Black Pepper Aniseed Chicken and Being on Editors’ Picks

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There has been a wonderful flurry of activity behind the scenes on my blog in the last 48 hours. My phone began to ping – indicating a new ‘follower’ and ‘buzz’ when a new like happened. They were happening more regularly than usual to the extent I began to wonder what on earth was going on. After a little digging around I realised that my blog had been selected as one of the ‘Editors’ Picks’ – The best of WordPress, selected by Editors at Automatic. I am beyond ecstatic as I have watched in awe over the years at the fascinating, motivating and uplifting blogs that are selected across a wide selection of genres.

So welcome to all the new followers of my blog. I hope you get the chance to have a good virtual wander around. I have so many recipes in my ‘recipe library’ that I hope to appeal to a wide audience. The common thread with all of them is that they will have herbs or spices working their magic within them. I am passionate about them and adore dishes from across the globe. When I come across a new ingredient I am the first to give it a whirl and see for myself if it is something that I can incorporate in my cooking going forward. In the last year I tried (and loved) kokum, (or as one sweet reader corrected me  kodampuli)  – see here  which has a tangy, distinct flavour, as well as sea urchin which I have been meaning to try for years – it was as delicious as I had envisaged.

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To get you started how about having a look and trying one of my Sunday go-to dishes Bengali red split lentil dal or perhaps you are more of a meat eater then try one of my fav Mexican dishes – Mexican chilli beef with butternut squash.  Keeping on the theme of butternut squash how about this vegetarian curry using the squash as the star ingredient – butternut squash, lemongrass, coconut and spinach curry . If you have more of a sweet tooth then this one is rather good and even made it’s way into the Telegraph newspaper in the UK – chocolate, chilli and cinnamon fondants with cardamom chantilly cream. If you can’t find what you are looking for just send me an email or leave a comment and I will try and point you in the right direction or will come up with a recipe for you in a future post.

Today however I wanted to share a south Indian chicken recipe with you that actually originates from Chettinadu. As Bengal is famous for cooking with mustard, so Chettinadu is renown for using black pepper to heat their dishes. This dish is one with great heat and packs a punch. If you are feeling a bit low with a cold then I can assure you this dish will more than perk you up again. You need to make your own masala, which takes minutes, and is so worth it, and then the actually cooking of the dish is completed within 40-45 minutes max. I have another Chettinadu dish on my blog (which requires more ingredients than this dish), which you may also want to check out if this recipe turns out to be a hit for you. Let me know how you get on in the comments box below.

 Black Pepper and Aniseed Chicken

2 tbsp oil

1 cinnamon stick

3 green cardamom pods, opened

2 white onions, roughly chopped

3 tsp garlic-ginger paste

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

1kg chicken pieces on the bone (I find skinless thigh works well)

200ml water

************

Masala

2 tsp aniseed *

2 tsp cumin seeds

3 tsp black peppercorns

2 tsp coriander seeds

3 dried Kashmiri chillies

*if you don’t have aniseed you can use fennel seeds instead

  1. First heat a frying pan. When it is hot add the masala ingredients and move them around the pan for about 30 seconds to release their aromas. Place to one side then grind to a powder – I like to use my Krups one.
  2. In a different deep pan add the oil and when it is hot add cinnamon stick and cardamom pods followed by the onion and keep on a medium to low heat to allow the onion to bronze which will take around 8-10 minutes.
  3. Once the onion has bronzed sufficiently add the garlic-ginger paste and move around the pan for a couple of minutes before adding all of the ground masala.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer gently to allow them to soften.
  5. Add the chicken pieces and coat in the sauce. Add 100ml of water and place a lid on the pan.  Keep on a low heat and simmer for 40 minutes. You will need to add a further 100ml whilst cooking to give it more of a sauce (if you prefer it drier then omit this part). In the final 10 minutes remove the lid and allow the sauce to thicken.
  6. Serve alongside rice or perhaps some Indian flat bread.

Miso Chilli Vegetable Noodle Broth – A Winning Winter Warmer

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Earlier this week in London it was snowing – well trying to snow – unfortunately we only a brief flurry, but with the cold winds outside I felt an urge to have some broth, packed full of vegetables and a chilli kick, to warm me up from the inside out. I also wanted to use ingredients I had to hand in the house that needed eating up.

The result was a cracker of a meal. I had not planned to make it into a blog post but a number of you requested the details of the recipe after I posted the photo above on my instagram page.

It was filling, warming and slurptastic. I urge you to give it a whirl. It took minutes to prepare so was no hassle at all to throw together. So here is how to make a similar broth.

Miso Chilli Vegetable Noodle Broth

Feeds 1 (or two if you are less greedy) multiply up as required

1 tbsp olive oil

5 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1/2 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced

3  chestnut mushrooms, coarsely chopped

4 cubes of frozen spinach (fresh is obviously fine as well, but add this later)

2 heaped tsp of hikari light miso paste

1/4 tsp garlic chilli

a handful of fresh green beens, chopped

boiling water to cover

1 egg, boiled

2 medium tomatoes, quartered

1 portion of udon noodles

2 tsp of fried red onions (optional)

the miso paste, garlic chilli paste and fried red onions I buy from Korea Foods it is so worth going to stock up on Asian condiments, noodles, produce etc.

  1. Heat the oil in a deep pan and then and add the sliced garlic, fresh ginger and mushrooms. Move them around the pan for a minute making sure they do not burn. Keep the heat low to medium.
  2. Add the frozen spinach followed by the miso paste and chilli garlic. Continue to move around the pan for 20 seconds and then cover with boiling water.
  3. Boil an egg to your liking – I like my egg hard so I leave it to cook for almost 10 minutes then run it under cold water to prevent it cooking in its residual heat.
  4. Add the quartered tomatoes and the udon noodles and let them cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Serve the broth and noodles into a deep bowl and scatter with fried red onions and half the boiled egg and place on top.

Slurp away and a warm inner glow will be released within you. This is happy food at its absolute best.

Try it, share it and and take a photo and link it to #chilliandminthappybroth

Can’t wait to see how you all get on. Use up whatever veg you need finishing in your fridge – I used green beans and mushrooms as this is what I needed to finish up and they worked really well.

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Softened Cucumber with Chinkiang Vinegar, Sichuan Pepper and Red Peanuts

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There is a dish that I always order when I visit Silk Road restaurant in Camberwell. The main ingredient is cucumber. Yes cucumber folks. I think they even call the dish ‘cucumber salad’. Doesn’t sound that appealing does it at first glance, but let me assure you that cucumber that has been delicately softened or rather smashed with a small ‘s’, then doused in Chinkiang vinegar, soy sauce and sichuan pepper marinade elevates the humble cucumber to something quite extraordinary.

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It is quick to rustle together and is the perfect snack when you have the munchies or if you want to accompany it with perhaps Chinese spiced roast pork or chicken, ginger and spring onion jiaozi or dan dan noodles. Give it a go next time you find a cucumber lurking in your fridge. Chinkiang vinegar (also known as Chinese black rice vinegar) you can get at the larger supermarkets, or you can get online here . Sichuan peppercorns can also be found here.

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I adore the different textures and tastes dancing around on my tongue. Sichuan pepper is seriously addictive – in a good way, so it is worth sourcing it if you can.

Softened Cucumber with Chinkiang Vinegar, Sichuan Pepper and Red Peanuts

1 cucumber, bashed lightly with a rolling pin

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional)

1 tsp salt

50g red peanuts

  1. Using a rolling pin gently bash the cucumber so that it begins to soften slightly. The reason for doing this is to create a slightly softer texture which will then absorb all the delicious flavours of the marinade more easily.
  2. Cut the cucumber lengthways and halve it again and then cut it on the diagonal into 1 inch pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl add all the other ingredients, aside from the red peanuts, and stir so that they are all mixed together well. Add a little more sugar or salt as needed.
  4. Place the red peanuts into the cucumber bowl and then add the marinade and throughly mix it together so that the cucumber is fully coated with it.

You can prepare this ahead of time or eat it immediately.

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Cold Spiced Soba and Cucumber Noodles

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When it’s hot I like nothing more than a bowl of spiced cold noodles. If you have only ever eaten them hot before you are going to have to trust me when I say that cold noodles are seriously good. The whole meal takes 10 minutes max to prepare, which is even better when the sun is shining and you don’t really fancy spending too long over the stove.
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The crunch of the cucumber noodles and nuts (from the crunchy peanut butter) really compliment this dish. I decided to use dragons back chillies which you can purchase from World of Zing here. The chilli gave the dish a kick without being too overpowering. The spring onion and garlic also adds other wonderful flavours running through this dish. The star of the sauce in my mind is chinkiang vinegar, which is also known as Chinese black vinegar. I adore the stuff and if you love Chinese cooking it is an absolute must for your store cupboard. You can easily pick is up in any Asian food store.

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The sauce is salty, sour and sweet and mixed through the noodles it is absolutely heavenly. It’s a perfect meal to take to work as it is easily transportable and can be prepared the morning or night before and then stored in a fridge until lunch. Remember to take it out of the fridge around 30 minutes before eating so that it has reached room temperature.

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Serves 2 or (1 if you are feeling a little piggy)

85g soba noodles

1/2 cucumber, noodles if you have this or thinly chopped into sticks if not

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

1 dragons back chilli, halved or quartered

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp chinkiang vinegar

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp chilli oil

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp crunchy peanut butter

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp black sesame seeds

1 tsp salt – optional

1. Place the soba noodles in boiling water and boil for around 5 minutes or according to the packet. Drain and run under cold water so that the noodles are completely cold. Place to one side.

2. Mix the chinkiang vinegar, light soy sauce, chilli oil, sesame oil, chopped garlic*, sugar and crunchy peanut butter in a bowl and stir to form a dressing. Taste and add salt if required.

3. Prepare the cucumber noodles or chop the cucumber into thick sticks.

4. Heat a small pan and when it is hot add the dragons back chilli or other dried chilli so that it darkens slightly in colour. I keep all the seeds, but if you like it less hot you can reduce these. Then add 1/2 tsp of chilli oil and add the spring onions for a minute. Take off the heat.

5. In a mixing bowl add the cold soba noodles, the cucumber noodles, the dressing and the dried chilli and spring onions.  Gently fold in together and place in two bowls. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top.

* if you prefer to cook the garlic add it to the pan with the spring onions so that it softens slightly.

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Gong Bao Ji Ding – aka Chinese Chicken with Facing Heaven Bullet Chillies

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So the story goes that back in the Qing Dynasty the governor of Sichuan, ‘Gong Bao’, had a deep fondness for this dish so they named it after him. The ‘Ji Ding’ part translates as “chicken cut into small cubes” and to this day it is one of the most ubiquitous Chinese dishes eaten in both mainland China and in the West. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Kung Pao Chicken’ so keep a look out for this name as well.

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The lovely people over at World of Zing sent me some dried chillies recently with fabulous sounding names: Dragons Back, Facing Heaven Bullet and Chinese White Hunan. I pondered for some time over which one to sample first and facing heaven bullet won out. They are so called because the pepper grows with the fruit pointing upwards to the ‘heavens’ unlike most chilli peppers, which face downwards.

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Bullet in shape, they are often kept whole in cooking or cut in half once. Removing some or all of the seeds prior to cooking reduces the heat of the chilli, whilst still retaining a tantalising zing.  To give you some idea of heat, it is far milder than a Thai birds eye chilli.  It won’t be the case of running to the fridge for a glass of milk!

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This dish wins prizes on speed of delivery and flavour. Seriously even if you are shattered after a hard days slog this will raise your spirits. Give it a go and remember to come back and comment to let me know how you got on.

Gong Bao Ji Ding – Chinese Chicken with Facing Heaven Bullet Chillies

Serves 2-3

420g chicken breasts (works out as 3 breasts) skin removed, cut into strips then into 1 inch cubes

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 inches of fresh ginger, skinned and roughly chopped to the same size as the garlic

5 spring onions, white part only chopped to the size of the chicken cubes

10 facing heaven bullet chillies, halved and seeds removed

1 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns

80g peanuts, dry roast them for 5 minutes

2 tbsp ground nut oil (or equivalent)

****

Marinade

3 tsp light soy sauce

2 tsp Shaoxing wine

2 tsp cornflour

****

Sauce

1 and a half tsp cornflour

1 tsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp cold water

1. First prepare the chicken and then place in a bowl. Prepare the marinade in a separate bowl and then pour onto the chicken pieces and leave to rest whilst you prepare the rest of the dish.

2. Dry roast the peanuts in a frying pan for 5 minutes so that they bronze slightly.

3. Next prepare the garlic, ginger, spring onions and chilli and place to one side.

4. Prepare the sauce ingredients in a bowl and place to one side.

5. Heat a large pan or wok with the oil and when it is hot add the chillies and Sichuan peppercorns. Move them around the pan for 15 seconds before adding the cubed chicken. Keep the chicken moving around on a high heat so that it cooks through completely.

6. After a couple of minutes, and the chicken has whitened, add the spring onions, garlic and ginger continuing to move all the ingredients around the pan/wok. After 3 more minutes the chicken should be cooked completely. Cut through a large piece to check it is cooked through (if it needs a minute more continue cooking at a high heat), before adding the sauce and mixing it through completely.

7. Cook for a further minute before adding the peanuts. Coat them in the sauce and stir through a couple of times.

Serve immediately with some steamed rice.

Thanks to World of Zing for providing me with the chillies. 


Chinese Spiced Roast Pork – An Alternative Sunday Roast

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As an alternative to a typical English Sunday roast I thought I would tempt you with a Chinese spiced alternative that is sticky, sweet and balances perfectly with the saltiness from the pork and crackling. It’s a real family crowd pleaser and I can guarantee you all the plates will be completely clean after everyone has devoured their portion. This time I served mine with pak choi and some white fluffy rice, but you can equally serve with mangetout, green beans, Chinese greens, noodles – the list is endless.

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Take a look at these close ups and you can almost smell the five spice and the honey from looking at these glorious hunks of meat. With the juices from the meats you can quickly make a little sauce to run all over the meat and rice (the sauce was made just after these photos were taken so you are going to have to imagine the meat with a little bit of dark sauce running all over it).

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The meat requires as much marinading as you can manage. This time I only managed about an hour – kept at room temperature, but if you are super organised you can prepare it the night before and leave it in the fridge over night and then bring it out in the morning so that it is at room temperature when you place it in the oven.

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Before marinading the meat make sure your butcher, or you, has scored the meat so that there is a deep lattice effect running along the top of the fat. Once this is done you can then cover the meat in the marinade. Make sure you use your hands to massage the meat and skin.

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After cooking don’t worry if the crackling looks a little black (see photo below) – it’s meant to. The sauce has darkened the meat and the crackling to perfection. Let it rest for 10 minutes under foil before cutting up.

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 Chinese Roast Pork

Serves 4

800g boned and rolled pork shoulder

*******

pork marinade

1 heaped tsp Chinese five spice

2 tsp garlic paste

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

*******

Sauce

all the gooeyness from the baking tray post cooking the pork

1 tsp honey

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp boiling water

*******

for the park choi

4 garlic cloves, sliced

4 bundles park choi

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1/2 tbsp sesame oil

rice or noodles to serve

*******

1. First marinade the pork with the ingredients above either for an hour or if you are super organised, overnight. If you are marinading for an hour, leave the pork marinading at room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (180 degrees if using fan) and when the oven is hot place the pork on a roasting tray in the middle of the oven. Cook for 1 hour turning the pork over after 30 minutes of cooking time.

3. If after about 50 minutes the crackling has not crackled sufficiently increase the temperature of the oven to 200 degrees and cook for 10 minutes by which time the fat will have crackled to perfection.

4. Remove from the oven and then cover with foil for 10 minutes to rest on a warmed plate.

5. Prepare the rice or noodles so that they are ready to serve in 10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile to make the sauce, scrape all the gooeyness from the bottom of the roasting tray and add the honey, soy sauce and water. Stir so that all the ingredients mix well together. Simmer for a minute and then pour into a warmed sauce jug.

7. In a separate large pan, gently fry the garlic in the sesame oil for 2 minutes and then add the washed pak choi. The pak choi will wilt slightly within a couple of minutes, but which time it is ready to serve.


Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu


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In my first months of blogging, way back in the middle of 2011, I posted one of my absolute favourite recipes, Ma Po Tofu, which is a Sichuan classic and is seriously addictive – if you like chilli that is. It is incredibly easy to cook and after a manic day it is the perfect pick-me-up-food that takes no time to prepare. Over the years however, I have found that I am increasingly making it without the pork mince element and keeping it to a more vegetarian dish by including simply tofu and fresh (or sometimes frozen) spinach.

Recently in Hong Kong I began to judge eating establishments on how well they could cook Ma Po Tofu and Dan Dan Noodles as I had a acquired a taste for both dishes.

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Tofu I know divides opinion, but I am definitely in the camp of someone who loves it. It wasn’t an immediate love affair, but one that has grown over time to the extent that I always have tofu in the house, ready and waiting for me to make a last minute Ma Po Tofu dish or my other favourite tofu dishes, roasted harlequin squash with tofu, kale and coriander in a miso curry paste, black pepper tofu and soba noodles with tofu, aubergine and mango. Seriously give them all a try – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Tofu, or bean curd as it is also known, is hugely nutritious, versatile and a great vehicle for flavour. It’s rich in protein and low in fat, especially saturated fat. Yes, eaten on its own it is rather plain, but the point of tofu is to incorporate it with other flavours which it will help to enhance and lift. There are a myriad of different types of tofu, but the one I tend to use the most is ‘firm, silken tofu’ . I am going to be cooking some more tofu dishes over the course of this year, hoping that I may convert a few followers to the joys of tofu eating.

So here is what you need for the vegetarian version of the dish.

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Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu

Serves 2/3

349g silken tofu (or a similar amount)

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

2 spring onions, chopped

2 tbsp of chilli bean sauce (Lee Kum Kee’s I find works really well)

125ml of vegetable stock (fresh or a cube)

1 tsp shaoxing wine

1 tsp of soy sauce (light or dark)

2 tsp of sugar

1/4 tsp of sea salt

a good pinch of crushed Sichuan peppercorns

1/2 tsp of sesame oil

1. Cut the tofu into small (2cm) cubes and place to one side.

2. In a shallow pan heat the vegetable oil and then add the garlic and spring onions, stirring for around 30 seconds. Then add the chilli bean paste and mix into the garlic and spring onions.

3. After a minute add the chicken stock, shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar and salt and bring to the boil.

4. Add the spinach to the pan and gently fold into the hot sauce.

5. Once the spinach has begun to wither add the tofu and carefully spoon the sauce over the tofu, making sure not to break up the cubes. Leave to gently simmer for a couple of minutes.

6. Serve into a large bowl and sprinkle the Sichuan peppercorns and sesame oil and gently mix together.

Serve alongside small bowls of rice and hot cups of piping Jasmine/Chinese tea.

Perfect for this cold snowy weather.


Dan Dan Noodles and an alternative Christmas

Christmas this year is going to be somewhat different from our usual traditional Christmases in England, to put it mildly. I have always spent Christmas with my parents, siblings, their partners and my husband and daughters, enjoying good food, mulled wine, long walks in the woods and on the Downs, games (we especially like this one) where we all pretend we’re not that competitive (but we secretly are!), carols and general merrymaking.

This year, however, my husband (Mr B) and our daughters are spending the whole Christmas vacation in the Far East – well, Hong Kong to be exact. Whilst I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy initially at the thought of being away from all the traditional festivities and family in England over that period, I am now thinking of it as an adventure that I will throw myself into and try and embrace.  It won’t be the same as being in England and we won’t try to make it so, instead we’ll have an alternative Christmas that will be exciting in its own right.  There are certain traditions that I will seek out, even over there (I love a good carol), but in many respects it might be refreshing to have a change as a once off.

As bizarre as it might seem, as I have travelled a lot in Asia in the past, I have never been to Hong Kong, so am looking forward to exploring the region and hopefully getting under the skin of what makes Hong Kong tick. I am looking forward to trying the food in particular and somehow I need to adopt a Chinese local to show me the ropes on some of their local specialities. The food markets are also going to be a highlight so if any of you lovely people out there have any recommendations re the above then let me know. On the food front I far prefer low key local as opposed to an ostentatious, flashy restaurant where people prefer to be seen rather than enjoying the food itself – you know what I mean and I am sure you are in agreement! I will blog from Asia so watch this space from mid December.

High up on my Christmas wish list (I hope my family is reading this…..maybe wishful thinking!) is Fuchsia Dunlop‘s book ‘Every Grain of Rice – Simple Chinese Home Cooking’ . For those who don’t know, Fuchsia is a cook and food writer specialising in Chinese cuisine having lived, studied and travelled extensively in China. Back in July (15.7.12 to be exact) there was an article in ‘The Observer’ newspaper with Fuchsia’s recipe for Dan Dan Noodles. I tore it out and promised myself to cook this dish over the coming months. Dan Dan noodles, or Dan Dan Mian, as it is also known, is a real classic Sichuan dish that traditionally is served on street stalls by vendors who carry a long bamboo pole (dan dan) over their shoulders balancing baskets either end full of the soupy noodle dish. There are a multitude of recipes for this dish on the web, but I thought that I would sample Fuchsia’s recipe to begin with.

I can honestly say that this dish is off the charts delicious. Initially when I saw the ingredients I did a double take as I didn’t have them all in my pantry. My local Asian grocers also didn’t have some of the ingredients, in particular: sweet bean/fermented sauce, Chinkiang vinegar and Tianjin preserved vegetables, but this only made me even more determined than ever to get the ingredients necessary to make an authentic Dan Dan noodle dish. My saving grace came from discovering Wai Yee Hong, the online Chinese supermarket, based in Bristol, England. They had everything I needed and delivered the ingredients in a very efficient speedy manner. So if you are at a loss, order on line and the ingredients will be sent to you in a couple of days. Simple and hassle free.

Fuchsia’s recipe serves 2, but I felt it was easier to write it out for 1 person and then you can just double up as necessary depending on how many guests you are serving. I found it easier to make up individual sauces in each bowl and then add the noodles and mince, as opposed to making one bowl and then serving into guests bowls. Basically this way allows for you to alter the sauce slightly depending on personal preference (ie: I omitted the chilli oil when serving my daughters). It’s far more straightforward that it sounds and really takes no time to prepare.

Dan Dan Noodles

Adapted from Fushia Dunlop’s book Every Grain of Rice, whose recipe was printed in ‘The Observer’ 15.07.12. Her original recipe can be found here

Serves 1

(double/ triple/quadruple up according to numbers that you are feeding)

1 tbs vegetable oil

75g pork mince

1 tsp Shaoxing wine

1 tsp sweet bean sauce

1 tsp light soy sauce

100g dried Chinese wheat flour noodles – I use these

For the sauce

1 tsp light soy sauce

2 tsp of chilli oil (I use one that has flakes and shrimp in it), to taste

3 large heaped tsp Tianjin preserved vegetables

1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar

2 spring onion, finely sliced at an angle

300ml noodle cooking water stock (200ml if you are serving in smaller bowls or if you prefer it less soupy)

1. Add the cooking oil to a pan and stir fry the pork mince until it browns in colour.

2. Add the Shaoxing wine and stir into the mince, followed by the sweet bean sauce and soy sauce. Cook together for a few more minutes pressing the mince to the side of the pan with the back of a spoon so that it begins to clump together slightly.

3. In a serving bowl add all the ingredients for the sauce EXCEPT the noodle cooking water stock. If you cooking for others you can alter the quantities of the chilli oil depending on their love of chilli. For my daughters I omit the chilli oil and include all the other ingredients.

4. In a pan boil the noodles for the time it states on the packet – around 4 minutes. Stir them with chop sticks so as to separate them and prevent them from sticking. Noodles are similar to pasta in that you know they are done when the white centre has disappeared.

5. Drain the noodles, making sure to keep the noodle water to one side as this will become your stock. Run the noodles under cold water and drain off completely.

6. Place 300ml of noodle cooking water (or 200ml if you are using smaller bowls) into the serving bowl with the sauce and stir in together. Add the noodles and the mince on top. Give a good stir so that the ingredients are combined well and serve immediately.

The sauce quantities are very much a case of personal taste so if you prefer to add more chilli oil, Tianjin preserved vegetables, spring onions etc then go ahead and experiment to see what you like best. I do NOT add any salt to this dish as I find the soy sauce more than makes up for salt, however, Fushia does add a  1/4 tsp in her recipe so taste and see if you think it needs to be added.

A few other books on my Christmas wish list include:

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Spice Trip: The Simple Way to Make Food Exciting by Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette

Asian Tofu by Andrea Nguyen

Burma: River of Flavors by Naomi Duguid

Are there any others that you think should be on it? I’d love to know of any you would recommend. Don’t be shy and leave a comment below.