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.


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


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.
Prawns & Snow Peas with XO Sauce

This dish is ready in the blink of an eye and really drills home the benefits of having a good homemade XO sauce in the fridge. This is the kind of thing that would cost you $30 in a restaurant, but you can make it yourself in less than 10 minutes. Instead of homemade XO sauce you can use a good-quality store-bought variety, but for the reasons I explained in my previous post and video, I think it’s much better to make your own.


approx. 12 large prawns, peeled and deveined

1 tbsp vegetable oil

a pinch of salt

1 tbsp XO sauce, preferably homemade

10-15 snow peas, topped and tailed with threads removed

1 tsp cornflour mixed into 2 tbsp  water


Butterfly the prawns by cutting through the back about half the way through and flattening with the flat of a knife.

Heat your wok until very hot and drizzle the oil around the edges. Add the prawns to the wok, season with a pinch of sea salt and fry for about 30 seconds until starting to colour. Add in the snow peas and stir fry for a further minute. Add in the XO sauce and toss through for another minute or so until the prawns are just cooked and he snow peas tender but still crunchy. Drizzle over the cornflour mixture, toss for a further 30 seconds and transfer to a plate to serve.

Top Tips for Cooking Prawns with XO Sauce

  • Butterflying the prawns may seem unnecessary, but the light and crunchy texture it gives to the prawns is certainly worth the 5 minutes of effort.
  • The quality of prawns is all-important for any simple prawn dish. Try to use large fresh, certified sustainable raw prawns that you peel yourself. Peeled frozen prawns may be cheaper, but there are serious environmental and humanitarian concerns that need to be addressed with a lot of cheap prawn production.
  • Drizzling over the cornflour mixture helps to “stick” the XO sauce to the prawns and will be a huge boost to flavour. Don’t just dump the whole amount of the cornflour mixture into the wok, shake the wok and drizzle in only as much as you need. Watch the video for the technique.
  • If you’re still on the fence about whether to make your own XO sauce, maybe give this a go with a store-bought version first. If you like it, then move on to making your own.
  • The same technique can be used for making the classic pippies with XO sauce.
Homemade XO Sauce

XO Sauce only appeared in Cantonese cuisine as a result of the boom times of the 1980s. It’s a collection of the most prized ingredients from around China, and it was named after XO cognac – a status symbol of decadence and sophistication in Hong Kong at the time. The dried scallops are a little expensive, but that’s kind of the point.


2 cups peanut oil

6 large garlic cloves, minced

4 large red or golden eschallots, peeled and minced

6 large red chilies, deseeded and minced

50g dried scallops

50g dried shrimp

50g Jinhua ham, Yunnan or prosciutto, finely shredded

1 tsp salt

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tbsp chili powder (preferably Korean)

1 tbsp dark soy sauce


Soak the scallops and shrimp separately each in 1 cup of hot water for at least 1 hour. Drain well and shred the scallops by pounding them in a mortar to separate the fibres. Roughly grind the drained shrimp in a mortar and pestle as well. Reserve the strained liquid.

Heat your oven to 100C. Heat a little of the peanut oil in a medium, oven-proof saucepan over low heat and fry the garlic, eschallots and chillies for about 10 minutes until they are fragrant and softened. Add the shredded scallops, shrimp, ham or prosciutto, salt, sugar, chilli powder, soy sauce and a little of the reserved soaking liquid from the scallops. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the liquid is evaporated or absorbed (this may take 15-20 minutes). Add the remaining oil and reduce the heat to very low. Allow the oil to infuse on the stovetop, stirring regularly for about an hour or two. Make sure the heat is very low or the sauce will burn before it infuses. Alternatively, if you’re using an oven-proof saucepan you can transfer to the oven uncovered for 1-2 hours (or even more) until the colour of the sauce intensifies and the sauce is thick, oily and jammy. Transfer to clean jars and refrigerate until ready to use. The sauce will keep for about 6 months.

Top Tips for XO Sauce

  • I use this all the time so I make a double or triple quantity of this every time I make it. It’s great with dumplings, stir-fried with prawns or with noodles or fried rice.
  • The goal with cooking the XO sauce is to drive off as much of the watery liquid as possible, leaving it oily and jammy.
  • You can substitute or add all kinds of ingredients into this. A chef of a three-Michelin starred restaurant in Hong Kong told me he always adds lemongrass to his. Try it with salmon floss or other dried seafood.


Crispy Teriyaki Chicken Burger

This simple teriyaki chicken burger recipe is really the best. Simple to make and absolutely delicious. The key is reducing the teriyaki sauce enough so that it doesn’t make the fried chicken soft when you coat it.

Serves 4


1/2 -3/4 cup homemade teriyaki sauce

4 chicken thigh fillets, skin on

1/2 cup potato flour (or cornflour)

1-2L oil, for deep frying

4 hamburger buns of your choice

1 sheet nori, cut into thin strips

2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup Japanese mayonnaise

butter (optional)

shichimi togarashi, or chilli powder (optional)

Japanese pickles, to serve (optional)


Place the teriyaki sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the sauce is thick and reduced.

Coat the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess. Heat the oil to 175C and fry the chicken for around 5 minutes until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the oil and immediately dip it into the reduced teriyaki sauce to coat.

Toast the buns on the inside only (you still want the outside to be soft) and layer with the butter (if using), nori, chicken, lettuce and mayonnaise. Sprinkle with a little shichimi togarashi or chilli if you wish. Serve with pickles if you like.

Top Tips for Teriyaki Chicken Burgers

  • Make sure you use chicken thighs with the skin on. This recipe will not be good with chicken breasts, or chicken without skin. The skin is needed to get a really crispy result.
  • Choose buns that are around the same size as your chicken, but remember that the chicken will shrink slightly during cooking.
  • You can add many more ingredients to this if you wish – pickles, cheese, tomatoes, onion, pineapple etc. – but I prefer to keep it simple.
  • Cut the nori into thin strips instead of leaving it as a sheet, as it will be much easier to bite and eat in strips.


Gong Bao Ji Ding

Gong bao ji ding (宫保鸡丁 – literally ‘The Palace Guardian’s Diced Chicken’) is a Sichuan dish hugely popular around China, but most well known outside China as the origins of the Westernised classics kungpao chicken and chicken with cashew nuts.

Westernised versions – commonly using the old Wade-Giles romanisation of ‘kung pao’ instead of the pinyin ‘gong bao’ – often use capsicum/peppers instead of dried chillies, leave out Sichuan peppercorns (Sichuan peppercorn imports were banned in the US for a period) and incorporate more Cantonese ingredients and techniques (as the majority of Chinese chefs in the US and Australia are of Cantonese origin rather than Sichuanese) such as hoisin sauce.

This is an authentic Sichuanese version of the dish.


1 large chicken breast , cut into 1.5cm cubes

3 tbsp vegetable oil

12-15 large dried chillies, seeds removed, snipped into 1cm lengths

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 tsp grated ginger

6 thick spring onions (about 1cm in diameter), cut into 1cm pieces

½ cup unsalted roasted peanuts

a little cornflour mixed with cold water, to thicken

Chicken marinade

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp Shaoxing wine

1 tsp cornflour

Gong bao sauce

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp Chinkiang black vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp soy sauce


Combine the chicken with the chicken marinade and set aside. Heat a wok over high heat until very hot, add the oil and then add the dried chillies and Sichuan peppercorns. When fragrant (this will just take a few seconds), add the chicken and toss well for a minute or two until the chicken is separated and browned. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onions and continue to toss over heat until the chicken is nearly cooked through. Add the sauce and toss to coat, adding a little cornflour mixed with water if needed to thicken the mixture so that it coats the chicken well. Stir through the peanuts and serve immediately.


Top Tips for Gong Bao Ji Ding

  • You don’t have to eat all of the chillies and peppercorns in the dish. They are included to flavour the oil that coats the chicken. That said, many people (myself included) love crunching on a bit of chilli and Sichuan pepper when eating this dish.
  • Sichuanese cuisine is known for its ‘ma-la’ – the hot and numbing sensation of the combination of Sichuan pepper and chilli, but you also need to pay attention to the balance of tastes in the dish. The taste profile of Sichuanese food is sweeter than many give it credit for, so make sure the sugar and vinegar in the sauce are well balanced.
Chicken with Cashew Nuts

Chicken with Cashew Nuts and Kungpao Chicken are two of the most popular Westernised Chinese dishes, and it may surprise you to find that they are both based on the same Sichuan dish – a phenomenally popular dish known around China as Gong bao ji ding (宫保鸡丁), which literally means “The Palace Guardian’s Diced Chicken”.

Quite different to a true Gong bao ji ding, Chicken with Cashew Nuts is nevertheless a great family dish. It came about as a result of ingredients being substituted to a traditional gong bao ji ding to create a dish that used ingredients commonly found in the West, and which also suited the Western palate. Basically a dish of chicken, capsicum/peppers and nuts in a brown sauce, the capsicum/peppers replaces gong bao ji ding’s abundance of dried chilli and this dish uses chicken thigh instead of chicken breast. Of course, there is no Sichuan pepper to be found. My kids love it.


400g chicken thigh fillet, cut into medallions

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

2 tsp cornflour

¼ cup vegetable oil

3 slices ginger, bruised

5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 small brown onion, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks

½ red capsicum, cut into 3cm chunks

½ yellow capsicum, cut into 3cm chunks

½ green capsicum, cut into 3cm chunks

½ cup unsalted roasted cashew nuts


2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1 tbsp white vinegar

1 tsp sugar

¼ cup chicken stock or water



Combine the sauce ingredients and set aside. Combine the chicken with the remaining 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine and 1 tsp of the cornflour and mix well to coat the chicken.

Heat the wok over high heat until very hot and add 2 tbsp of oil around its edge, letting it run down into the centre of the wok. Add the ginger and then the garlic and toss for about 30 seconds until the garlic is browned, add the chicken and fry, tossing the wok occasionally until the chicken is browned and barely cooked through. Remove the chicken from the wok and set aside.

Return the wok to the heat and add the additional 1 tbsp of oil. Add the onion and capsicum and toss the wok until the capsicum begins to soften. Add the sauce ingredients and bring the sauce to a simmer. Return the chicken to the wok, add the sauce, stir and bring to a simmer. Combine the remaining cornflour with 2 tbsp of cold water. Drizzle in the cornflour mixture until the contents of the wok are thickened to a silky consistency. Toss through the cashews and serve.

Top Tips for Chicken with Cashew Nuts

  • If you like this, why not try making a true gong bao ji ding?
  • Don’t use salted nuts, as it will affect the seasoning of your dish.
  • If you don’t have multiple colours of peppers, just use one. It won’t make too much difference to the dish except in the presentation.
Okinawan Taco Rice

The history of taco rice is one of practical simplicity. After the Second World War, the islands of Okinawa became host to a number of US military bases, many of which remain today. Taco rice dates just to 1984, from a eatery called Parlor Senri in Kin Town, just outside the Camp Hansen military base.

Surplus rations of taco seasoning were sold into the communities surrounding the base and, as the shells and tortillas American-style tacos, Gibo used rice instead and taco rice was born. The dish soon became a huge hit with both locals and US service personnel alike.

This is the most authentic and simple version of this dish – made with packet taco seasoning and jarred salsa, just like it’s made in Okinawa. This version is as close as it comes to a piece of history, and is still what’s served at my favourite taco rice place, King Tacos, which Gibo opened as a permanent home for his now-iconic dish.


Serves about 6

2 tbsp vegetable oil

500g beef mince

1 packet taco seasoning*

1 tbsp soy sauce

150ml bonito stock (see page XX), chicken stock or water

8 cups warm, cooked short-grain rice

4 cups shredded cheese

6 cups finely shredded iceberg lettuce

2 ripe tomatoes, halved and sliced

1 cup mild salsa, to serve

* (If you don’t want to use packet taco seasoning, you can use this recipe instead: 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp smoked paprika, and 2 tsp dried oregano)


Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the beef mince. Fry for a few minutes until well browned, then add the taco seasoning, soy sauce and bonito stock. Bring to a simmer and simmer, stirring occasionally until the stock is evaporated and the meat flavourful.

Place a mound of rice on a large oval plate and top with a quarter of the mince. Scatter with cheese, and then with lettuce. Lay a few slices of tomato on top and serve with the salsa.

Top Tips for Taco Rice

  • King Tacos doesn’t serve it, but one of my favourite accompaniments with taco rice is koregusu, an Okinawan condiment similar to chilli vodka. Hot bird’s eye chillies are de-stemmed and soaked in Okinawa’s local liquor, awamori, for years with a little salt added. Make your own using vodka instead.
  • You can make variations of this by topping it with a cheese sauce, making your own pico de gallo, adding additional herbs etc. but I just wanted to show you the original way of making it because honestly, I think it’s the best.
Yum Cha Mango Pancakes

The sight of mango pancakes coming around on the trolley brings a smile to the face of any yum cha diner. More crepes than pancakes you can roll these well in advance and keep them in the fridge until ready to serve.


2 ripe mangoes
300ml thickened cream
1/4 cup icing sugar

Pancake batter

6 eggs
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil
10 drops yellow food colouring (optional)


For the batter, whisk together the eggs and sugar and then add in the milk. Sift together the flour and salt and whisk in the egg and milk mixture a little at a time. Add the vanilla extract, oil and  yellow food colouring, and stir to combine. Sieve the mixture to remove any remaining lump, cover and allow to stand for 30 minutes at room temperature. The mixture should be quite watery.

Heat a large non-stick frypan over low heat. If you have a good non-stick pan, you don’t need to add any oil, but otherwise brush the pan with a very thin layer of oil. Pour in a little of the batter and tilt the pan to create a very thin layer. Cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes or until the top is firm. (You do not need to flip the pancakes and you don’t want to brown the base too much.) Transfer to a plate and repeat for the rest of the batter. Cover the pancakes with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Whip the cream and icing sugar together until the cream holds a peak. Peel the mangos (cut off the cheeks and remove the skin with a large spoon) and slice the mango flesh thickly. Place the mango in the freezer, and the cream in the fridge, both for around 30 minutes to firm.

Spoon a little whipped cream onto the fried side of each pancake and top with 2 slices of mango. Cover the mango with a little more cream and roll the pancake up like a spring roll or a burrito. Chill in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Tips for Mango Pancakes

  • A good crepe pan is really important. A non-stick one would work well.
  • If you don’t want to use food colouring you can dye the pancakes with saffron, or even just leave them uncoloured.


Yoshinoya-style Gyudon (Japanese Beef Rice Bowl)

Gyudon is the ubiquitous Japanese beef rice bowl, found all over Japan (and the rest of world). At places like Yoshinoya you can buy a bowl of gyudon in Japan for as little as two dollars, but made at home this recipe is cheap to make and nearly foolproof.  If you have your own homemade teriyaki sauce (check out my other recipe for that), then it’s ready in just minutes.


Serves 4


500g beef scotch fillet, topside or rump, very thinly sliced

¾ cup chicken stock or dashi (you can used powdered dashi if you like)

¾ cup Homemade Teriyaki Sauce (or use 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp sake, 2 tbsp mirin and 2 tsp sugar)

1 tsp sugar (optional)

1 brown onion, peeled and thickly sliced

cooked short-grain rice, to serve

benishouga (Japanese red picked ginger), to serve

2 sliced spring onions, to serve

shichimi tougarashi (Japanese seven spice), to serve (optional)




Combine the stock or dashi and terkiyaki sauce with the sugar (if using) in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Add in the onion and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the onion has softened. Add in the beef and stir until the beef is just cooked. Season with salt if necessary.

Fill 4 bowls with rice, flattening the top of the rice, and then add the beef mixture on top, allowing a little of the stock to soak into the rice. Sprinkle over a little Japanese seven spice and spring onion if you like, and serve with pickled ginger. 

Tips for Gyudon

  • Thinly sliced beef is available from Asian butchers, or frozen from Asian grocers. If you have trouble finding very thinly sliced beef, place a larger cut of beef in the freezer for 1-2 hours until quite firm and slice very thinly with a sharp knife.
  • If you’re using Japanese beef which is heavily marbled with fat, it will be very tender when it just cooked. If using beef with very little fat, you can simmer the beef for perhaps 10-15 minutes to soften it.
  • You can try this with very thinly sliced pork as well. Follow the exact same method as for the gyudon. A pork rice bowl is called “butadon”.
  • Japanese gyudon places offer a range of extra toppings, like soft cooked eggs, grated radish and even kimchi. Try some of your own.
Cheeseburger Takoyaki

Ordinary takoyaki are great, but if you’re making them at home it is a great opportunity to mix things up a bit. The first time we made these they were an instant hit – strangely more with the adults than the kids (who prefer the regular takoyaki). They’re a must-have now for any takoyaki party we have.


Makes about 50 takoyaki


250g beef mince (cheaper mince, preferably – see tips below)

¼ tsp salt

2 tbsp oil, for greasing the pans

1 cup tenkasu (tempura batter bits, see page XX)

¼ cup dill pickles, finely diced

½ red onion, finely diced



½ cup shredded American cheese

¼ cup spring onions, finely sliced

¼ cup Otafuku takoyaki sauce, to serve

¼ cup tomato ketchup, to serve

¼ cup American-style mustard, to serve

½ cup Japanese mayonnaise, to serve

2 tbsp aonori (dried bright green laver), to serve

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds, to serve

a handful of bonito flakes, to serve


Bonito stock (optional)

a good handful of bonito flakes


Takoyaki batter

250g plain flour

1L bonito stock (see above), other stock, or water

2 eggs, beaten

½ tsp soy sauce

¼ tsp salt



Season the beef mince with salt and mix well. Mold into small balls around the size of a large marble (but make sure they will fit inside your takoyaki pan). Heat a frying pan over medium heat and fry the balls on both sides, pressing down on them to flatten them into patties. They will cook in just a few minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

To make the bonito stock, bring just over a litre of water to a simmer and add the bonito flakes. Boil for a few seconds then turn off the heat and allow the pot to stand for 10 minutes. Strain to remove the bonito flakes.

To make the batter, combine all the ingredients with a whisk and whisk to a very thin, watery batter.

Arrange the fillings and toppings near your takoyaki grill and heat the grill (or ableskiver pan) until it is hot. Brush with oil, then ladle in the batter, completely filling the holes in the pan as well as the surrounds. Drop a beef patty into each hole, and scatter the whole of the pan liberally with tenkasu, pickles, red onion and cheese. As the batter starts to firm, draw lines between the holes with a skewer, as if marking out a grid. Insert the skewer to the base of each whole and roll over the ball to create a sphere. Cook for a further 5 minutes or so, rolling the balls over periodically until they are firm and crisp on the outside.

Remove the balls from the pan and arrange on a plate. Drizzle liberally with Otafuku sauce, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, and scatter over the aonori, spring onion, sesame seeds and bonito flakes.

Tips for Cheeseburger Takoyaki

  • Cheap beef mince tends to have a much higher fat content than more expensive lean mince. This makes it great for making things like burgers and dumplings.
  • For a recipe for making regular takoyaki, check out this post.