Fancy a Chinese?
Fuschia Dunlop shows you how to cook your own - and it's not half as difficult as you think...
Chinese cookery,’ says Fuchsia Dunlop in her new book, ‘has something of a reputation in the West for being complicated and intimidating.’ Her aim here is to demystify the art of Chinese cuisine and prove that everyday Chinese cooking is both straightforward and delicious, as well as being frugal.
‘Economic necessity,’ she writes, has ‘limited the role of meat in the Chinese diet,’ which has, in turn, ‘encouraged Chinese cooks to become adept at creating magnificent flavours with largely vegetarian ingredients.’ Delicious and cheap. Hard to think of a better combination in these days, especially when you add in the idea of eating more vegetables and less meat – just the kind of dietary advice we are constantly bombarded with. Indeed, carries on Dunlop, perhaps we should all adhere to the ‘age-old precepts of the Chinese table: eat plenty of grains and vegetables and not much meat, reduce consumption of animal fats and eat very little sugar.’
And just to whet your appetite further, Dunlop, a ‘world authority on Chinese cooking’, describes a lunch in a farmhouse near Hangzhou, Eastern China, at which she was a guest…
‘In the dining room, the grandmother of the household had laid out a selection of dishes on a tall, square table. There were whole salted duck eggs, green soy beans stir-fried with mustard greens, winter melon braised in soy sauce, potato with spring onions, slices of cured pig’s ear, tiny fried fish…’. The list carries on: ‘stir-fried eggs, purple amaranth with garlic, minced pork…’ and on… ‘green peppers with tofu, shiitake mushrooms…’. When did these farmers ever do any farming, one wonders?
Dunlop’s whole book could almost have been composed from this spectacular repast alone, but she has included loads of other treats – some of which appear below, and all of which prove the point that Chinese domestic cookery is not half so frightening as you might have thought.
Every Grain Of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop, with photography by Chris Terry (Bloomsbury Publishing, £25).
Runner Beans with black bean and chilli
250g runner beans, topped and tailed, and cut into thin slices on the diagonal
2 tbsp cooking oil u 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
An equivalent amount of ginger, peeled and sliced
Half fresh red chilli, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 tsp ground chillies, to taste
1 tsp light soy sauce
Bring a pan of water to the boil and boil the beans for 2-3 mins. Drain and shake dry. Add the oil to a wok over a high flame. Add the garlic, ginger, fresh chilli and stir-fry briefly. Add the black beans and the ground chilli and stir-fry briefly. Tip in the runner beans and continue to stir-fry until hot and sizzling, adding the soy sauce and seasoning.
Hangzhou broad beans with ham
300g podded broad beans
2 tbsp cooking oil
50g Chinese or Spanish cured ham, cut into 1cm squares
75ml stock or water
¼ tsp caster sugar
½ tsp potato flour mixed with 2 tbsp cold water (opt)
Boil the beans for 3-4 mins in boiling water. Refresh under the cold tap and pop out of their skins.
Heat a wok over a medium flame. Add the oil, then the beans and ham and stir-fry for a minute or two until piping hot. Add the stock, sugar, season and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a minute or so. Stir in the potato flour if using. Serve.
Stir-fried chopped soy sum
1½ tbsp cooking oil, plus more for blanching
375g choy sum, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh red chilli
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tbsp chilli oil (opt)
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add salt and a dash of cooking oil. Add the choy sum and blanch for about 30 seconds to wilt the leaves. Refresh under the cold tap and squeeze out as much water as possible.
Heat a dry wok over a high flame. Add the chopped choy sum and stir as the water evaporates. As the choy sum loses its water, add the chilli and a pinch of salt. Stir until steam rises, remove choy sum from the wok and set aside.
Use a pad of kitchen roll to rub the surface of the wok with oil and heat over a high flame. Pour in the 1½ tbsp cooking oil, swirl it around and add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry briefly until you can smell the fragrances. Add the choy sum and stir-fry to incorporate. Season to taste. When everything is hot, remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and the chilli oil, if using, and serve.
Chinese store-cupboard basics
Soy sauce (light, tamari and dark)
Chinkiang: Chinese brown-rice vinegar
Toasted sesame oil
Whole Sichuan pepper
Spices, such as cassia bark and star anise
Potato flour or cornflour
Fresh ginger, garlic and spring onions
Daily tip from the lady archive
“A GRACEFUL walk is a great asset, for sometimes it can create an illusion of beauty where little exists.”The Lady. Pleasant Exercises for Grace. 2nd April 1931