Monday, 8 February 2010
Last April, my husband Drew and I took an eight day trip to China with some holiday vouchers I won from Virgin (Aces!) Being me, I was more excited about eating 'proper' Chinese dishes than I was about nearly anything else about the trip. Whether for better or for worse, we went on a pre-arranged tour and many of our meals were included in the cost of the trip at restaurants which catered to Western palates, which was a shame.
Unfortunately, most of that food was exactly the same as the stuff we get in our cheap takeaways and were swimming in oil. The best places to eat, as is often the case were odd little places that we'd stumbled across during our free time away from the guides. We tried -among other things- dodgy bits of deep-fried pig intestine, baby bird-on-a-stick, pureed corn smoothies, dumplings and and famous hot pot (but not the dog).
During our last few days in China, while visiting a small town called Yangshuo, we had the opportunity to take a morning long cookery course, which began at a massive indoor food market. Aside from the horrible animal welfare standards, this was a brilliant place, filled with farmers and stall holders and women doing their daily shop for that night's dinner. All around were women picking rabbits and live chickens up out of cages, feeling their legs and wings and either putting them back to choose an other or taking their chosen animal to the butcher area to be dispatched. We stayed away from that area, as that was where the dogs were kept and I'm sorry, but I'm not quite that open-minded.
Most of the dishes we learned to make were similar to familia Chinese takeaway meals we're all familiar with, but with much fresher flavours and very peculiar to the Guilin region. The dish below is a slightly modified version of the Chicken with peanuts we learned. It has become a firm family favorite and is one of my preferred ways to use dark meat chicken.
Serve it either with plain steamed long grain rice or with egg-fried rice.
Yangshuo Style Spicy Chicken and Broccoli
Serves 4, Takes approximately 30 minutes, start-to-finish
4 free-range chicken thighs
2 large handfuls, broccoli florets
1 medium carrot,
1 large onion
1 stalk celery
2 cm ginger root, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
small handful raw peanuts
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
1 tbsp corn flour
6 dried red chillies, split
2tbsp ground nut oil (or canola/rapeseed/grape seed)
In a pan of boiling water, blanch the broccoli florets for 3 minutes, then drain and plunge into a bowl of very cold or iced water to stop the cooking. You want them to still be bright green and just undercooked. Drain when cooled. Meanwhile, remove the skin and bones from the chicken thighs (don't discard them, put them aside for stock!) cut into 2.5cm/1" chunks.
Peel the onion, cut in half and slice with the natural grain. Peel and halve the carrot lengthways then slice 3mm/1/8" thick on the diagonal. slice the celery the same and quarter the radishes.
If you're serving it over plain white rice, you'll want to start that cooking now.**
Over the highest heat you have, bring your wok (or wide frying pan) up to smoking point, then add the oil. Add the sliced onions to the pan and stir-fry for a few minutes until starting to get a little colour but still quite firm. Remove the onions to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the oil behind as you can and set aside.
Add the ginger and garlic to the pan and str-fry for 30 secs-1 minute, taking care not to let it brown. Mix the chicken in with the garlic and ginger and keep it moving to allow the outside of all the pieces to get coated with the ginger and garlic and begin to cook. At this point, you want to create the sauce, so add the water, vinegar, soy sauce, shaoxing rice wine and oyster sauce, stirring to combine. Cook for 1-2 mins, moving from time to time to ensure even cooking. Add the carrot, celery, radishes, peanuts and chillies, and continue to stir-fry for another 3-4 mins. Mix the corn flour with a tablespoon full of water and add as needed to the simmering pan, stirring to create a thicker sauce. Now that the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked though, bring the broccoli florets into the mix and bring the onions back to the pan. Stir over the heat for a minute to warm them both through and remove the whole lot from the heat. You should have a fairly thick sauce, tender chicken and veggies which are a little al dente (to the tooth!)
Serve immediately over rice (see below)
**For perfect steamed rice for 4 peeps-
Rinse 1 cup of long grain white rice in cold water, then add 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. The second it comes to a boil, add a little salt and turn the heat down almost to the lowest temperature and cover. It will take 8-10 minutes to cook. Lift the lid from time to time and look for little holes in the top of the rice, if there's no water bubbling up through those holes, turn off the heat and cover until you're ready to use it.