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.

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