Chinese new year dinner

I don’t remember when Chinese new year became such a mainstream event in Australia but this year feels extra noticeable. I’m sure it’s been celebrated every year but I see that even the banks have decided to decorate their offices with copious amounts of Chinese advertising. I guess with every other festival, holiday etc., Chinese new year is another great commercial opportunity…however, it is also a good reason to catch up with friends and family around food.

For our Chinese new year dinner this year, we aimed to make dishes that were simple and quick to prepare. Having started full time work this year, I have come to realise the true meaning of tiredness* and the value of weekends after emerging from a 2 day uni schedule. Thus, I did not want to spend a precious week night slaving away in the kitchen.

Two dishes that I turned to on the night were wasabi beef and drunken chicken. Both take minimal time to prepare and taste delicious. With the wasabi beef, I resorted to velveting the meat with baking soda to eliminate any sinewy chewy bits. I’m still unsure whether this is a good idea as it feels like I’m altering the texture of the meat. However, it tasted alright in the end and went well with some wasabi mayo.

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Here’s the recipe

Ingredients 

  • 700-800 grams scotch fillet or other similar cut
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • Just under 1 tbsp wasabi paste
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 0.5 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2-3 leaves iceberg lettuce sliced thinly

Wasabi mayo

  • 0.5 tbsp wasabi paste
  • 2.5 tbsp mayonnaise (i used whole egg im sure most are fine)
  1. Slice beef into 0.5-1 cm thick bite size pieces. Cut across the grain.
  2. Mix in the baking soda making sure it touches all the meat. Rest for 15-20 minutes
  3. After resting wash thoroughly. Very thoroughly… you don’t want an aftertaste of baking soda with your wasabi
  4. After drying and removing as much water as possible from the beef, mix in all the other ingredients with the beef except for oil and lettuce leaves. Let marinate for at least half an hour
  5. Heat oil in pan/wok on high heat. Scatter beef around the pan/wok and don’t touch. You don’t want to release the juices and end up stewing the beef.
  6. Fry for around 1 minute then mix around letting the other sides of the beef get some charring.
  7. Keep frying for around 4-5 minutes then taste one piece to see whether it needs any salt/sugar/pepper
  8. In the mean time of cooking, you could quickly lay some of the sliced lettuce nicely around your dish. It’s a bit kitschy but a bit of green looks better imo.
  9. After your beef is done dish out and place on top of lettuce.
  10. Mix the mayonnaise and wasabi paste together and serve. Enjoy!

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The other dish, drunken chicken, can be prepared the night before and is served chilled so no reheating required. I know that most recipes usually recommend shao xing wine, but recently I tried one prepared using a pickling wine concoction and it was really delicious and aromatic. Here’s a pic of the wine.. it may be found at your local asian grocer

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Here’s the recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 kg chicken wings cleaned
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A tray of ice cubes
  • 500ml bottle of pickling wine
  • 200 ml chicken stock
  • 5-6 goji berries (optional)
  • A bit of spring onion jullienned lengthwise to garnish
  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and steam for around 15-20 minutes until cooked. Turn halfway. You may want to check at 15 minutes to see whether they are just cooked. They taste a bit dry if overdone
  2. When your chicken is about done mix the ice with a bowl of water (enough to submerge the chicken in). When chicken is done take out and plunge into icy water. This will keep the chicken skin taught.
  3. Mix pickling wine and stock in bowl/pot (one with higher sides).
  4. Place chicken into liquid making sure they are all submerged in the wine mixture.
  5. Chuck in the goji berries
  6. Cover and place in the fridge overnight
  7. When ready to serve take out and arrange on plate and garnish with spring onion. Enjoy!

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Cantonese style crispy noodle with beef

This dish is commonly featured on the menu of your average Cantonese diner and is delicious yet simple. Although the type of meat and veges used varies, a good version of this dish should (imo) have semi-crunchy noodles and an umami packed sauce.

Whilst you can order this at a restaurant, it is often drenched in oil and seasoned quite heavily. At home, you can control how much oil you use as well as what goes into the sauce.

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Here’s the recipe. Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp of oil
  • 3 bundles of Chinese egg noodles (get the thin ones. Not flat or hokkein like. Often they come in little dried bundles like this)
  • 150-200 grams beef skirt or other similar cut sliced thinly ~0.5-1cm (semi freeze the beef to allow easier slicing)
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 0.5 tbsp ginger finely chopped
  • A bundle of pak choi
  • 1.5 tsp corn flour and 1 tbsp water

Sauce

  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 3/4 cup of chicken stock or water (if you use water add half a tsp of chicken powder)
  • 0.5 tbsp of soy
  • 0.5 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Dash of sesame oil
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • Pinch of five spice powder

Steps

  1. Mix the baking soda with the beef making sure that all the pieces are coated and let rest for 30 minutes. This is similar to what they do in the restaurants to soften the meat.
  2. As the beef is resting, boil some water in a pot and dump in your egg noodles. Turn the heat down a bit after the noodles are in. Let simmer for around 5-7 minutes. Check to make sure its not too soft.
  3. Drain noodles and wash under cold water. After the noodles have cooled make sure you drain as much water out of them as possible. This is crucial as you do not want hot oil exploding everywhere when you fry them.
  4. After resting the beef, wash it in water to get rid of the baking soda. Wash thoroughly.
  5. Heat the oil in a wok/pan on high heat until just about smoking.
  6. Grab your noodles and disperse evenly into the wok. Don’t just drop them in, you want to maximise the crispying surface area.
  7. Fry until you can see the underlying noodles turn brown and hard. Flip and repeat
  8. Turn off the heat when there are a mix of crunchy and slightly soft noodles remaining.Use a pair of forks or chopsticks to slightly loosen up the noodles. Sometimes frying them can cause them to stick together in one large bunch.
  9. Mix the sauce ingredients
  10. Put the wok back on high heat. If there’s not enough oil left in the wok, add a tbsp more.
  11. Add the beef and ginger/garlic. Stir fry until the beef has just a slight tinge of pink.
  12. Add in Pak choi and stir fry until the leaves are just about wilted
  13. Add in mixed sauce ingredients and let the liquid come to a boil. Let it boil for around 1 minute to let the pak choi cook through. Taste and add more salt/sugar if needed.
  14. Mix the cornflour and 1tbsp of water before stirring it through the sauce/meat mixture.
  15. Turn off the heat and dish out the mixture onto the crispy noodles. Enjoy!

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Tasmania travel

So this post isn’t really cooking related but I wanted to share my trip to Tasmania with you anyway.It is hard to sum up Tasmania in one word so here’s a brief list:

  • Charming historical sandstone buildings
  • Seaside towns
  • Boutique and artisan products
  • Unique and underrated
  • White sandy beaches
  • English like countryside and sometimes English like weather

Here’s some pictures to match that list of words. The fact that these were captured on a crappy camera phone is really testament to the beauty of the landscape.

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View of Hobart from Mt Wellington

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Penguin Rookery on Bruny Island

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View of Hazard mountains in Freycinet National Park

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Wineglass bay in Freycinet National Park

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Bicheno blowhole

And this one just looks like a painting

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And of course you can’t miss the famed Salamanca markets every Saturday morning in Hobart. Lots of veges/fruit, ornaments and souvenirs you may actually value.

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The Taste of Tasmania was also on when we went and we tried the recurrently posted  tempura mushrooms.

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We also headed to places near Launceston, and whilst I wasn’t especially eager to visit the Bridestowe Lavender estate in Nabowla, you can’t deny the beautiful sight of endless Lavender fields. I didn’t know at first but found out that there’s currently this craze in China over a Lavender and wheat filled teddy bear called Bobbie sold at the estate. Apparently a Chinese celeb posted a pic of herself with the bear on a social media website and it exploded in popularity.

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Bruny Island

I enjoyed Bruny island in particular not just because of the scenery but also for its delicious produce on offer. A full day is needed to visit most of the different farms and outlets. The highlight for me was definitely the oysters from Get Shucked. Plucked from the ocean that morning they were plump and deliciously briny.

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We also got some fudge from the Bruny Island chocolate factory and enjoyed a berry tart from the berry farm. Yum

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We also stopped by the Bruny Island cheese Company which offered complimentary tastings of a range of cheeses available (forgot to take pictures).

There were a lot more things on offer on Bruny Island and Tasmania in general and it really is a place to go and discover yourself. 

Cooking when traveling

Recently I went away with my family to Tasmania, and although we did taste and enjoy a lot of the produce on offer we also cooked a lot of our meals. While the ‘kitchen’ facilities were bare minimum, I did not want to resort to instant noodles, so I set out to cook delicious and efficient meals with minimal wastage.

I found that it was better to stick to around 3 ‘base’ ingredients like couscous, rice, pasta etc.. things that can be easily microwaved/boiled and lend itself to different flavours. Certain ‘star’ ingredients were then bought to accompany each dinner.. local fresh produce of course.

With rice I made

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prawn risotto

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massaman curry

And with couscous I served it with some trevally and prawns

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As expected, Tasmania’s seafood is incredibly fresh and if you know where to go, cheap as well ($7/kilo mussels and $19/kilo trevally). These mussels were tender and their juices combined with a bit of cream provided a mop worthy sauce.

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Although there are seafood outlets in the touristy Hobart wharf areas, the Island Markets in the northern suburb of Moonah offered fresh veges and seafood at a low price.

I think we saved a lot by cooking in our accomodation and were able to spend on other experiences/things. It is definitely an option and I don’t feel like we sacrificed for taste. I think I’ll do the next post on our travels and some of delicious food on offer on Bruny island.