11 Memorable Things I Ate In 2012

King Tacos, Okinawa

I’m not much one for keeping score, but as another year goes by it’s nice to spend a few moments thinking about all the things we’ve done, the places we’ve been, and especially all the delicious things we’ve eaten.

I ate a lot of good stuff this year and here, in no particular order, are a few that stuck in my mind.

  1. No. 2 Burger – Pearl’s Diner, Adelaide
  2. Springbok, corn, pap and apple – The Saxon, Johannesburg
  3. Kuruma-ebi nigiri sushi – Sukiyabashi Jiro, Ginza
  4. Chicago-style deep-dish sausage pizza – made by my sister-in-law who lives in Ohio
  5. Oysters and Succulents – Attica, Ripponlea
  6. Banana leaf – Nirvana, Bangsar
  7. Taco rice cheese yasai – King Tacos, Okinawa
  8. Lantern yakitori – Torishiki, Meguro
  9. King George Whiting usuzukuri – Sokyo, Sydney
  10. Injera and wat – Abyssinia, Indianapolis
  11. Congee with ham, yolk and Earl Grey tea – Momofuku Seiobo, Sydney
Any dishes, meals or experiences that stand out in 2012 for you?

No. 2 Burger – Pearl’s Diner, Adelaide (photo: White Wall Photography)

Kuruma-ebi nigiri sushi – Sukiyabashi Jiro, Tokyo

Chicago-style deep-dish sausage pizza – made by my sister-in-law

Taco rice cheese yasai – King Tacos, Okinawa

Lantern yakitori – Torishiki, Meguro

Clockwise from top left – Nirvana, Attica, Sokyo, The Saxon and Momfuku Seiobo

Injera and wat – Abyssinia, Indianapolis

 

Thanks for the memories, Jozi!

I’ve just landed back in Australia from another great Good Food and Wine Show in Johannesburg and just wanted to write a quick note to say thank you to everyone who came along to the show, watched the demonstrations, said hello, or took photos. I had an absolute ball! The picture above is just a selection of photos from Twitter and Facebook that I’ve grabbed.

If you want the recipe for the Sriracha Hot Wings that were part of my demonstration in the Chefs in Action Theatre, you can find that here.

My highlights were working with the wonderful team at the Good Food and Wine Show again (and great talent such as Levi RootsAnjum Anand, Sid Sloane and of course, my old mate George), eating A LOT of fantastic food (particularly a great meal of springbok at The Saxon), and of course meeting all of you.

I didn’t take too many photos myself this time because I was so busy at the show, but if you want to see photos of my 2011 trip to South Africa, you can see them here.

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.

 

Authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice

This post has been through a number of revisions of the years. A few little changes to the recipe as my style of making it changes, as well as additional information added for those who want to know a little bit more about the dish. You can jump ahead to the recipe and video below, but if you want to read on I’ve now included a bit of background on one of Southeast Asia’s most influential dishes.

For those new to it, Hainanese Chicken Rice is a dish primarily attributed to Malaysia and Singapore although versions exist in Thailand (khao man gai) Vietnam (com ga) and Indonesia as well. It was created by migrants from the island of Hainan in China’s far south who arrived in Southeast Asia around the turn of the 20th century. My family is Hainanese, and my grandfather arrived in Malaysia from Hainan in around 1915.

The dish itself is based on a traditional Hainanese delicacy called Wenchang chicken. Specific free-roaming chickens from the Hainanese town of Wenchang are fed on peanut bran, coconut and various other things and they are famed for their generous fat, flavourful meat and tender skin. The most prized birds are the capons, huge 3-4 kilogram castrated roosters with incredible flavour. On Hainan, the Wenchang chickens are usually boiled just in salted water with the pure flavour of the bird itself. It’s then served with a sauce of some kind, which can vary from establishment to establishment. One popular sauce is made from salt-fermented crushed yellow chillies. The orange-coloured ginger and chilli sauce served with Hainanese chicken rice in Southeast Asia is an adaptation of this.

Wenchang chickens on Hainan.

Cooked Wenchang chicken as served in Haikou, Hainan.

Of course, the dish is Hainanese chicken rice is very different from its origins in Wenchang chicken. The elements are generally (1) free-range or kampong chicken poached in a broth This recipe is my own, a combination of what I learned from my Hainanese grandmother (my grandfather passed away before I was born), my Singaporean-English mother, and my elderly cousin who ran a very popular chicken rice stall in Singapore for more than 40 years (it’s now closed).

I’ve written about Hainanese Chicken Rice for the Wall Street Journal (Chicken Rice for the Soul) and published versions of this recipe in two of my six cookbooks (my grandmother’s “Original Recipe” in Two Asian Kitchens) as well as this updated and version which appears in my latest book Destination Flavour: People and Places, which is a combination of recipes from my SBS television series of the same name.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

1 large whole chicken (about 1.7 kg), at room temperature

5cm fresh unpeeled ginger

2 tsp salt

1/2  tsp monosodium glutamate, or 1 tsp chicken stock powder (optional)

1 tbsp sesame oil

coriander, to serve

sliced cucumber, to serve

 

Ginger and spring onion oil

2 tbsp fresh grated ginger

½ tsp salt flakes

4 spring onions, thinly sliced, green tops reserved

¼ cup peanut oil

 

Chicken Rice

3 1/3 cups (675g) jasmine rice

1/4 cup (approx.) vegetable oil

4 garlic cloves

2 eschallots, roughly sliced (or 1 brown onion, roughly sliced)

2-3 pandan leaves (optional)

 

Dressing

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 cup chicken stock from poaching chicken

 

Chilli Sauce for Chicken

4-6 red birds-eye chillies

6 thick slices of peeled fresh ginger

6 garlic cloves

2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 – 1 cup chicken stock from poaching chicken

2 tbsp calamansi lime juice (or other tart citrus juice)

2 tbsp rendered chicken fat (or other oil)

 

Method

For the ginger and spring onion oil, pound the ginger and salt to a rough paste with a heatproof mortar and pestle. Add the spring onion and pound lightly to combine. Heat the peanut oil in a small frypan until it is smoking then pour the hot oil over the ginger mixture. Stir, then set aside until ready to serve.

For the chilli sauce, pound the chilli, ginger, garlic, sugar and salt together in a mortar and pestle until very smooth. Pounding chilli can take some time so to speed up the process you can start it in a blender or food processor and pound to finish, or grate the ingredients into the mortar using a rasp grater. Add the boiling stock to the pounded mixture. You can vary the amount of stock depending on the consistency of the chilli sauce you’re after. Stir in the juice, then adjust the seasoning if necessary so that the balance of sweet, sour and salty tastes is pleasant. Heat the chicken oil in a small saucepan until hot, the pour over the chilli mixture and stir to combine.

Remove the fat deposits from inside the cavity of the chicken, near the tail. Roughly chop the fat and place in a small frying pan over very low heat to render. Render the chicken fat, stirring occasionally for about an hour until you all the fat is rendered and the solids are crisp. Remove the solids and use them for another purpose. Reserve the chicken oil.

To begin poaching the chicken, pound the unpeeled ginger in a mortar and pestle and add to a large pot containing about 4 litres of water, along with the tops of the spring onions used for the ginger and spring onion oil. Add the salt and MSG or chicken stock powder (if using) and bring to the boil over high heat. Taste the water and adjust the amount of salt so that it tastes savoury and a little salty. Reduce the heat to very low and add the chicken to the pot. There should be enough water in the pot so that the chicken doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot, as that will cause the skin to tear. Lift the chicken in and out of the water a couple of times to change the liquid in the chicken’s cavity. If you have poultry hooks, use them to hang the chickens in the pot (see video below). The water should now be steaming but not bubbling. Keep the heat low at this level and cook the chicken for 45 minutes.

Using the poultry hook (or slotted ladle), carefully lift the chicken out of the pan, ensuring you don’t break the skin, and plunge into a large bowl or sink of salted iced water. Reserve the stock and stand the chicken in the iced water for at least 10 minutes, turning once. This will stop the cooking and give the skin its delicious gelatinous texture. Remove from the iced water and hang over a bowl or the sink to drain well. Rub the skin all over with the sesame oil. The chicken should be cooked very lightly, pink inside the bones and with a gelatinous skin.

To make the chicken rice, pound the garlic and eschallot (or onion) to roughly bruise with a mortar and pestle. Combine the rendered chicken oil with vegetable oil to make ½ a cup of oil. Heat in a wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger stir until starting to brown, then strain through a sieve. Reserve the oil and discard the solids. Place the rice in a rice cooker or heavy-based saucepan. Add about 1.2L of the reserved stock from the chicken (strained) and the reserved flavoured chicken oil (or use the proportions as indicated on your rice cooker). Tie the pandan leaves in a knot (if using) and add to the rice. If cooking in a pot, bring to the boil over high heat and continue to boil for about 5 minutes until the level of the liquid reaches the top of the rice, then reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook for 12 minutes, then remove from the heat and stand for another 10 minutes.

For the dressing, combine the ingredients with about half a cup of the stock from cooking the chicken. When the rice is ready, use a cleaver to slice and debone the chicken Chinese-style and pour the dressing over it. Scatter with the coriander sprigs, and serve with sliced cucumber, tomato and serve with the rice and sauces.

Family-style chicken rice.

Key Tips for Hainanese Chicken Rice

  • The key to this whole dish is seasoning the stock. If you find the stock, chicken, rice or sauces taste a little insipid, it is because the stock is not correctly seasoned. Taste the stock after cooking the chicken, it should taste like a strongly savoury chicken stock. If it tastes weak, add a little more salt. You can also boost it with a dash of fish sauce if you like, or some MSG if you are not opposed to it. Alternatively, do as I mention in the video and cook 2 chickens at once.
  • Please don’t overcook the chicken. A slow, gentle simmer for 45 minutes will produce chicken with a very pale pink blush to the meat and the inside of the thigh bones should be bright pink. If they are brown or grey the chicken is over cooked. That’s OK, but the texture will not quite be right.
  • Often in Singapore this will be served with thick black cooking caramel or kecap manis over the chicken, but I prefer the sesame dressing included here.
  • When making the chilli sauce, look for the colour of the sauce, rather than following the recipe exactly. It should be a bright orange, and that colour will give you a good indication of the proportion of chilli to ginger and garlic. The heat of the sauce should depend on the kind of chillies used, not the amount. The flavour of chilli in this sauce is more important than the heat.

This recipe appears in my new cookbook, Destination Flavour: People and Places (2018) which follows my travels across my SBS television series of the same name. The book covers Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Singapore and China.

 

 

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.)