Submitted by W.W. Norton & Company
British author Fuchsia Dunlop fell in love with Chinese cuisine while an editor for the BBC. She studied at Sichuan University and was the first Westerner trained at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine.
“The skills I learned at the Institute — cutting, flavoring and different cooking methods, not to mention some specific dishes, are the bedrock of everything I’ve done, including this book.”
Dunlop’s book includes quick home meals, along with favorites such as General Tso’s chicken. “Fish-fragrant eggplants is one of my old favorites from Sichuan,” she said.
In time for Chinese New Year, we share three of Dunlop’s recipes to make at home.
Braised trout in chili bean sauce
1 rainbow trout (about 3/4Ib / 350 g), scaled and cleaned, but with head and tail intact
1 tbsp shaoxing wine
½ cup (100ml) cooking oil, plus 2-3 tbsp more
2 ½ tbsp Sichuan chili bean paste
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
4 tsp finely chopped garlic
¾ cup (200 ml) chicken stock
1 tsp light soy sauce, to taste
2 tsp potato flour dissolved in 1½ tbsp cold water
3-4 tbsp finely sliced spring onion greens
1 tsp sesame oil
Make three even, diagonal cuts into the thickest part of each side of the fish, to allow the sauce to penetrate. Rub it inside and out with a little salt, then rub the shaoxing wine into its belly cavity. Set aside for 10-15 minutes, then drain off any liquid and pat it dry. Rub a little more salt into the skin on both sides (to prevent sticking).
Add the 1/2 cup (100 ml) oil to a seasoned wok over a high flame. When it is hot, slide the fish and fry on both sides until it is a little golden (it won’t be cooked through). You need to turn the fish carefully and tilt it so the oil comes into contact with all the skin. Pour off the oil into a heatproof container and slide the fish onto a plate.
Clean the wok if necessary, then reheat it over a high flame. Add the 2-3 tbsp oil and reduce the heat to medium. Add the chili bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is red and smells delicious. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry until you can smell them. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Slide in the fish and cook for five minutes or so, seasoning with soy sauce to taste. Keep spooning the sauce over the fish and tipping the wok so the whole fish is cooked. (If you are using a larger fish, turn it halfway.) Using a wok scoop and fish slice, carefully lift the fish from the sauce and lay it on a serving dish.
Increase the heat, stir the potato flour mixture and add just enough to thicken the sauce to a rich, clingy consistency (do this in stages to avoid over-thickening). Stir in the spring onion, then switch off the heat. Stir in the sesame oil and ladle the sauce over the waiting fish.
Mirror carp in chili bean sauce
For a 1½ -1 ¾ lb (700-800 g) carp, follow the recipe above, but increase the quantities to 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine, 3½ tbsp. chili bean paste, 1 tbsp garlic, 1 tbsp ginger, 1 cup (250 ml) stock and 4 tbsp spring onion greens. Cover the wok while simmering so the thicker parts of the fish cook through, raising the lid from time to time to baste with the sauce.
Fuchsia’s Emergency Midnight Noodles
7 oz (200 g) Chinese dried wheat or buckwheat noodles, or 11 oz (300 g) fresh noodles
2 spring onions, greens part only, finely sliced
For the sauce
3-4 tbsp tamari soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
4 tbsp chili oil with its sediment
1 tsp sesame oil
An egg or two for each person
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a serving bowl.
Cook the noodles. Rinse, drain and put in the serving bowl. Scatter with the spring onions. Mix well before eating.
If desired, top with eggs, fried on both sides.
Mr. Lai’s Glutinous Rice Balls with Black Sesame Stuffing
For the stuffing
1 tbsp (25 g) black sesame seeds
1 tbsp (25g) sugar
1 ½ tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (20 g) lard or coconut oil
For the dough
1 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp (200 g) glutinous rice flour, plus more to dust
1 tsp cooking oil
For the dips
4 tbsp runny sesame paste
4 tsp sugar, to taste
Make the stuffing. Please note that the stuffing is much easier to handle if it is made a few hours in advance and it will keep in the refrigerator for months. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry wok or frying pan over a gentle flame, stirring constantly, until they smell and taste delicious. Because they are black, you won’t notice a change in color, so do take care not to burn them (they will taste bitter if overdone). Trust your nose and tongue to tell you when they’re ready; the roasted taste is unmistakable. (Add a few white sesame seeds as a kind of barometer if you wish; when they are turning golden, all the sesame seeds should be ready.)
When the seeds are done, put them into a mortar and pestle and grind them coarsely (this can be done in a food processor, but take care not to reduce the seeds to a powder, they taste better with a little crunch). Add the sugar and mix well. Place the flour in a dry wok or frying pan and stir over a gentle heat until it smells cooked and toasty. Add it to the sesame seeds and mix well.
Heat the lard or coconut oil over a gentle flame until melted, then stir into the seed mixture. Mix well, then press the stuffing into a small bowl and refrigerate until set. Shortly before you wish to make the tang yuan, remove the stuffing from the refrigerator and use a small knife or teaspoon to gouge out small amounts. Roll these into balls the size of small cherries and roll in a scattering of glutinous rice flour.
To make the dough, add the oil and 2/3 cup (150 ml) tepid water to the glutinous rice flour and mix to make a soft, squidgy dough with a putty-life consistency. Break off pieces of dough the size of small walnuts, roll them into spheres, then press your thumb into the center of each to make a little cup. Place a ball of filling into a cup.
If you are right-handed, cradle a cup in the fingers of your right hand and gently push your right thumb on to the ball of filling. Turn the dumpling as you use the thumb and index finger of your left hand to draw the edges of the dough around the ball. Close the dough around the ball. Draw the edges up into a little point to close the rice ball completely, then pinch off the pointy tip (it can be mixed back into the remainder of the dough).
Roll the rice ball between your palms into a little sphere and lay on a board lightly dusted with glutinous rice flour.
Combine the sesame paste and divide between dipping dishes for each of your guests.
Fill a saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Drop the rice balls into the water, return to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes until cooked through: the tang yuan are ready when they have increased in size and are soft and squeezable when you take them in a pair of chopsticks (break one open to make sure: the black stuffing should be melted and glossy).
As the tang yuan are cooking, bring a kettle to a boil. When they are ready, pour a little hot water into a serving bowl for each person and place about four rice balls into each bowl. The water is not to be drunk, but will keep the tang yuan hot and silky-soft until they are eaten. Serve with the sweet sesame dip.
Tang yuan in sweet glutinous rice soup
Bring enough water to boil to cook the tang yuan and add about 4 tbsp fermented glutinous rice (lao zao or tian jiu: this is sold in glass jars in Chinese supermarkets and looks like plain long-grain rice in a slightly cloudy liquid), with sugar to taste. Add the prepared tang yuan and simmer until cooked. If you wish, reduce the heat at this stage and drizzle a beaten egg or two into the liquid. When the egg has set into golden wisps, divide the tang yuan between your serving bowls. This snack is traditionally given to women after childbirth in Sichuan. It is often made with unfilled tang yuan (little, cherry-sized spheres or glutinous rice paste).
Tang yuan in roasted peanut flour
Roast some peanuts and grind them with a mortar and pestle.
Toss fresh boiled tang yuan in this peanut “flour” to cover them completely before serving. Tang yuan are often presented like this in Cantonese dim sum restaurants.
This post is also available in: Chinese