Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back to Basics

First things you always crave for after not cooking for ages are the ones you grew up eating... And for me its nothing more than simple homey styled dishes, improvised of course with what's available in Britain.

Spring onion and ginger is always a match made in heaven for Chinese cooking, it somehow gives a subtle invigorating flavor to meat dishes. Goes particularly well with white meat, e.g. fish, chicken and frog (yes, frog meat, which tastes something like poussin). However, nowadays its common with red meat like beef too, and can be pretty much found on the menu of any chinese hawker-style restaurants.

I'll stick with the classics for now, starting with Chicken with Ginger and Spring Onion. Thighs/drumstick meat is preferable (chicken breast is ok but drier texture). So for a you'll need about 6-8 sprigs of spring onion, 2-3 inch ginger, 400g-500g chicken meat, dark and light soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, chilli (optional).

I used thigh meat, and de-boned about 8 thighs and cut into bitesize pieces. Spring onion stalks are chopped about 2 inch long, separating the white bit (at the bottom) and the 'leaves' (the green bits at the top). Slice the ginger thin, producing a size like your thumb print. For the garlic, I prefer to just skin them and crush the cloves with the back of the knife (yup, I'm one of those that actually love fried garlics, hehe), and we're ready to go!

So heat up a little bit of oil, and once hot, put the ginger and the white stalk of the spring onions in and stir quickly. About 2-3 minutes, the ginger should be brown and then add the garlic and chicken meat in whilst tossing as usual. The key point should be here, add a few drops of sesame oil for wonderful nutty aroma and flavor, then the usual light soy sauce for taste, dark soy sauce for a little bit of color... Do add a little bit of water if its too dry, and the meat should be roughly cooked in 5 minutes or so. Remember to add the green leave bits of the spring onions, and continue to stir fry for a minute or so, and its done! You can garnish with finely chopped red chillies on top for that extra spicy kick :)

The next vegetable dish is somewhat of an experiment, inspired by a dish in Chinatown recently. It was some sort of tofu dish with leafy vegetables stir fried in bean sauce. Here's my version of it with long beans instead.

It's just a 5 ingredient dish!! 1 carrot (sliced into matchsticks), fried hard tofu or taukwa (sliced lengthwise), long beans (sliced into 2 inch pieces), garlic (crushed cloves), and fermented soy bean sauce (tau chu). This sauce is available in many Asian grocery stores, and is basically soy beans fermented and tastes sweet and salty.

Heat some oil in the pan, and let the garlic sizzle in it till slightly brown-ish. Carrots in first, and 2 minutes later the long beans. Alternatively, you could actually pre-cook the long beans and carrots by steaming them for about 3 minutes before stir frying if you prefer. It's perhaps faster and healthier. For the former case, the stir frying time is longer, and adding some water helps. 5 minutes later, or whenever the vege are cooked till your preferred level of crunchiness, add in the tofu and half a tablespoon of the bean sauce, adjust to taste, and it's ready to be served with some rice!

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