heat.

Allow the oil to cool for about 10 minutes to around 120C, and then add the dried chilli flakes. Allow the oil to cool completely for about 1 hour, and then transfer the chilli oil to a jar. The chilli oil will keep at room temperature for years.

Top Tips for Red Chilli Oil

  1. You can make variations on this by including Sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds or other ingredients you might like. However, I prefer to keep mine simple, as the more simple it is the more versatile it will be.
  2. Definitely try and source Chinese chilli flakes rather than using Western dried chilli. Western dried chillies are made from different varieties of chilli and tend to be over-dried, contain too many seeds, and have less colour and flavour than Chinese chillies.
  3. This kind of chilli oil can be made with a mix of chilli varieties, providing heat, flavour and colour separately.
How to Make Basic Dumplings

Just about every Chinese family will have a freezer stocked with homemade dumplings. Jiaozi are the classic homestyle dumpling found all over China. You can customise the filling to be whatever you like, and make different batches depending on your own personal preference.

The first time you try your hand at homemade dumplings, it may seem like a chore to do, but they taste so much better (and cheaper) than ones that you would buy in the supermarket. Don’t worry, the second time you’ll make them better and faster, and if you persevere making your own dumplings will soon become a breeze (and actually a great way to relax too).

Makes about 100 dumplings

Ingredients

¼ Chinese cabbage

1kg fatty pork mince

2cm ginger, peeled and grated

2 cloves garlic, finely minced (optional)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

½ tsp sugar

¼ tsp white pepper

½ cup garlic chives, cut into 1cm pieces

Hot water dumpling skins

3 cups plain flour, plus plenty of extra for dusting

1-1½ cups boiling water

Method

For the dumpling skins, place the flour in a the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook. Add the hot water and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. Remove from the stand mixer and wrap in floured cling film and rest for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling, first bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the cabbage and cook for about 5 minutes until tender. Drain well, refresh in cold water and then drain again. With your hands, squeeze out as much liquid from the cabbage as possible and finely chop it, squeezing out the liquid again after it’s chopped.

Combine the pork, ginger, garlic, salt, Shaoxing wine, sugar and pepper in the bowl of a stand mixer with the beater attachment and beat for about 10 minutes until the mixture is springy. Fold through the chopped cabbage and garlic chives at low speed. Refrigerate the filling for 30 minutes. If you don’t want to use a stand mixer both the dough and the filling are easily made by hand. Just knead the dough by hand, and mix the filling in a large bowl.

Refer to the video for the process of rolling and folding. Cut about a quarter of the dough from the piece of dough and roll it into a cylinder around 2cm in diameter. Cut the cylinder into 1cm lengths and roll into a circle around 1mm thick and 7cm in diameter. Add about 2 tsp of filling to the centre of the skin and fold the dumpling as you like.

You can freeze the dumplings in batches on a tray lined with baking paper, or cook them by boiling, steaming or fry-steaming them. For boiled dumplings, place the dumplings in boiling water, and then each time the water returns to the boil add about ½ a cup of cold water to reduce the temperature. When the dumplings float to the surface, cook for a further 1 minute and then remove.

Top Tips for Basic Dumplings

  • Don’t worry too much about folding. The technique shown in the video is very simple for homemade skins, but if you’re using commercial skins I’d suggest just folding them in a half-moon just to get started. You can go onto fancier folding techniques later as you get more confident.
  • Tasting the filling is all-important. You don’t want to fold 100 dumplings and find out that they don’t taste any good. Taste the filling and adjust the seasoning if necessary BEFORE you start folding.
  • Y0u can customise the filling however you like. Try adding herbs like dill or coriander, additional vegetables and egg, prawns, spices like Sichuan peppercorn. You can really add just about anything here.

 

How to Make Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and sour pork gets a bad rap for being a non-authentic Westernised imitation of Chinese food, but it is actually a very common dish in modern Cantonese cuisine, even in China itself. There are many variations of sweet and sour pork dishes across China, but the Cantonese version is what is most commonly found in the West.

Ingredients

500g pork belly, neck or loin, cut into 3cm pieces

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1 egg

½ cup cornflour

canola oil for deep frying (approx. 1L), plus extra

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into irregular chunks

1 red capsicum, cut into irregular chunks (or a mix of different coloured capsicum)

1 onion, cut into large chunks

3 cloves garlic, crushed

8 cherry tomatoes, cut into wedges

150g fresh pineapple, cubed

Sweet and sour sauce

¼ cup chicken stock (optional)

¼ cup white vinegar

2 tbsp Shaoxing wine

2 tbsp white sugar

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp tomato sauce

1 tbsp grated ginger, juice only

½ tsp cornflour (optional)

Method

Combine the pork with the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine and egg, and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Toss the pork in the cornflour to coat.

For the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Heat your oil to 180C and deep fry the onion, carrot and capsicum in separate batches for just a minute or so each until just barely tender. Deep fry the pork in batches for 1-2 minutes until golden brown.

Heat your wok over high heat and add about 2 tbsp of oil. Add the garlic and toss for just a few seconds. Add the sauce and bring to a simmer. Allow the sauce to reduce by about a third until it is thickened and glossy. Add the vegetables, pork, pineapple and tomato to the wok and toss to coat in the sauce.

Top Tips for Sweet and Sour Pork

  • The more concentrated the sauce is, the crispier the pork will be. If you really want crispy pork, you can leave out the stock and make sure the sauce is very reduced so that there is less water to soak into the pork coating.
  • You can use other fruits such as dragonfruit, kiwi, peaches, or lychee instead of pineapple.
  • The sauce will thicken further after the pork is added and absorbs some of the liquid, so bear that in mind when reducing the sauce.

 

Red Wine Teriyaki Steak Donburi

This variation on my easy homemade teriyaki sauce uses red wine instead of sake, so it’s a great option if you can’t get hold of many Japanese ingredients. A donburi is a rice bowl and it’s just as it sounds – rice with a simple topping that makes a easy one-bowl meal. This version is slightly fancy with garlic chips and chopped wasabi stem, but you could use a little horseradish or ordinary wasabi instead.

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil

400g good quality sirloin or scotch fillet steak

salt and pepper, to season

3-5 cups cooked Japanese rice

1 piece nori, cut into fine shreds

1/2 tsp wasabi or horseradish, or 1 tsp prepared wasabi stem, to serve

Red wine teriyaki (Makes 600ml)

250ml light soy sauce

200ml Australian shiraz

200ml mirin

80g sugar

Method

To make the red wine teriyaki, combine the ingredients in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to an empty wine bottle and store in the pantry until ready to use.

Heat a frying pan over low-medium heat and add the oil and garlic. Fry the garlic, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Remove the garlic from the pan, leaving the oil in the pan. Increase the flame to high. Season the steak with salt and black pepper, and fry the steak until cooked to your liking. Remove and set aside to rest.

Add about 1/2 cup of the red wine teriyaki sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer. Reduce the sauce until it is the consistency of maple syrup, then return the rested steak to the pan and turn briefly to coat.

Place the rice into a serving bowl and scatter with the nori. Slice the steak and place it on top of the nori, pouring over a little more of the reduced sauce. Scatter with garlic chips and add little wasabi or horseradish on top of the beef.

Top Tips for Red Wine Teriyaki

  • I used a shiraz for this but any dry red wine will work perfectly well.
  • The key with all teriyaki is controlling the reduction. If it is too reduced, it will be too thick and salty. If it is too thin, the sauce will be insipid. Luckily, it’s easy to get it right. If it’s too thin, keep simmering. And if it’s too thick, add a little extra teriyaki sauce to thin it out.
  • Of course, you don’t need to search for wasabi stem for this. A little ordinary wasabi (like for sushi), horseradish or even English mustard would be totally fine. You just need something a little pungent to lighten the dish.
Salt and Pepper Squid

Salt and pepper squid might be the most popular dish in Australia. With origins in Cantonese cooking, it’s a dish that has moved from Chinese restaurants to everything from local pubs, Italian cafes, Thai or Vietnamese restaurants and the corner fish and chip shop.

It’s simple to make at home, too. It’s a double cooking process, which has the squid being deep-fried first and then stir-fried with aromatics and tossed with salt and pepper.

Ingredients

500g squid tubes, cleaned

¼ cup plain flour

¼ cup potato starch or cornflour

about 2L vegetable oil, for deep frying, plus extra for stir-frying

4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 large red chilli, sliced

2 spring onions, sliced

½ tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper

lemon wedges, to serve

Method

Score the squid in a cross-hatch pattern, taking care not to cut all the way through. Cut the squid into bite-sized pieces and toss in the plain flour and potato flour.

In a wok, heat the oil to 180C. Shake off any excess flour and deep fry the squid in batches for about 3 minutes until golden brown. Drain well and remove the oil from the wok.

Brush out the wok and return it to medium heat. Add about 1 tbsp of clean oil to the wok and add the garlic, chilli and spring onion. Fry for about 2 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Return the squid to the wok, season well with salt and plenty of ground black pepper and toss to combine. Remove from the wok and serve with lemon wedges.

Tips for Salt and Pepper Squid

  • Try to use fresh squid rather than frozen. Frozen squid can retain too much water, meaning that when you fry it it will be a little more soggy.
  • If you want really crispy squid make sure the squid is golden brown before removing it from the oil.
  • You can use other flours if you prefer. Rice flour works well, as does sweet potato starch or corn starch.
  • You can add dried spices to the salt and pepper mix if you want to be a little more adventurous. Spices like fennel and Sichuan peppercorn work well.
Shandong Roast Chicken

Shandong (or Shantung) chicken is a popular Chinese restaurant dish. Despite the name, however, it is not really a dish from Shandong Province. Shandong’s Lu cuisine is often considered the most famous and influential in China, known for its refined technique and balance of tastes – salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy. It is also famous for its fragrant dark vinegars, and it is the balanced taste of the vinegar that gives this dish its name.

The dish itself is a combination of a fragrant sweetened vinegar sauce characteristic of Shandong’s Jinan style of cooking, with a crisp-skinned fried chicken, more common in Cantonese cooking. It was in Cantonese restaurants that this dish was popularised.

Deep-frying a whole chicken at home can be difficult (and dangerous). My version uses a roast chicken topped with the same sauce. It makes life a lot easier and tastes fantastic.

Ingredients

1 whole free-range chicken, about 1.6kg

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1 tsp grated ginger, juice only

Shandong sauce

1/4 cup black vinegar (see Tips below)

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp sugar

2 bird’s eye chillies

1 coriander root, stalk and root finely chopped, leaves reserved

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Method

Rub the chicken all over with salt, inside and out, taking care to exfoliate to remove any dead skin from the chicken. Pour boiling water all over the skin of the chicken to tighten it. Combine the dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, ginger juice, and rub all over the chicken as well. Marinate uncovered in the fridge overnight. Alternatively, use a hairdryer to blow to skin of the chicken until it is dry and tightened.

Heat your oven to 200C. Place the chicken on a sheet of baking paper in a roasting pan and roast the chicken for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and rest for 15 minutes.

For the Shandong sauce combine all the ingredients together and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add a few spoons of the rendered chicken oil and juices from the pan. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve smothered in the Shandong sauce.

Tips for Shandong Chicken

  1. For a super easy version of this you can just buy a pre-roasted chicken (without stuffing), make the sauce and pour it over the top.
  2. The most popular Chinese black vinegar is actually Chinkiang vinegar from Jiangsu province, not Shandong. Most Shandong chicken recipes will use this vinegar, but if you can find an authentic Shandong-made vinegar it will be a little bit more interesting. You may need to adjust the proportion of sugar.
  3. If you do want to make a deep-fried version of this, poach the chicken first in a soy-based stock, then hang it to dry completely so it won’t spit when it’s deep frying.

 

Homestyle Omurice

Omurice is one of the most popular Japanese home-cooked dishes. A simple fried rice known as “chicken rice” is covered in a soft-set omelette and demi-glace sauce. There are three main styles of preparing the omelette for the omurice, and I’m going to show you the most popular style.

Ingredients

2 tbsp canola oil

1 small onion peeled and finely diced

½ cup sliced mushrooms

1 small carrot, finely diced (optional)

1 small chicken breast, cut into 2cm cubes

¼ cup frozen peas

salt, to season

4 cups cooked koshihikari rice, chilled overnight

1 tsp soy sauce

1-2 tbsp tomato sauce (ketchup)

5 eggs, beaten

¼ cup demiglace (available from Japanese grocers)

2 tbsp beef or other stock

1 tsp finely chopped parsley, to serve

Method

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add 1 tbsp of oil. Fry the onions for about a minute until fragrant, then add the mushrooms and carrot and fry for a further 2 minutes until the carrots are softened. Add the chicken and peas, season with salt and fry until the chicken is just cooked through.

Add the rice to the frying pan, along with the soy sauce and ketchup. Fry for about 3 minutes until the rice is warmed, softened and well mixed. Remove the rice from the pan and divide it between two bowls. Press the rice to the side of the bowl at a 45 degree angle, so that he rice forms a half-football or “torpedo” shape rather than a round dome. Turn the rice out onto two separate plates and keep warm while you cook the eggs.

For the demi-glace sauce, combine the prepared demi-glace and stock in a small saucepan and mix well over medium heat until hot and combined.

Heat a clean frying pan (around the same size as the plate the rice is on) over medium heat and add about 1 tbsp of oil. Add 2-3 beaten eggs and with a gentle pushing motion, push the egg from the edges of the pan to the centre as the egg slowly cooks. When the egg is set at the base but still quite wet on top, remove the pan from the heat and slide the egg over one plate the rice. Pour over the demi-glace sauce and sprinkle with a little parsley to serve. Repeat for the remaining egg.

Top Tips for Omurice

  • There are three main ways of making the egg to go with this dish. Firstly an egg skin is cooked firm and used to wrap the rice. This is a common way of doing this, but the drawback is that the egg is usually fully set rather than soft. Secondly, a soft-centred French omelette is placed on top of the rice and cut so that it opens over the rice. This method is very difficult to achieve unless you are very good at making French-style omelettes. This is how omurice is served in many specialist, higher-end omurice restaurants. The third and most popular method is the one in this recipe, where a soft, unfolded omelette is draped over the rice on the plate. This is the most common way the dish is served at home in Japan.
  • Without the egg, this dish is called “chicken rice” and is a very popular kids dish in Japan. Of course, omurice with the egg is popular too.
  • You can leave off the demiglace if you prefer and just top the rice with a squirt of tomato sauce (ketchup).
Nasi Goreng – Indonesian Fried Rice

Nasi goreng literally just means ‘fried rice’ in Bahasa and the key to this dish is the aromatic rempah made from eschallots, garlic, chilli and shrimp paste. It can be as simple as rice fried with the rempah and topped with a fried egg, or you can add other ingredients to it like I have here, with chicken, prawns and green beans. This is the third instalment of Fried Rice Fridays on my YouTube channel. Check out the video below.

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 eschallots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tsp belacan

½ cup canola oil

4 eggs

1 large red chilli, seeds removed (or other chillies as you prefer)

1 chicken breast, cut into 2cm cubes

10 medium prawns, peeled and butterflied

12 green beans, cut into 1cm pieces

4 cups cooked Jasmine rice, chilled overnight in the fridge

1 tbsp kecap manis

To serve:

prawn crackers (keropok udang)

sliced cucumber

sliced tomato

Method

Combine the garlic, eschallots, belacan and chilli in a small food processor and process to a coarse paste (rempah).

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the eggs one at a time until puffy, and browned and crisp around the edges. Set the eggs aside. You can use this oil to fry your prawn crackers if you like. Remove the oil from the wok, leaving about 2-3 tablespoons for further frying. Return the wok to medium heat.

Add the rempah to the oil and fry, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, or until the oil separates from the solids and they are darkened and fragrant. Increase the heat under the wok and add the chicken breast, prawns and beans and toss for a minute or two until the chicken and prawns are barely cooked through. Add the rice and toss well. Drizzle over the kecap manis and mix until the rice is uniformly coated and lightly toasted. Remove the fried rice to a plate and serve with the prawn crackers, sliced cucumber and tomato, and top with a fried egg.

Top Tips for Nasi Goreng

  1. Try this with dried shrimp or topped with fried dried anchovies (ikan bilis) for a different twist.
  2. You can adjust the spiciness of the dish by the kind of chillies you use. Hotter chillies will obviously produce a hotter dish.
  3. Don’t skimp on the accompaniments. All fried rice dishes are a combination of egg and rice at a minimum, but the best thing about nasi goreng is the contrast of textures you get between the soft, oily rice, the soft, oozy egg, the fresh cucumber and tomato, and the crunchy prawn cracker.
Hokkien Fried Rice

Hokkien Fried Rice is a Taiwanese dish with origins in the Hokkien people who originally came from Fujian Province in China. It’s different to other fried rice dishes in that a simple egg fried rice is topped with lightly braised ingredients. In true Hokkien style, the dish often contains a mixture of dried seafood, as well as ingredients from the land and mountains, but you can use any ingredients you like, really.

Ingredients

Serves 4

2 chicken thighs, cut into 3 cm pieces

3 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 20 minutes and sliced

¼ cup dried scallops, soaked in hot water

4 tbsp canola oil

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups day-old cooked Jasmine rice, preferably cooked in chicken stock

salt, to season

2 cloves garlic

4 cm ginger, cut into thin matchsticks

2 chicken thighs, cut into 3 cm pieces

4 spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths

1 small carrot, cut into 3 cm pieces

2 tbsp bamboo shoots, cut into matchsticks

2 pieces Taiwanese five spice tofu, cut into 1.5cm pieces

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

a pinch of sugar

½ cup raw prawns, peeled and butterflied

1 tbsp cornflour

 

Chicken marinade

½ tsp cornflour

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp Shaoxing wine

Method

Combine the chicken with the ingredients for the chicken marinade and set aside. Heat your wok over high heat and add half the oil. Add the eggs and stir well. When the egg is nearly set add the rice and toss well to coat with the pieces of egg. Separate the clumps of rice by pressing them against the side of the wok with the back of your wok spatula. Season with salt and remove from the wok to a bowl.

Return the wok to the heat and add the remaining oil. Add the garlic and ginger and toss for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the chicken and toss to coat in the fragrant oil. Add the onion, carrot, bamboo shoot, mushrooms, scallops and tofu. Toss for a minute or two and then add the reserved liquid from soaking the mushrooms and scallops, oyster sauce, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar and enough chicken stock to make a braising base. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the prawns and simmer for a further minute. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Mix the cornflour with some cold chicken stock or water and stir the mixture through the braise to thicken it to a silky consistency

To serve, pack the egg fried rice into a bowl and invert it onto a plate. Pour the braised ingredients on top and serve.

Top Tips for Hokkien Fried Rice

  1. Make sure you season the rice as  well as the braised component. You want the rice to be flavourful on its own.
  2. Always taste the braising mixture and adjust the seasoning if required. A little more salt or soy sauce it it does not have enough depth or saltiness, or a pinch of sugar if it tastes too savoury.
  3. When thickening the sauce, add the cornflour mixture in three batches. This will stop you from adding too much at one time, which can make the mixture gluggy. Remember, the silky texture you need is a mixture of oil, liquid (stock) and the cornflour so don’t skimp on the oil at the beginning.
Yangzhou Fried Rice

Yangzhou fried rice from Jiangsu Province is the most famous variety of fried rice in China. Known for the fine knifework in cutting the ingredients, it has been the model for “special fried rice” or “house fried rice” dishes found on Chinese restaurant menus in the West. The ingredients added can vary greatly but the key is the careful preparation of ingredients. You can use rice cooked in chicken stock if you want an even more flavourful result.

The patron of an excellent restaurant in China once told me that the secret to a really good fried rice is finding a really good chicken, and really the origins of fried rice celebrate the connection between chicken and rice. The rice is cooked in chicken stock (less common these days, as chicken powder is often used), some of the chicken meat and offal is used as an ingredient, and then egg is mixed with the rice. Almost all fried rice recipes around the world still use a combination of chicken, egg and rice.

Ingredients

3 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 20 minutes

1/3 cup canola oil

4 spring onions, cut into ½ cm slices

2 cloves garlic, minced

50g cured Chinese-style ham (or substitute Italian cured ham)

1 small carrot, cut into ½ cm pieces

2 tbsp bamboo shoots, cut into ½ cm pieces

¼ cup green peas

¼ cup cooked chicken thigh, cut into ½ cm pieces

2 tbsp cooked chicken gizzard, cut into ½ cm pieces

¼ cup small raw prawns, peeled

about 1 tsp salt, to season

3 eggs, lightly beaten

5 cups day-old cooked Jasmine rice, preferably cooked in chicken stock

Method

Remove the stems of the soaked mushrooms and cut the caps into ½ cm pieces. Heat a wok over high heat and add about half the oil. Fry the spring onion and garlic for about 30 seconds and then add the shiitake mushroom, carrot, and bamboo shoot and fry for a further minute. Add the chicken thigh, chicken gizzard, peas and prawns, season with a little salt, and toss until the vegetables are softened and prawns just barely cooked. Remove from the wok and set aside.

Return the wok to the heat and add the remaining oil. Add the egg and stir vigorously to break it apart. When the egg is nearly set add the rice and toss well to coat with the pieces of egg. Separate the clumps of rice by pressing them against the side of the wok with the back of your wok spatula. Season generously with salt. You can add a little more oil if necessary. Return the fried ingredients back to the wok and toss to mix well.

Top Tips for Yangzhou Fried Rice

  1. You can use any ingredients you like for fried rice although the basis is usually chicken, egg and rice. Bear in mind, though that you want a mix of sweeter vegetables (like carrot and peas) and savoury meats (like cured ham), as well as a mix of textures for a truly great fried rice dish.
  2. Jasmine rice is the most popular but you can also use other kinds of rice is you prefer. I often make this with Japanese short grain rice.
  3. Fried rice uses more oil that you might think. A good amount of oil ins necessary to separate the grains.