Category Archives: Asian

Penang Char Kway Teow 

…or, fried flat noodles with prawns and eggs.


The photo doesn’t do it justice, but this is one of my favourite things to eat – probably top 5, maybe top 3. It’s a speciality in Malaysia, where half of my family is from, and where my mum learned how to make it by carefully watching (and interrogating) the specialists, who cook nothing else on fiery hot woks in hawker centres and coffee shops.

My mother’s is just as good (or better) and that isn’t some kind of fluffy emotional bias talking (we’re really not that kind of family, by which I mean, we’re Asian. “I won a maths prize Mummy!” “Hmmm.”) it’s cold objective analysis. I always request char kway teow when I go home, and order it pretty much whenever it’s on the menu. But I’ve been watching carefully too, and even without a wok, managed to make it at home on my own.

I sent her this photo and asked “Mummy are you proud??”


And she replied “Looks really authentic and I am thinking ,tastes really good too.  Well done you.”

…which would have been the sweetest taste of all!! except that after I’d sent the photo I realised it was underseasoned. But a few more iterations later and I’m ready to write down the recipe, something neither my mother nor her hawker gurus have done, as far as I know. So here goes:

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Easy Beef Pho (more “Faux” than authentic “Pho”)

This is a cheap, comforting-but-healthy bowl of tender rib meat and bone broth. And it’s super-easy to make – the passage of time does all the work for you. It’s hands-off pho, as 1. apart from roughly chopping some aromatics and slipping the tender meat off the bones at the end of cooking, you really don’t do much, and 2. it also stands for “Hands off my pho!” because once I’ve got my slurp on with a bowl of this umami sensation, I’m not prepared to share! Vietnamese Beef Pho Continue reading

Miso Honey Salmon

This is not a particularly budget-friendly recipe, purely because salmon isn’t cheap. But it’s one of those foods that shouldn’t be, I think. If I’m going to eat a fish, I want one that used to swim in the sea and is fished sustainably and transported so that it’s still fresh, and so it should cost a lot of money. (I also believe in good treatment for animals, but that’s slightly different because it’s possible to buy an unpopular cut of a well-treated animal at a reasonable price). However, we made this the other day from a salmon I’d frozen after buying it from the supermarket at less than £10 a kilo. It was a lovely specimen – firm, rosy-fleshed salmon from Scotland, and very fresh. It was so cheap because it was unprocessed – gutted, but then just bagged up. It’s a cost-efficient way of buying enough salmon for dinner with friends, but only if you don’t mind wrestling a fish longer than your arm. I spent longer de-scaling and pin-boning that sea monster than preparing the rest of the dinner put together. Just call me Ishmael.

Miso Honey Salmon

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Easy Coconut Sago Pudding

Cost: under £1, serves 4 generously

This pudding is dreamy – caviar-like pearls of sago are suspended in a light coconut pudding with the gorgeous mouthfeel of custard. It is wholly composed of storecupboard ingredients – vegan and gluten-free, so it’s easy to knock up a batch when there is nothing in the fridge and no inclination to run to the shops. I make it unsweetened and then add a teaspoonful of dark, fudgy brown sugar – it’s not quite the authentic gula melaka that would be used in Singapore, but it does the trick.

Coconut Sago pudding

I feel like a guilty pleasure food should be something that is easy to make and doesn’t need lots of time/attention – after all, there is too much of an opportunity to make a more responsible choice if you actually go out of the house to buy some double cream, and for this kind of thing, delaying the gratification with hours of stirring at the stove or stacking up lots of washing up for later doesn’t enhance the pleasure – in fact it might start to seem not worth it. This is a one-bowl recipe that takes less than an hour to make – and half of that is just leaving it to soak.

My way of making sago is possibly not very authentic but it is easy, and delicious, and the result of much experimenting. It’s supremely comforting served warm from the pan, but achieves a certain cool sophistication served chilled in pudding glasses, perhaps accompanied by tropical fruit such as lychees or honey mangoes.

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Malaysian Beef Rendang

Cost: £12 for 8 people as a main course, very generously

A Malay classic – nuggets of beef slow-cooked to collapsing tenderness, in a fragrant, almost caramelised curry. The shopping list of spices isn’t particularly long – we happened to have almost everything on hand, and the base of the curry is coconut milk, so it’s dairy free but still gorgeously rich. This recipe was originally from a butchery course at the Waitrose cooking school, and overall winner in a family rendang-off that my brother won against my parents.

The only changes I’ve made have been for convenience, as well as using beef shin instead of chuck – shin is my favourite cut for this kind of slow-cooked dish, where the collagen breaks down to give a silky, rich sauce and the meat breaks down without becoming tough into pink-tinged shreds.

Beef rendang on paratha

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Easy Ramen and Char Siu

Cost: about £9, serves 6 with seconds for everyone

Ramen is not just a London trend, and not just a Japanese obsession – although it is both these things, the darling of hipsters and food fans, the subject of consumer quests for the best ramen in London and scientific quests led by patient, meticulous Japanese chefs, it is a food experience that soothes and thrills at the same time, both simple in its innate comfort and complex in the depths of savoury flavour it achieves.

This recipe is a practical way of recreating that experience at home. I say recreating, not replicating, because whilst I believe it is possible to do, it’s really not practical. This recipe for the tonkotsu ramen broth delivers collagen-rich, intensely porky broth which in turn delivers sticky-lipped contentment – but it’s easy. And although it takes many hours to physically cook, the active time for the cook is well under an hour.

Homemade "Ramen"

 

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Guotie (aka gyoza or potsticker dumplings)

Cost: about £1 for a batch that serves 2 as a main dish or up to 6 as a side dish

These little pockets of juicy savouriness have become one of my favourite things to make at home, and by making the filling in advance and freezing it in 400g batches, it can be a weeknight treat as well as a weekend project. This is perfect low-ceilinged kitchen fare – at a restaurant these little beauties will run at about £4 for an order of 6, but at home a batch of about 24 only costs around £1 and nobody judges you for ordering 4 portions. They might seem like a restaurant food but really, they are so easy to make at home – no precision in cooking is required, and even imperfectly wrapped and inexactly seasoned dumplings will be delicious – comfort food for two (or one!) and always a hit with guests.

Pork and Leek Guotie (accompanied by Chicken Summer Rolls...which are very straightforward in case anyone wants the recipe?)

Pork and Leek Guotie (accompanied by Chicken Summer Rolls…which are very straightforward in case anyone wants the recipe?)

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