Destination Flavour premieres on SBS

Oysters fresh from the water – Coles Bay, Tasmania

I’m really excited to announce the launch tonight of Destination Flavour on SBS here in Australia. It’s a new food and travel show I have been filming together with Renee Lim and Lily Serna.

Renee, Lily and I travel Australia to find the people who devote their lives to producing the best food around – everyone from potato farmers to world-acclaimed chefs. I really hope you guys enjoy the show.

If you miss an episode, or if you want full recipes of anything you’ve seen on there, you can  visit the Destination Flavour website.  The recipes will be there to print out, as well as longer and more detailed “extended cut” videos that can walk you through them.

http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/destinationflavour

I’ve loved filming the first season of Destination Flavour, and I hope you all enjoy watching!

Unfortunately, my filming schedule for Destination Flavour overlapped completely with the filming schedule for MasterChef All Stars, so that’s why I wasn’t able to take part in that one. Still, I wish those guys all the best and it’s fantastic that they’re able to raise so much money for charity. I’m involved with a lot of the charities that they are competing for and I know how much good work they do in communities in Australia and around the world.

 

Hainanese Chicken Rice

I’m really proud to announce my new Asian food and culture column for The Wall Street Journal’s Scene Asia – Around the Table.

Here’s my first post, Chicken Rice for the Soul, about my favourite dish and how it shaped my first cookbook. And if that’s left you with a taste for Hainanese Chicken Rice. Here’s my grandma’s recipe for you as it appears in Two Asian Kitchens.

Photograph by Steve Brown

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Serves 4
Preparation: 1 hour
Cooking: 50 minutes plus 30 minutes resting

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (about 1.5kg), at room temperature
  • 5 whole cloves garlic, plus 2 cloves, chopped
  • 7 thick slices ginger, unpeeled
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 675g jasmine rice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  •  1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • coriander, sliced cucumber and spring onion, to serve

Chilli Sauce

  • 6 red birds-eye chillies
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Spring onion and ginger oil

  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 3 tbsp peanut oil

Dressing

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce

Trim any visible fat from the chicken. Roughly chop the fat and put in a small saucepan. Cook over very low heat for about 1 hour until the liquid fat renders away. Pour off and keep the liquid fat as it pools. (You do not need the crispy pieces of fried fat for this dish, but they are excellent served over cooked noodles.)

Meanwhile, put the whole garlic cloves and 5 slices of ginger in the cavity of the chicken and place breast-side down in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to just below a simmer. The water should be steaming well, but not bubbling. Keep the heat at this stage for 20 minutes, then cover the pot and turn off the heat. Leave for 30 minutes, then lift out the chicken, keeping the poaching stock. Brush the chicken skin with sesame oil and wrap with plastic wrap. The chicken should be cooked very lightly, pink inside the bones and with a gelatinous skin.

Heat 1 tbsp of the chicken fat in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and remaining 2 slices of ginger and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the rice and toss until well coated and turning opaque. Add 1.25 litres of the reserved chicken stock, the salt and soy sauce. You can also add a few pandan leaves, tied in a knot (if you have them). Cook in a rice cooker or by your preferred method of cooking rice.

To make the chilli sauce, combine chillies, ginger, garlic, sugar and salt in a mortar and pound to a paste. Add the lemon juice and 1-2 tablespoons of hot chicken stock and pound again. Set aside.

To make the spring onion and ginger oil, add the spring onion, ginger and salt to a heatproof mortar and pound lightly with the pestle. Heat the oil in a small frying pan until smoking and pour onto the mixture. Once the sizzling stops, combine lightly with the pestle and leave to infuse for a few minutes.

To make the dressing, mix the sesame oil and soy sauce with 60ml of the chicken stock. If you have any remaining chicken stock after that, you can season it and add a few onion slices. This can be served as a light broth to accompany the meal.

Slice the chicken Chinese-style and pour the dressing over it. Scatter with a little coriander and serve with the rice, condiments, broth and garnishes.

 

5 More Favourite Kitchen Tools

Following on from My 10 Favourite Kitchen Tools, here are a few more things that I love in my own kitchen. Have a look and, if you like, let me know what some of your favourite kitchen tools are!

A real kettle
I know that electric kettles are perfectly fine, but there’s something very romantic about boiling water over a flame. My sister gave me this vintage kettle a couple of years ago, and it’s become one of my favourite things. The act of filling the kettle is almost ceremonial each morning and when the water is boiled, instead of an impotent plastic click, it vibrates with a low, musical hum that fills the whole house.

Rasp graters
They weren’t even around 10 years ago, but these guys are the business. They’re magical with garlic, ginger, spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, citrus zests and even hard cheeses like parmesan or pecorino. They don’t stay sharp forever, though, so make sure you change them when they wear down.

An oil jug
I do all of my deep frying in a wok, and one of these oil jugs is perfect for dealing with the litres of oil needed. The top is fitted with a fine sieve to strain out any bits, and the oil can be easily poured both in and out. A little cold oil into hot oil in a wok is the best way to reduce oil temperature quickly, and having your frying oil on hand makes oil blanching, shallow frying and deep frying incredibly simple. I think of this as the domestic equivalent of the big oil cauldrons that professional wok chefs use for their stations. Just make sure to change your oil every week or two as it burns, takes on flavor or oxidises.

Pizza trays
Any commercial kitchen in the world will have dozens of these strategically stacked around it, and for good reason. They’re incredibly versatile and can be used for grilling, resting meats, covering frypans, arranging prep or basically anything else you can think of. I don’t even use them for pizza. I do that in the oven on a terracotta tile.

Enamel bowls and trays
I love enameled metal bowls and trays. The bowls are sturdy, light and non-reactive. The rectangular trays are perfect for domestic prep and they are the permanent must-have items in Japanese domestic kitchens. Having a good prep tray is as important at home as it is in a restaurant. It’s amazing how just having something as simple as a dedicated prep tray can make such a big difference to the way you cook.

What are some of your favourite things?

Sriracha Hot Wings with Avocado Kewpie

This is a really simple recipe that I make all the time when I have friends around. The heat of Sriracha and the richness of butter is a fantastic contrast to the cooling avocado and mayonnaise. These wings are a perfect match for a couple of ice-cold beers and a game of football on the TV.

Sriracha Hot Wings with Avocado Kewpie

Wings
1.5kg chicken wings (about 12-15 wings)
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt

Sriracha Wing Sauce
75g unsalted butter
4 tbsp Sriracha chilli sauce
3 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
½ tsp Worchestershire sauce
¼ tsp mustard powder
¼ tsp onion powder
1 tsp caster sugar

Avocado Kewpie
1 ripe avocado
3 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise
1 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste

Cut the wings through the joints into the drumette, winglette and wing-tips. Keep the wing-tips for stock (don’t throw them out) and toss the drumettes and winglettes in the garlic powder, onion powder, sugar and salt. Cover and leave for at least 30 minutes, or put in the fridge overnight. (If keeping them in the fridge , return the wings to room temperature before roasting.)

Preheat the oven to 220C (fan forced) and grease an oven tray or rack with peanut oil. Roast the wings for 30 minutes, turning once until browned and crispy. Meanwhile, make the Sriracha Wing Sauce by whisking together all the ingredients in a saucepan until it is well combined and just simmering. Remove from the heat and toss the wings in the sauce until well coated.

For the Avocado Dip, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and then adjust the seasoning. Sprinkle the dip and wings with a little black pepper and serve.

Malaysian Lamb Shank Curry

Hearty lamb shank dishes are a winter staple in Australia, but this dish is a great one for times like now just as the weather starts to warm. We often think of lamb shanks as a hearty winter dish, but lamb curries in South East Asia work fantastically well in warmer weather.  This dish crosses the boundary of the seasons and takes advantage of the great spring lamb that we have in Australia, and matches it with the nostalgic Malaysian flavours I grew up with.

Malaysian Lamb Shank Curry

Curry Paste

  • 3 brown onions (or 6-8 red schallots)
  • 15 small dried red chillies, seeds removed and soaked in hot water until soft
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seed
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp belacan
  • 5 candlenuts
Curry Ingredients
  • ½ cup neutrally flavoured oil
  • 1.75kg lamb shanks (about 6 shanks), (Alternatively, you could use 1.5kg lamb chops, or 1kg boneless lamb leg, cubed)
  • 400ml coconut cream
  • 400ml water or White Chicken Stock
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • a handful of curry leaves, picked

Make the curry paste by processing all the paste ingredients together to a fine paste. If you have time, I recommend doubling or tripling the recipe freezing the paste in portions for later use.

Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and fry the paste for 5-10 minutes until it is coloured and fragrant, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Add the lamb shanks to the paste and oil and lightly brown on all sides. Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot, bring to the boil and simmer covered for about 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and simmer for a further 1 to 1.5 hours until the meat is very tender, pulls away easily from the bone and the liquid has reduced to a thick gravy.

Cover the curry and allow it to cool on the stove. Refrigerate overnight if possible. Reheat and adjust seasoning before serving. Serve with white rice and sliced cucumbers.

“Food for Thought”

On March 14th I’ll be at Foodbank Victoria cooking for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. It should be a great event and all proceeds go to assisting the amazing work that Foodbank does.

Every year, Foodbank helps distribute 4 million kilograms of food to those in need around Victoria. People affected by bushfires and floods; people living below the poverty line; victims of domestic abuse and many others. The work they do is so important to our society and I’m really glad to be helping out.

If you want a Melbourne Food & Wine Festival event with a difference, please do come along. I’ll be guiding you through some of my favourite dishes using ingredients from Foodbank’s warehouse. We’ll also have the chance to talk a little bit about food security in Australia, which is an issue that’s very important to me.

For more information or to book tickets, head to http://www.foodbankvictoria.org.au.

Hope to see you there!

Happy Australia Day!

Happy Australia Day everyone!

As an Asian Australian it makes me incredibly proud this year to be both Sydney’s Chinese New Year Ambassador was well as an Australia Day Ambassador at the same time. As a country, Australia has such a rich shared history with Asian culture, especially in terms of food.

It’s wonderful to see so many Asian restaurants in Australia and I am on record many times saying that in terms of its depth, diversity, availability of ingredients and authenticity, Australia is the best place in the world to eat Asian food. Many of Australia’s best chefs such as Neil Perry, Peter Gilmore, Mark Best and Tetsuya have undeniable Asian influences in the way they approach (and define) modern Australian cuisine.

I’ll be spending my Australia Day in Adelaide with my family – having a BBQ, watching the cricket and tennis and having a few nice cold beers. I hope you all have a cracking day!

These photos are from an initiative called ‘Australia – Make Your Mark’. As an Australia Day Ambassador, I was asked to write an inscription on one of these giant letters about what it meant to me to be Australian. Mine read:

“Australia isn’t just a place. We are also a community. More than just being here, we need to be involved in our country. Make your mark!”

 

 

A 21st Century CNY

I’m not a superstitious person, but at Chinese New Year even the most rational of us find ourselves following the old traditions such as buying new clothes, cutting our hair before new year’s day, paying off debts, cleaning the house and giving red packets. For many of us these acts are more of a mental exercise of renewal and an adherence to culture than any belief in luck, good fortune or evil spirits.

In the past few years I have had my own Chinese New Year To Do list, taking the opportunity to remind myself to keep my digital world updated. Given the amount of time we all spend on computers and digital devices these days, it’s worth spending a few hours at least once a year making the effort to keep these things running the way they’re supposed to.

If you’re one of those people to which these kind of things come naturally, my hat goes off to you. But if you’re anything like me, you might benefit from the list below:

  • Backup all your hard drives
  • Update your existing software on all devices (computers, iPods, iPads, phones, GPS etc.)
  • Clean up folders and purge or organize old files
  • Tidy up your desktop and dock or taskbar
  • Clean up and organise your music, photo and video libraries
  • Change your wallpaper
  • Get any new software you’ve been needing and delete unused programs
  • Synchronise your bookmarks across all your computers
  • Clean your screens and keyboards
  • Clean the outside of your computer
  • Change your online passwords (Security experts recommend that this be done several times a year, but most of us don’t do it at all.)
Dragon Yee Sang

Chinese New Year is coming up in a few days and I so I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite CNY dishes.

Yee Sang is a very popular Chinese New Year dish around Malaysia and Singapore (Do people eat this in China or Hong Kong? I really don’t know), and my family usually eat this on the eve of Chap Goh Meh, which is the 15th and final day of the new year festival.

Yee Sang is a colourful salad of prosperous ingredients, which are tossed together with a sweet dressing. Everyone around the table puts their chopsticks into the salad and tosses it high in the air. The superstition goes that the higher the salad is tossed, the more luck that will come in the new year. It’s can get a bit messy, but tossing the yee sang are some of my favourite memories of my childhood.

There are lots of recipes for Yee Sang around, and most of them use raw salmon or smoked salmon but I thought that this year, because it is the year of the Water Dragon, I would use lobster sashimi instead. Of course, if you want a more traditional yee sang, just substitute the lobster sashimi with another raw fish.

Chinese new year foods are full of symbolism – Fish symbolise wealth because ‘yu’, the Chinese word for fish, is synonymous with the words for wealth and abundance. Long noodles signify a long life. Oranges signify good luck, and pomelos or grapefruits also signify wealth and prosperity. One of the most popular areas of symbolism is the balance between yin and yang, or the dragon and phoenix. In food the dragon is often symbolised by lobster or prawns, and the phoenix is often symbolised by pheasant or chicken. In this year of the Water Dragon, what could be more fitting than a celebratory dish paying homage to the symbolic Water Dragon, the lobster.

Dragon Yee Sang

Ingredients

  • 1 live lobster
  • 6 wonton wrappers
  • Oil for deep frying
  • 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
  • ½ Continental cucumber, peeled, deseeded and julienned
  • ½ daikon white radish, julienned
  • 6 leaves Chinese cabbage (hakusai, lombok), shredded
  • 1 cup pomelo or grapefruit, torn into small pieces (peel, pith, seeds and any membrane removed)
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked
  • 2 tbsp Japanese red pickled ginger (benishouga)

Dressing

  • 150ml plum sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • juice of 2-3 limes
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • ¼ tsp five spice powder

Method

  1. Slice the wonton wrappers into thin strips and deep fry in batches in hot oil until crispy, then set aside to drain. Don’t fry too many at one time or they will stick together. Also, it’s best not to slice the wrappers all stacked together, or they may clump on the board. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frypan until golden brown and then set aside to cool.
  2. Julienne the cabbage, daikon, carrot and cucumber. Arrange these on a large platter and separately place on the pickled ginger, coriander and wonton crisps around in separate piles.
  3. To prepare the lobster, chill the lobster in the freezer for about 2 hours until it is asleep. Kill it quickly with a spike through the head and separate the meaty tail from the head. Cut down either side of the soft underside of the lobster and remove the flesh from the shell using your hands, and using a paring knife if necessary. Remove the vein from the lobster as neatly as possible and wipe away any residue. Although I don’t recommend this, if the lobster meat is very dirty and you feel that you have to, you can rinse the meat very quickly in a mixture of iced water and salt (using enough salt to give the mixture the saltiness of seawater).
  4. Heat a large pot of water until boiling and add the lobster head and tail shell to the pot and boil until the shell changes colour. Clean the shells and remove any meat that was clinging to the shell, reserving it for another purpose (an egg white omelette with cream and spring onion is perfect, or you can just dip it in a little yuzu kosho tabasco – but that’s a recipe for another time…)
  5. With a very sharp knife, slice the lobster into very thin slices and arrange over the centre of the salad.
  6. If you would like to use the tail for presentation, clean it well with a paper towel and, if it’s looking a little dull, polish the outside with a small amount of oil.
  7. For the dressing, mix together all the ingredients.

To serve, gather everyone together and give them a pair of chopsticks each. Pour over the sauce and scatter with sesame seeds. Everyone reaches in with their chopsticks to toss the salad. Toss it as high as you can for good luck!

Huevos Coreanos

 

If you ever felt inclined to make a list of “food trends” for the past couple of years, “adding kimchi to everything” and “Mexican-Asian fusion” would both certainly be near the top. It seems that everywhere you turn these days there’s a kimchi quesadilla, spicy pork burrito or bulgogi taco. David Chang and Roy Choi should be getting royalties for this stuff.  Paying too much attention to food trends is a often a dangerous thing to do, but  love them or hate them, there’s no doubt that a tasty dish is a tasty dish. Let’s not take ourselves (or our food) too seriously.

I love breakfast, but as a meal it’s often overlooked as a source of variety. Day in and day out we turn to toast, cereal, bacon, the occasional pancake, and then add some eggs – fried, poached or scrambled. Even the simple and delicious breakfast dish of Eggs Benedict has lately been co-opted by brunch, that most mystifying and indefinable of meals. But such is the lack of respect we in the West tend to afford our breakfast. It’s ironic really, considering just how versatile eggs can be.

It’s easy to see where we get disillusioned by breakfast. We are constrained by time, ingredients, appetite and nutritional value.  We need something that’s fast, nutritionally balanced, not too difficult on the stomach and which will carry us through to lunch (forget brunch). But in the face of this adversity, we form solutions. I think the constraints of breakfast can be a source of great creativity, as we are almost forced to think outside the box.

Taking the old Mexican favourite, Huevos Rancheros (Cowboy’s Eggs) and combining it with some very good kimchi and enoki mushrooms resulted in this dish, which will definitely be taking its place in my kitchen’s breakfast repertoire.

 

Huevos Coreanos – Korean Eggs (Cowboy Style)

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered (80g)
  • ½ cup enoki mushrooms (50g)
  • ½ cup kimchi (with juice), roughly sliced (100g)
  • ¼ cup tomato passata
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ small red onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 large red chilli
  • Grated cheese (optional)
  • Salt (to season)
  • Black pepper and buttered crusty bread, to serve

Method

Preheat your oven’s overhead grill. Heat a small cast iron or other ovenproof pan until very hot. Add the olive oil and sautee the onions, tomatoes, chilli, mushrooms and kimchi until all are softened and nearly cooked through. Add the tomato passata and vinegar and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. Taste and season.

Make two small wells in the mixture in the pan and crack an egg into each. (If you wish, you can now scatter the top with a little grated cheese). Transfer the pan to your grill and grill the top for about 3-4 minutes until the whites of the eggs are set but the yolks are still runny. The heat of the pan will continue to cook the eggs from the bottom.

Grind over a little black pepper, scatter with some coriander leaves and serve with some buttered crusty bread.

Note: For a more mild version, you could reduce the amount of chilli or substitute with thinly sliced red capsicum.