Take 5 for fast, tasty Chinese

THE BOOK: Chinese Takeaway in 5, by Kwoklyn  Wan, published by Quadrille, RRP $32.99
THE BOOK: Chinese Takeaway in 5, by Kwoklyn Wan, published by Quadrille, RRP $32.99
Kwoklyn Wan is on a mission to show people they can serve a flavoursome dinner faster than they can place an order with their local takeaway.

It can be done by having a few basic ingredients in the cupboard so that when people get home from a hard day at work, university or school, they can whip up Chinese-inspired masterpieces in no time.

"Creating a delicious meal should never feel like a chore — and at the end of a busy day, who really needs, or wants, to get stuck into hours of preparation and cooking, followed by a mountain of washing up?"

Instead, he suggests winding down by spending a short time in the kitchen making something delicious that will not take forever to prepare or a marathon shop to get started.

In Chinese Takeaway in 5, he urges people to experiment in the kitchen, using his recipes as a guide and then mixing them up to suit.

"Cook to your own personal taste, and remember: taste is key. Sample your dishes before you season and take a moment to consider what the dish needs before you go adding extra salt, pepper and sugar etc."

Kwoklyn, a chef and broadcaster who learnt his trade working in his family’s Cantonese restaurant, encourages batch cooking as pre-making sauces and storing them in the freezer is a great way to keep fresh" ingredients readily available for a quick grab-and-go meal.

"I like to gather the ingredients for a selection of sauces and then lock myself away in the kitchen with my favourite playlist as I chop, bubble and boil, before allowing the sauces to cool and then decanting into ice-cube trays for freezing."

Kwoklyn’s must-have five-ingredient store cupboard includes salt, ground white pepper, light soy sauce, oil (vegetable, ground nut, coconut) and sugar.

"As with all cooking, better results will always be achieved if you start with the best ingredients you can lay your hands on, not just from the flavour aspect, but from our own personal health benefits of eating produce and meat products that have been raised or grown in a higher-welfare environment."

Kwoklyn, who now teaches cooking, suggests exploring local Asian food stores for specialist ingredients as they usually have a huge variety of products and ingredients at reasonable prices.

Char siu puffs

These moreish little morsels of succulently aromatic Chinese roast pork wrapped in puff pastry will be calling to you from the cooling rack. A word of caution: hard as it may seem (and trust me, it’s hard!) you should resist the overwhelming temptation to dive straight in, as their moist, rich centres will be like molten lava straight from the oven!

Makes 12

Prep time 2 hours 40 minutes

Cook time 3 hours 30 minutes

1kg pork shoulder

500ml (2 cups) Chinese barbecue sauce

2 star anise

375g ready-rolled puff pastry

1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp water

Method

Cut the pork into 2 equal pieces and place on to a large baking tray along with the Chinese barbecue sauce and star anise, massaging the sauce into the meat. Cover and leave to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.

Remove the pork from the fridge at least 1-2 hours before you roast.

Heat the oven to 200degC.

Uncover the pork, add 375ml (1½ cups) water and mix into the marinade that will have pooled in the tray. Place on the middle shelf of the oven to roast for 25 minutes, then turn the pork over and baste with the marinade — if it is looking a bit dry you can add more water to loosen it. Return to the oven for a further 20 minutes and repeat, returning to the oven for a final 10 minutes. The pork should be cooked all the way through and have a nice caramelised crust, which adds colour, flavour and texture. Set to one side and allow the meat to rest for 20 minutes, ensuring you reserve some of the marinade at the bottom of the baking tray. Discard the star anise.

Once the pork has rested, cut 250g of it into 5mm cubes. Put into a bowl, adding 3 tablespoons of the reserved marinade, and mix well.

Heat the oven again to 200degC. Unroll the pastry, leaving it on the paper it was rolled up in, and use a round cutter (about 8cm in diameter) to cut out pastry circles. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the pork filling into the centre of each circle and carefully pull up the sides, pinching the pastry at the top to seal in the filling. Repeat until all the pastry has been used.

Place your puffs on to a baking sheet and brush each puff with the egg-and-water wash. Place into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Can be served hot or cold.

Pancake rolls

Chinese pancake rolls are very popular in Chinese fish and chip shops, takeaways and restaurants. Eaten alone or dipped in your favourite sauce, these large cylindrical parcels are packed full of beansprouts and ooze as you bite into them.

Serves 4-6

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

300g (6 cups) beansprouts

6 baby corn, quartered lengthways

30g (¼ cup) bamboo shoots

1 cup shredded char siu pork (see

char siu puffs recipe)

8 22cm spring roll wrappers, defrosted

From the pantry

oil for frying

3 Tbsp light soy sauce

1 tsp salt

½ tsp white pepper

2 tsp sugar

Method

Place a wok over a high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of oil along with your beansprouts and stir-fry for 1 minute before adding the baby corn and bamboo shoots. Stir-fry for a further 1 minute and then add the shredded pork, soy sauce, salt, pepper and sugar.

Continue to stir-fry for a few more minutes until everything is well combined and cooked all the way through. Place a colander over a large bowl and tip the mixture in to cool and drain.

Once the mixture has fully cooled, place a spring roll wrapper on a board with one corner pointing towards you and brush the edges with water. Spoon 2-3 generous tablespoons of mixture into the centre of the wrapper. Fold the bottom corner up over the filling, fold the side corners in to enclose the filling and create a large fat sausage shape, and then roll towards the final corner. Use a little more water to help seal the wrapper. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

Pour enough oil into a deep-sided wok so that once the pancake rolls are added they can float. Heat the oil to 170degC and cook the spring rolls — two at a time — for 7-9 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove the rolls from the oil and place on a wire rack or a plate lined with a paper towel. Once all of the pancake rolls are cooked, serve hot.

Tip: If you’re making ahead, the unfried rolls can be frozen for up to a month in a sealed container. Uneaten fried rolls can also be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days and enjoyed as a cold snack. The cooked rolls may lose some of their crispness in the fridge but can be refreshed with a second flash in the wok or baked in the oven on a wire rack; however, please make sure the contents are fully reheated before eating if using either method.

Chicken chow mein

Chow mein is a firm favourite in Chinese takeaways and restaurants around the world. A top tip when cooking this dish is to take your time.

The word "chow" literally means fried so try not to overcrowd your wok as you want the noodles to really sizzle in the oil as they cook. This not only imparts flavour but also adds another layer of texture to the dish.

Serves 2

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 12 minutes

2 nests of dried egg noodles

5 spring onions (scallions)

1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized slices

175g (3½ cups) beansprouts

4 Tbsp stir-fry sauce

From the pantry

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

¼ tsp white pepper

½ tsp white sugar

Method

Bring 800ml (3½ cups) water to the boil in a medium saucepan, then add the noodle nests and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Drain and set to one side.

Prepare the spring onions by cutting the green parts into 5cm pieces and then halving these lengthways.

Slice the white parts into rings.

Heat your wok over a medium heat until smoking, then add the oil along with the sliced chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes. Once the chicken is nearly cooked through, add the spring onion greens and beansprouts and cook for a further minute, then add the drained noodles. Stir-fry for a further 3-5 minutes, ensuring the noodles are well combined with the rest of the ingredients and you’ve also allowed them time to crisp up a little. Add the pepper, sugar and stir-fry sauce and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and transfer to 2 plates. Sprinkle with the remaining spring onion whites.

Chinese toffee apples

In my experience, every Chinese restaurant serves this dish and here’s why: juicy sweet apples are coated in a crisp doughnut batter then smothered in molten sugar and toasted sesame seeds. It’s no wonder, really that this dish is a firm favourite.

Serves 4

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

250g (2 cups) self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting

1 egg, beaten

4-6 apples, peeled and chopped into 3cm cubes

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

From the pantry

vegetable oil for deep-frying, plus 1 Tbsp for frying

10 Tbsp sugar

Method

Pour the vegetable oil for deep-frying into a large, deep saucepan and heat to 170degC. Fill the pan about two-thirds full.

Sift the self-raising flour into a large bowl, then add the beaten egg along with 375ml (1½ cups) water and mix until you have a smooth batter.

Lightly dust the apples in a little extra flour and dip in the batter, then carefully lower into the oil. Fry for 6-8 minutes until golden brown, turning frequently during cooking.

Once browned and floating, place on a wire rack or a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain.

Heat the 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok over a medium heat and stir in the sugar. After about 3 minutes the sugar should begin to caramelise; at this point gently add the apples and the sesame seeds. Mix well, being really careful not to splash the molten sugar or break up the apple casings but making sure each apple piece is thoroughly covered. Turn off the heat.

Using a pair of tongs or chopsticks, drop each piece of apple into a large bowl of ice-cold water, this will instantly harden your toffee apple bites and help them keep their round shape.

As soon as the toffee has hardened, transfer to a wire rack or kitchen paper to drain. Serve and enjoy.

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