Chinese-style Garlic Chive Omelette

This two-ingredient omelette is a fantastic dish to make when preparing a Chinese meal. It takes minutes and its simplicity balances more strongly flavoured dishes.

Ingredients

5 eggs

1 tsp fish sauce, or ¼ tsp stock powder or MSG

½ tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 bunch garlic chives, sliced into 1cm lengths

salt, to season

Method

Beat the eggs together with the fish sauce (or stock powder) and sesame oil. Heat a wok over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Add the garlic chives and toss for just a few seconds to release their aroma. Season with a little salt, then add the eggs and stir occasionally over the heat until mixed. Stop stirring to allow the eggs to brown slightly. Remove from the wok and serve.

Top Tips for Garlic Chive Omelette

  • This style of omelette can be made with prawns or spinach as well.
  • Sometimes a dish like this is topped with a savoury and sour brown sauce such as for egg foo yong.
  • You can even leave out the garlic chives altogether and use spring onion instead.

Bak Kut Teh

Originating in Klang, just outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, bak kut teh means ‘pork bone tea’. It’s basically pork ribs and other cuts in a rich and complex broth of medicinal herbs.

Most people make theirs using pre-packaged spice packs, which is fine, but I much prefer to make my own soup base. Once you make it from scratch once you’ll never go back to the pre-packaged spices.

The medicinal herbs may look confusing, but they are actually quite common ingredients in Chinese cooking. Most of them are available from a good Asian grocery, but I buy mine from a Chinese herbalist which tend to have higher quality herbs. In the recipe below I’ve given you the Mandarin pronunciations and Chinese character translations of all the herbs, so you can just show the herbalist your list.

Ingredients

10 dried shiitake mushrooms, quickly rinsed

2 kg pork belly

1 kg pork ribs

3 whole garlic bulbs

3 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 pack fried tofu puffs (tau pok), halved

300 g enoki mushrooms

6 thin spring onions, very thinly sliced

coriander sprigs, to garnish

cooked rice, to serve

5 sticks youtiao (fried Chinese bread sticks), to serve

sliced bird’s eye chillies, to serve

Herb pack

20 g Codonopsis pilosula (wen tang shen) 纹黨參

20 g Chinese angelica (dang gui) 当归

15 g lovage root (Ligusticum wallichii) (chuan xiong) 川芎

15 g Rehmannia glutinosa (shu di) 熟地

5 slices licorice root (gan cao) 甘草

20 g Solomon’s seal (yu zhu) 玉竹

2 pieces dried tangerine peel (cheng pi) 陈皮

15 g cassia bark (gui bi) 桂皮

3 star anise (ba jiao) 八角

1 teaspoon white peppercorns (bai hu jiao) 白胡椒

Method

Heat 4 litres (135 fl oz/16 cups) water in a stockpot and add the shiitake mushrooms. Turn off the heat and let the mushrooms stand for 20 minutes to soften. Remove the mushrooms, then trim off the stalks using a pair of kitchen scissors. Return the caps to the pot, and place the pot back over the heat.

Wrap the ingredients for the herb pack in a double layer of muslin (cheesecloth), and secure the pack with string. Add to the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the herb pack is simmering, place the pork and ribs in a separate pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove all the pork from the water and rinse to remove any scum.

Add the pork to the simmering soup base, along with the garlic bulbs, salt, sugar, vinegar and soy sauce. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, until the pork is tender, but not falling apart. Remove the pork from the soup and allow to cool slightly.

Add the enoki mushrooms and tofu puffs to the soup and simmer just for 10 minutes, or until both are softened.

Cut the pork into small pieces, and separate the ribs. Add the pork and ribs to a heated serving bowls (a clay pot works well), then ladle the hot broth and mushrooms over. Scatter with the spring onion and coriander sprigs.

Serve with cooked rice, with youtiao and sliced chillies in soy sauce on the side.

Top Tips for Bak Kut Teh

  • This is also great served with blanched iceberg lettuce that’s been covered with oyster sauce and scattered with fried shallots.
  • If you haven’t tried this dish before you might want to make it from a packet first so you know the kind of thing you should be going for.
  • Seasoning the soup is all important for this dish. If the soup is too bitter or sweet it will be unpleasant. Taste the dish constantly and adjust the seasoning incrementally as you go.
How to Make Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen is a labour of love. It can take 3 or 4 days to make – although most of that is just watching a pot boil – and you might wonder why anyone would ever go to the effort.

It is actually easier than it looks, although the first time you try to do it it will probably exhaust you completely.

As one of the four main styles of ramen (shio, shoyu, miso and tonkotsu) it’s important to know how it’s made, even if you never attempt it yourself.

This light style of tonkotsu is the style I prefer, although you can reduce the soup base further, add chopped fat to it etc. if you prefer the thicker, fattier versions of tonkotsu that you might have tried.

This recipe is for a shio gyokai style tonkotsu, meaning that it is salt-based and contains seafood, which is why it is very light in colour.

Ingredients

Soup base

4 kg pork bones

8 kg water

Aromatic Oil

300 g rendered pork lard

200 g vegetable oil

70 g spring onion

30 g Garlic

1 tbsp bonito powder (see Method)

Motodare

10 g dried scallop

10 g dried fish maw

10 g dried sardines, cleaned

2 pieces rausu kombu

750 ml water

approx. 100 g salt

1 tsp rice vinegar

Toppings

chashu

ajitama

noodles

kikurage – black wood ear fungus (soaked in hot water and sliced)

spring onion, finely sliced

menma – braised bamboo shoots

nori, cut into squares

bonito powder (see Method)

Method

Soup Base

Weigh the bones and cover with cold water. Refrigerate overnight to extract the blood from the bones and marrow. Discard the soaking water and then add twice the weight of the bones of fresh cold water. Measure the distance from the top of the water to the top of the pot.

Bring to a simmer, using a fine mesh to skim the grey scum rising to the surface of the water, stirring occasionally. Continue until the scum rising to the top is white rather than grey. This will take about 2 hours.

Cover the pot and boil for a further 6 hours (the water should be active and bubbling but the heat does not necessarily have to be high), topping up the water to the starting level and stirring every half hour. Remove the lid and reduce the liquid for about 4 hours until you reach the consistency you want. The more you reduce the liquid, the thicker and stronger the soup base will be.

Strain the soup and cool rapidly by stirring in a bath of iced water until it is room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Motodare

To make the tare, add the dried seafood, kombu and cold water to a non-reactive container and refrigerate overnight. Transfer to a saucepan and heat over very low heat for about 1 hour until just warm to the touch. Remove the seafood and measure the volume of dashi produced. Add salt in the ratio of 1:5 (i.e. 100 g salt for 500 g dashi) and stir over heat until the salt is fully dissolved. Add the vinegar and set aside.

Aromatic Oil

To make the bonito powder, blend 1 cup of dried bonito flakes to a fine powder. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow to cool and strain.

To assemble the ramen, follow the instructions in the video below.

Top Tips for Tonkotsu Ramen

  • There is a lot of liquid to manage here so it’s worth having two large pots the same size, and also clearing enough space in your fridge to fit one of them before you even start.
  • If you prefer a thicker tonkotsu you can reduce the soup further, or thicken it with the addition of simmered backfat or use a stick blender to emulsify in some additional bonito powder.
  • This recipe is a basic recipe. You can of course add vegetables, chicken and other ingredients to the soup base if you prefer.
Kimchi Fried Rice

This family-style Korean recipe is the kind of dish you can make from Korean pantry basics.

The main ingredients of day-old rice, kimchi, gochujang and Korean toasted nori are things that most Korean households would have on hand at all times.

Even if you’re not Korean, they’re excellent items to make part of your pantry, even if it’s just to make dishes like this.

Ingredients

1½ cups kimchi

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp gochujang (Korean chilli bean paste)

4 cups cooked short grain rice (refrigerated)

3 spring onions, finely sliced

1 tsp salt

1 egg, optional

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1 sheet Japanese nori, toasted and crumbled (or Korean nori sheets, crumbled)

Method

Squeeze as much juice as you can from the kimchi and set it aside. Finely slice the kimchi.

Heat a wok over high heat and add the vegetable oil and sesame oil. Add the kimchi to the wok and toss frequently until it is very fragrant. Add the gochujang and toss in the wok for about a minute until it is fragrant as well.

Add the rice, pressing it onto the sides of the wok to separate the grains. Add the reserved kimchi juice, spring onions and salt, and mix everything very well, allowing the rice to very lightly toast against the sides of the wok.

In a separate frying pan (or the same one after you’ve taken the rice out) fry the egg in a little oil until done to your liking.

Serve the egg on top of the rice, and scatter everything with sesame seeds and crumbled nori to serve.

Top Tips for Kimchi Fried Rice

  • Korean nori is often fried and salted, and is easily crumbled. If you’re using Japanese nori you can toast it by waving it over an open gas flame for just a few seconds until it becomes crisp.
  • Kimchi and gochujang keeps in the fridge for months, so they’re great items to have on hand.
  • Most fried rice dishes will be a combination of oil, rice and egg and this is no exception. The egg may be optional here, but I think if you don’t have it, it’s not really a full meal.
Wok-fried prawns with ginger and spring onion

This simple stir-fried dish takes the classic Cantonese flavour of seafood steamed with ginger and spring onion, flipping it into a fast wok-fried dish that focuses on the natural flavours of the ingredients.

Ingredients

8 large prawns

2 tbsp peanut oil (or 1 cup for making prawn oil, optional)

6 spring onions, finely shredded

4 slices ginger

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

salt, to season

1 tsp cornflour mixed into ¼ cup cold water

Method

Peel and devein the prawns. Transfer the shells to a saucepan and add the 1 cup of oil. Place over high heat and bring the oil to 120C, or until the prawn shells start to sizzle. Cook the shells for 5 minutes then remove from the heat. Strain the shells and reserve the oil.

Heat a wok over high heat and add 2 tbsp of oil (or prawn oil). Add the prawns, season with salt and toss until barely cooked through. Remove from the wok.

Heat a little more oil if necessary and add the ginger and spring onions. Toss to combine and lightly char the spring onions, then add the prawns back to the wok. Season with salt and add the Shaoxing wine to the side of the wok directly onto the metal. Toss to combine again, then drizzle in a little of the cornflour mixture just to thicken any juices in the wok. Serve with steamed rice.

Top Tips for Wok-fried Prawns

  • If you don’t want to make the prawn oil, you can just use peeled prawns and ordinary vegetable oil (but making the oil adds a lot more flavour to the dish).
  • Butterflying the prawns will give them a meatier texture and mouthfeel, as well as making them look more substantial in the dish.
  • Don’t skip the cornstarch step, as it is necessary to “stick” the flavour of the dish onto the prawns.

Silken tofu with onion, garlic and soy sauce

This is easily the most common tofu dish we make at our house, and it never fails to convert anybody who might be suspicious of tofu (or worse still, claim that tofu is tasteless.)

From start to finish this literally can be done in 5 minutes.

Ingredients

1 x 300g block silken tofu

1½ tbsp vegetable oil

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

½ small brown onion, finely diced

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 spring onion, thinly sliced

Method

Turn the block of silken tofu out onto a plate, taking care not to break the block. If the tofu is set into the packet, it can help to run a sharp knife around the side.

Heat a small saucepan or wok over low-medium heat and add the oil, garlic and onion. Cook slowly for around 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the garlic and onion are browned and very fragrant. Remove from the heat and stir through the soy sauce. Pour the mixture over the top of the tofu, scatter with spring onions and serve immediately.

Top Tips for Silken Tofu with Onion, Garlic and Soy Sauce

  • Some versions of this dish use a vinegar-based dressing instead.
  • In Japan, a similar dish is known as hiyayakko, and is cold silken tofu topped with grated ginger, bonito flakes and spring onion. It can be served with soy sauce or just with salt.
  • Different brands of tofu will have different textures. Find a brand you like and stick with it.
Stir-fried Tomato and Egg (番茄炒蛋)

This dish is one of the most popular home-cooked Chinese dishes but it’s not one that’s often found at restaurants. That’s because it’s so simple that anyone can cook it at home. If you want to learn how to cook Asian dishes, start out with things like this and go for the restaurant-style dishes later.

Some say that this dish is the national dish of China, not just because it’s found all around the country, but also because it is the colours of the Chinese flag.

Ingredients

3 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 tbsp vegetable oil

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp sugar

2 spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths

½ tsp cornflour, mixed with a little cold water

5 eggs, beaten

Method

Heat a wok over high heat and add 1 tbsp of oil. Add the tomatoes and fry for about 2 minutes until they start to soften. Add the salt, sugar, spring onions and ½ cup of water or stock. When the spring onions soften, stir through enough of the cornflour slurry to thicken the tomato mixture to a saucy consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Remove the tomato mixture from the wok and rinse the wok.

Return the wok to the heat and add the remaining oil. Add the eggs and stir once every 15 seconds or so until the eggs set to the texture of a loose omelette. Add the tomato mixture to the eggs and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then serve immediately.

Top Tips for Stir-fried Tomato and Egg

  • Some people like to add cornstarch or sesame oil to the eggs as well.
  • It would be common to add a pinch of MSG to the tomatoes or eggs while cooking, but if you don’t want to do that and still want more savouriness you can add a bit of chicken stock powder, or a dash of fish sauce or soy sauce instead.
  • Eat this with rice. That’s what it’s made for.
Katsusando

If you’ve ever been on a bullet train in Japan, you’ve probably fallen in love with these little finger-sized sandwiches that you can buy at the train station before you get on board.

Katsusando is short for “cutlet sandwich” and it’s a pork cutlet covered with tonkatsu sauce between two slices of thick, Japanese-style white bread. It sounds simple (and it is), but that’s the beauty of it.

Ingredients

2 tbsp salted butter, softened

12 thick slices soft, white bread (preferably Japanese-style shokupan)

¼ tsp karashi (Japanese mustard), or hot English mustard

¼ cup Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie or similar)

2 cups finely shredded cabbage

4 cooked loin tonkatsu

¼ cup tonkatsu sauce, or express tonkatsu sauce (or you can use a bottled sauce like otafuku)

Method

Butter the bread. Place three slices of bread side by side on a tea towel or piece of plastic wrap. Mix together the mustard and mayonnaise and spread that mixture over the butter. Place two tonkatsu along the length of the bread on the tea towel and cover the tonktasu generally with the tonkatsu sauce, top with a little shredded cabbage and place three further slices of bread on top (butter-down). Fold the tea towel over the sandwiches and place a heavy chopping board on top to press them for 10 minutes. Cut the crusts off each sandwich and then cut each into thirds. Repeat for the remaining bread and tonkatsu and serve.

Top Tips for Katsusando

  • Choose thick-sliced soft white bread. If the bread is sliced too thin, after it is pressed it will be too firm.
  • You can make this with fillet katsu (hirekatsu) as well, but you will need roughly 1.5 fillet katsu per sandwich as they are a different size.
  • There are lots of offcuts here (crusts, end pieces of the katsu) as a result of creating the perfectly aligned presentation. Don’t let them go to waste. EAT THEM!
How to make Katsudon

Katsudon is one of the most popular ways of eating katsu in Japan, but it hasn’t quite caught on abroad as much. I think it’s because of the idea of putting a crispy fried thing into a liquid that softens it isn’t often done in Western cooking. The idea, however, is quite common in Japanese cuisine and it is done so that the breading will absorb the flavour of the liquid while softening to a sticky, silky texture.

Ingredients

2 cooked tonkatsu, sliced

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sake

1 tbsp mirin

2 tsp sugar

1 onion, peeled and thickly sliced

4 eggs, beaten

3-4 cups cooked Japanese rice

mitsuba, snow pea shoots or watercress, to serve

shichimi tougarashi (Japanese seven spice), to serve

Cheat’s dashi

1½ cups water

1½ tsp fish sauce

Method

Make the cheat’s dashi by combining the ingredients together. Of course, you could use actual dashi or any other stock. Mix in the soy sauce, sake and mirin to create your seasoning liquid.

In a frying pan around the same diameter as your serving bowl, combine half the seasoning liquid, 1 tsp of sugar, and half the onion. Simmer until the onion softens, then place the sliced tonkatsu on top. Pour over half of the beaten egg and cover with a lid. Steam for just a minute or two until the egg begins to set.While the tonkatsu is steaming, place half of the rice into your serving bowl and flatten the top, leaving around 3cm at the top of the bowl for the katsu. When the egg is barely set, slide the entire contents of the pan on top of the rice. Garnish with mitsuba and sprinkle over a little shichimi tougarashi to serve.

Top Tips for Katsudon

  • Having a pan around the same size as the bowl is quite important, as the egg will set to the shape of the pan and you want it to cover the entire top of the bowl.
  • If I know I am going to make katsudon I will often fry my tonkatsu for a minute or two less, just so it doesn’t overcook while it’s steaming. This is not essential, however, as katsudon is often made from completely cooked tonkatsu.
  • The sugar can be added to the seasoning liquid but I find that it is easier to add to the pan as it will not fully dissolve in the cold liquid.
  • Make one serve of katsudon per pan. It is possible to make a larger serve and halve it, but it is frankly easier to make two bowl-sized servings.
  • If your katsu is too big for the pan, you can remove some of the slices before adding to the pan.
Homemade Tonkatsu Sauce

Tonkatsu sauce is a sweet sauce made from fruits and vegetables that is a little like a thicker version of English Worcestershire sauce. While you can buy tonkatsu sauce in Japanese grocers under the Bulldog or Otafuku brands, high end tonkatsu places will always make their own. Try it yourself. This homemade version will change the way you look at tonkatsu.

Ingredients

Makes about 1L

½ cup white sugar, plus 2 tbsp extra

1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 carrot, roughly chopped

1 apple, cored and roughly chopped

1 peach, pit removed and roughly chopped

4 dates, seeds removed and roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground cloves

200 ml tomato passata

100 ml red wine

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

½ cup soy sauce

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

Method

Combine the sugar with 2 tbsp water in a large non-reactive saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a dark caramel, then add 150ml of water and stir to dissolve the caramel. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar, the onion, carrot, apple, peach, dates, bay leaves, spices, tomato passata, red wine, rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and dark soy sauce and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 mins until the fruits and vegetables are softened, then allow to cool to room temperature. Remove the bay leaves and blend in a high-speed blender until smooth. (Pass through a sieve if your blender is not fast enough to get the sauce smooth.)

Return the strained sauce to the saucepan and simmer until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon while warm. Transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to a month. Store in sterilised jars if keeping for more than 1 month.

Top Tips for Tonkatsu Sauce

  • Although inspired by Worcestershire sauce, tonkatsu sauce is much thicker. Its consistency can vary from something as thin as dark soy sauce, through to thick, ketchupy varieties. I prefer my tonkatsu sauce quite thick, but if you prefer a thinner sauce just dilute it with more water or other liquid ingredients.
  • You can try other fruits as well. Stonefruits like plum and apricot are also quite common.
  • This sauce keeps well, but if you aren’t eating tonkatsu all that often you can freeze half of it and thaw it later. As well as for tonkatsu you can also use this sauce for croquettes, hamburgers, okonomiyaki, takoyaki or even just as an ordinary barbecue sauce.