Roast Pork Banh Mi

Its popularity in Vietnam is unparalleled, but the banh mi might be Australia’s favourite sandwich, too. This roast pork version is absolutely delicious and if you’ve never made a banh mi yourself, it might be time to roll up your sleeves and get started.

Ingredients

Vietnamese roast pork (thit heo quay) – makes extra

2 kg pork belly

½ tsp white pepper

1 tsp five spice powder

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp salt, for salting the skin

Daikon pickle

½ daikon, peeled and cut into 1cm square batons as long as your rolls

1 tbsp salt

¼ cup white vinegar

2 tbsp caster sugar

Banh mi seasoning

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

½ tsp caster sugar

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

To serve

6 crusty bread rolls

Vietnamese patê

½ cup Japanese mayonnaise

12 slices of Vietnamese pork loaf (cha lua)

2 cucumbers, sliced into batons as long as your rolls

2 carrots, grated with a julienne peeler

spring onion, green part only cut into lengths as long as your rolls

bird’s eye chillies, finely sliced

coriander, to serve

Method

Cut deep slits into the meat of the pork and prick many small holes into the skin of the pork. Pour boiling water over the skin and then pat dry. You can skip this step if you like, but it does help the crackling. Rub the meat side with the pepper, five spice and garlic, and sprinkle the skin side generously with salt. Place on a rack in the fridge uncovered overnight.

For the daikon pickle, mix with the salt with the daikon rub until the daikon is softened enough so that it can be bent without breaking. Rinse, and combine with the vinegar and sugar, along with ¼ cup of water in a press-seal bag. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

For the banh mi seasoning, combine the ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Heat your oven to 180C. Roast the pork for 45 minutes, then turn the oven to grill/broil function and grill the pork for a further 15-20 minutes until the skin is crisp. Remove from the oven and rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

For the banh mi, warm the rolls. Cut the pork into thick slices. Spread the rolls with the pate and mayonnaise, fill with the poark loaf, cucumber, carrot, spring onion and daikon pickle. Add chillies and coriander to taste and drizzle with the banh mi seasoning.

Chicken sang choy bao

“Sang choy bao” literally just means “lettuce packets”. I use tianmianjiang (a northern Chinese sweet paste made from fermented flour) instead of hoisin (a modern Cantonese version of the sauce made from soybean), but they are fairly similar. The addition of shredded onion is something I particularly like, as it takes the flavour closer to Peking duck.

Ingredients

5 dried shiitake mushrooms

2 thick spring onions

¼ cup canola oil

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp grated ginger

500 g chicken mince

150 g green beans, cut into ½ cm dice

1 small carrot, cut into ½ cm dice

3 tbsp tianmianjang (or hoisin sauce), plus extra to serve

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp cornflour mixed in ¼ cup cold water

1 head iceberg lettuce, separated into cups

Method

Cover the shiitake mushrooms with about 1.5 cups of hot water and stand for 20 minutes to soften. Trim and discard the stalks and cut the caps into a ½ cm dice. Reserve the steeping liquid.

Cut the spring onions into 5 cm lengths and then very finely julienne them. Place the spring onion into iced water for at least 10 minutes to curl.

Heat a wok over high heat and add the oil, onion, garlic and ginger and toss for about 1 minute until the onion is softened. Add the chicken mince and fry for about 3 minutes until the mince is lightly browned. Add the beans and carrot and toss for a further minute, then add the tianmianjiang, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and a little of the shiitake steeping liquid as needed. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 3 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are softened. Mix through a little of the cornflour mixture and toss until the mixture is thickened and quite dry.

Serve the chicken mixture with the spring onion, a little extra tiamianjiang (or hoisin) and lettuce cups to wrap the mixture in.

Peking Pork Ribs (京都排骨)

Known in Chinese as 京都排骨 or “Capital Ribs” this dish is often translated as “Peking Pork Ribs” as Beijing – the northern capital – is the current capital, but actually the name of the dish refers to Nanjing – the southern capital in Jiangsu Province. Even more confusing is the fact that the dish itself is actually a Cantonese dish, named because of its resemblence to the sweet style of cooking in Jiangsu and specifically the colour that is reminiscent of the famous dish of Wuxi pork ribs from the province. Despite the difficult history of the name, the dish itself is very easy to make and the main ingredient is ketchup!

Ingredients

1 kg short-cut pork ribs, divided into individual ribs

2 tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1 egg white

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp white pepper

1-2 litres canola oil, for deepfrying, plus 1 tbsp for wok frying

3 cloves garlic

Sauce

¼ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)

1 tbsp white vinegar or rice vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp sugar

¼ cup stock or water

Method

Combine the pork ribs with the cornstarch, Shaoxing wine, egg white, salt and pepper and marinate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oil for deep-frying in a large saucepan or wok to 170C. Deep-fry the ribs in batches for 5-8 minutes depending on the thickness of your ribs. If just using the bone portion of the ribs 5 minutes should be enough, but if the ribs contain more of the belly fry them for 8 minutes.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Heat a wok over medium heat. Add the oil and garlic and fry until the garlic is fragrant and lightly browned. Add the sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the ribs and toss to coat in the sauce until the sauce is thickened, then serve.

 

 

Chawanmushi

Literally meaning “steamed in a tea bowl” this delicate and savoury Japanese custard is a lot easier to make than it looks. Just remember the ratio of 1 part egg to three parts stock and you’ll get a perfect custard every time

Ingredients

1 chicken breast

1 tsp sake

1 tsp soy sauce

2 fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

6 slices fishcake

6 cooked ginko nuts

mitsuba, to serve

Dashi

1 piece kombu (approx. 10 cm square)

a handful of bonito flakes

Egg custard

3 eggs

1 tsp sake

½ tsp salt

1 tsp soy sauce

approx. 2 cups dashi

Method

To make the dashi, place the kombu into 3 cups of cold water and bring to a simmer, removing the kombu when the water starts to steam. Add the bonito flakes to the simmering water, then turn off the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes then strain.

Crack the eggs into a measuring cup and mix gently without forming bubbles. Note the measurement of the eggs. In a separate measuring cup add the sake, salt and soy sauce and add dashi to make up three times the volume of the egg. Combine the egg and dashi together, stir gently and strain to remove any lumps.

Place a few slices of chicken and shiitake in the base of a teacup. Pour the egg mixture over the chicken to about 3 cm from the top of the teacup. Burst any bubbles with a skewer. Steam over low heat for 12 minutes. Test the custard with a skewer. If the liquid that rises from a hole made with the skewer is clear, proceed to the next step.

Gently arrange the fishcake, ginko nuts and a few slices of shiitake on top of the custard and pour over a little more raw custard mix. Steam for a further 3-4 minutes, then serve with the mitsuba.

Garlic butter prawns

This simple stir-fried dish uses fresh Australian garlic in a buttery sauce to coat delicious and tender prawns. If you want to make things even easier, you can skip the deep-frying step and just cook the prawns directly in the garlic butter sauce.

Ingredients

600 g large whole prawns

2 tbsp cornflour, plus extra for thickening

1.5 litres vegetable oil, for deep frying

50 g butter

10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

a good pinch of sugar

Method

Peel the prawns and reserve the shells. Butterfly the prawns by cutting a deep slit the back of the prawns , removing the intestine and flattening the prawn meat. Combine the prawn shells with about 1.5L of water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, then strain and discard the shells, reserving the stock.

Mix the prawn meat with 2 tbsp of cornflour and ½ a cup of cold tap water. Rub the prawns in the cornflour mixture and set the prawns aside for at least 15 minutes.

Place the oil into a large saucepan and heat to 175C. Remove the prawns from the cornflour mixture and add to the hot oil. Deep fry the prawns for about 2 minutes until nearly cooked through, then remove and drain.

Heat a large wok over medium heat, add the butter and the garlic. Fry the garlic for about 1 minute until fragrant but not yet browned. Add about 2 tbsp of the prawn stock, the fish sauce, Shaoxing wine and a generous pinch of sugar. Add the prawns and toss through the garlic butter sauce. Mix a little extra cornstarch with some cold water and add a little to the sauce to thicken. Remove the prawns and sauce to a plate to serve.

Green peppercorn chicken with crispy basil

This simple chicken stir-fry is first fried in a light coating of egg and cornstarch and then tossed through a sauce made with green peppercorns, rice vinegar and dark soy sauce.

Ingredients

600 g chicken thigh fillets, cut into 5cm pieces

½ cup cornstarch

1 egg white

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

¼ tsp ground white pepper

approx. 2 cups vegetable oil, for deep-frying

1 cup basil leaves, picked

600 g chicken thigh fillets, cut into 5cm pieces

½ cup cornstarch

1 egg white

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 small onion, sliced

50 g green peppercorns in brine, drained

Sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp rice vinegar

1 tsp grated ginger

Method

Combine the chicken, cornstarch and egg white in a large bowl with the soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper and mix well. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a wok or saucepan to 165C and fry the basil leaves (watch out, they may spit – I add them to the saucepan and quickly cover it with a lid for about 30 seconds until the spitting settles down) for about 1 minute until the basil is crisp, then remove from the oil. Increase the heat of the oil to 180C and fry the chicken in batches for about 4 minutes per batch or until just cooked through.

Heat a wok over high heat and add 1 tbsp of the frying oil. Fry the garlic, onio and green peppercorns for about 1 minute, then add the sauce ingredients and ½ cup of stock or water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 3 minutes, then add the chicken and toss to coat for a further minute until the sauce is thickened and coating the chicken. Remove the chicken to a serving plate and scatter the basil leaves around to serve.

Chinese Cucumber Salad

Serves 4, as a side dish

This simple salad is found all over China in varying forms. The secret is to keep it simple, and not to flavour it too strongly. Think of it as a palate cleanser, or as a super quick dish to add balance to a Chinese meal.

Ingredients

1 tbsp dried black fungus

3 Lebanese cucumbers

3 cherry tomatoes, halved

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp sugar

1 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp black vinegar

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp sesame oil

Method

Cover the black fungus in ample hot water and stand for 10 minutes. Trim out the hard root of the fungus and set the “ears” aside.

Peel the cucumbers in intervals. Place one cucumber on a cutting board and cover with a tea towel. Bash the cucumber with your hand or a rolling pin, then break the cucumber into 5 cm pieces by hand and transfer to a bowl. Repeat for the remaining cucumbers. Add the cherry tomatoes to the bowl and mix through the salt and sugar. Transfer to the fridge for 10 minutes.

Add the black fungus, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and sesame oil and 1-2 tbsp of cold water to the cucumbers and stir to dissolve the sugar. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

Top Tips for Chinese Cucumber Salad

  1. Don’t try to flavour this too strongly. Adding a dash of water at the end balances the dish
  2. The dish is about cucumbers and black vinegar. If you don’t want to add black fungus, garlic, sesame oil etc. just leave them out.
  3. This is a perfect dish for summer.
Vegetarian Potsticker Dumplings

These vegetarian (actually vegan) dumplings use the shiitake steeping liquid and wholemeal flour to make the skins. For the filling, use flavourful and textural vegetables rather than “fillers” like tofu or cabbage.

Ingredients

6 dried shiitake mushrooms

2 tbsp peanut oil

1 carrot, peeled and finely diced

1 large bunch garlic chives

2 tbsp dried black fungus, soaked, trimmed and finely sliced

6 spring onions, finely sliced

1 tsp sesame oil

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp sugar

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

Wholemeal dumpling skins

2 cups wholemeal flour

¾ cup boiling water, or hot shiitake steeping liquid

Method

  1. Soak the shiitake in 2 cups of hot water for 20 minutes then trim the stems and dice the caps.
  2. To make the dumpling skins, heat the shiitake liquid until boiling and combine about ¾ of a cup with the wholemeal flour in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix at medium speed for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. Lightly dust with flour and rest for at least 1 hour wrapped in plastic or an oiled cloth.
  3. Heat a wok over high heat and add the peanut oil. Add the carrot, diced shiitake caps, spring onions, garlic chives sesame oil, and season with thesalt, sugar, soy sauce and Shaoxing wine. Fry for about 3 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the mixture is dry. Remove from the wok and cool completely.
  4. Roll and fold the dumplings (see video).
  5. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and lightly coat with oil. Add the dumplings (base down) to the pan and fry without moving until lightly browned on the base. Add hot water to a level about 1 cm up the side of the dumplings and cover. Steam for 8 minutes, then remove the lid and allow any remaining liquid to evaporate. Fry for a further minute until the bases are crisp, then serve with dumpling sauce and chilli oil.

Top Tips for Wholemeal Dumplings

  • Using the shiitake steeping liquid for the dumpling skins will give them a brown colour and delicious savoury flavour.
  • You can vary the vegetable fillings as you like. I tend to favour textural and flavourful vegetables rather than things like cabbage or tofu for vegetarian dumplings.
  • If you prefer, you can add egg or cornstarch to the filling to give it a firmer texture.
  • If you aren’t vegetarian, some soaked dried shrimp are an excellent addition to the filling.
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.