Thursday, 23 June 2011

Oriental inspired beef and vegetable stew

There are many ways to make a bowl of comfort beef stew. This non authentic recipe is one of my favourite and good way to clear up the vegetable drawer in the fridge. The stew looks ordinary like any tomatoey beef stew but with few oriental ingredients this will taste quite different. Gochujang gives a lovely chilli flavour without being too spicy hot. Star anise is great added to any beef stew to give it a nice aniseedy flavour. Fish sauce to replace salt adds a much savoury flavour. Palm sugar gives a more rounded flavour, if not honey is also very good. Potato better with waxy type, floury potato may fall apart if overcooked which may absorb most/all the juice making the stew looks thick and gooey.

This is an economical stew, around 1/2 kg of meat will make a big pot of stew enough for the whole family or half a dozen people.

500 - 600g stewing beef (any tougher cut of beef), cut into bitesize chunks
small handful of plain flour (all purpose)
1 medium cooking onion, peeled and cut into chunks
3 - 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 large or 3 - 4 smaller carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 x 400ml tin of tomato (chopped or whole), if whole roughly chopped
1 bowl of waxy potato chunks or new small potatoes, about 300 - 350g (I used Jersey Royal which is still in season, scrubbed)
2 sweet/bell peppers (any colour)
half a large Spanish/mild onion, cut in chunks then split
1 - 2 large on-the-vine tomatoes (or other meaty tomatoes), cut into chunks
2 - 3 heap tbsp gochujang (Korean pepper paste, add much as you like)
3 - 4 star anise
few tbsp fish sauce to taste
some palm sugar/honey to taste
some freshly ground pepper
some cooking oil

Chopped coriander and/or basil (sweet or Thai) is lovely as garnish before serving

Other vegetables great with this stew are celery, English/button mushrooms, mooli (daikon), kohlrabi, chayote (chow chow), fresh green beans, courgette (zuchini), leeks cut into chunks, fresh tomato etc.....

Note: For any vegetables, add harder to cook ones in first. Add soft vegetables like bell pepper, fresh tomato and courgette last.

  • First toss the meat with flour. 
  • Heat a pan or wok with some oil till very hot, brown the meat. Do not stir too much or the meat will stew and the coated flour may stick to the pan. When meat is browned or lightly caramelised, remove. 
  • Add a touch more oil, add onion and garlic, stir till fragrant.
  • Add the browned meat and carrot.
  • Add tin of tomato.
  • Add enough gojuchang to taste.
  • Add enough water to cover the meat. Bring the liquid to boiling. 
  • Simmer for about 1 hour till meat is almost tender. 
  • Add potato and other remaining harder vegetables. When tender add mild onion, sweet pepper and fresh tomato or other soft vegetables, continue cooking for for another 2 - 3 minutes. The mild onion and sweet pepper are cooked very briefly to keep them crunchy and sweet, so as the tomato before it started to melt.
  • When done season with a pinch of ground pepper, enough fish sauce and palm sugar/honey. 
  • Garnish with chopped coriander/basil before serving.
  • Serve with rice, noodles, pasta or crusty bread or baguette to mop up the sauce.   

If you have some puffy fried tofu or very firm tofu or frozen honeycombed tofu, this is also good added to the stew.

Other meat also works with this stew.  Pork shoulder or lamb shoulder chunks the cooking time is slightly shorter than beef. If using Chicken leg meat/small drumsticks, this will cook a lot faster about 25 - 30 minutes add most of the vegetables at the beginning except pepper, tomato or courgette.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sichuan liang fen 川味涼粉 (Starch jelly noodles)

Liang fen 涼粉 is a jelly noodles made with starch and water. Starch and water is cooked to a thick custard, set and chilled.  It is then cut into whatever shape and size you like then dressed in a Sichaun spicy sauce with some spring onion, coriander and few sesame seeds etc...

Sichuan sugar and spice infused soy sauce 複製醬油

Fu zhì jiang you 複製醬油 loosely translated as replicated soy sauce. Another common name you may come across is red soy sauce 红酱油 for tian sui mian 甜水麵. This is an aromatic sugar and spice infused/reduced soy sauce for many Sichuanese dishes especially for snack xiaochi 小吃 and salad 凉菜 including noodles.

1 cup light soy 生抽
2 tbsp dark soy 老抽
1 piece rock sugar/ plain sugar (about 2 tbsp) 冰糖/ 白糖
4 tbsp brown sugar 红糖
1 decent size stalk of spring onion/scallion, used only the white part, sliced 蔥
2 - 3 slices ginger 薑
1 tbsp sichuan peppercorns 花椒
3 - 4 cloves 丁香
1 small piece cassia bark/cinnamon 桂皮
1 tsp fennel seeds 小茴香
1 Chinese cardomon/ Indian black cardomon 草果
3 - 4 star anise 八角
1 large or 2 small bay leaves (dried or fresh) 香葉

Put everything together in a saucepan, gently simmer for about 40 - 50 min till fragrant and slightly thickened.
Cool and strain. Store in clean bottle or jar. Can keep at room temperature or in the fridge. Lasts longer in the fridge for freshness. 

Toyomansi and Bistek

Toyomansi is my latest favourite sauce. It's a Filipino soy sauce with calamansi lime juice, a sourish soy with a citrus fragrance. I like it but having had fresh calamansi before, I have a suspicion some flavouring other than real calamansi is added but on the label flavouring is not listed. Toyomansi is available from most oriental supermarkets, quite cheap under £2 for a large bottle of 750ml.

Calamansi lime (or limau kasturi in Malay) is an S E Asian small sour citrus fruit, bigger than kamquat and much smaller than green lime, used in the same way like green lime. The flavour of fresh calamansi I would say a cross between kamquat and green lime. Recently I have found frozen whole calamansi at my local Chinese supermarket was tempted to get some but not sure if they are any good frozen.

I used toyomansi as a dipping sauce on its own or mixed with chopped chilli and some sugar for a spicy sweet and sour sauce, quite tasty with fried food. I have also used toyomansi as a marinade for grilled meat like chicken drumsticks and pork chops. Another use I like is to add chopped ginger to toyomansi and use it as a dipping sauce for Chinese dumpling jiaozi. Everything I have tried so far I loved it.

Bistek is a Filipino word I guess derived from 'beef steak'. Bistek is normally related to a recipe of fried beef with onion. The beef is flavoured with soy sauce and calamansi lime juice. If you cannot find calamansi you can use normal green lime. Having bought this toyomansi I used it for this recipe which works quite well. This tart flavoured beef and onion is quite tasty with rice. Very simple to make.

Bistek Recipe (for 2)

450 - 500g rump or sirloin steak (or any tender cut of beef suitable for quick frying)
1 large Spanish or mild onion
1 fat clove chopped garlic
3 - 4 tbsp toyomansi sauce (if not use 2 - 3 tbsp real calamansi juice/ green lime juice + 2 tbsp light soy)
2 - 3 tsp dark soy
freshly ground black pepper (much as you like), I add quite a lot
pinch of sugar (optional)
some slackened cornflour (cornstarch) if required
cooking oil


  • Cut beef into thick strips or chunky slices
  • Marinate beef with sauces and black pepper for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. 
  • Peel and cut onion into thick slices
  • Before cooking, drain off all the beef marinade into another bowl for later use. If frying the beef with the marinade you will end up stewing the meat than searing it. 
  • Fry the onion with some oil till translucent and lightly caramelised. Remove
  • Heat a clean wok/pan with some oil till smoking. Add beef  and garlic, spread the meat around the pan/wok. Do not stir leave it to sear till bottom is browned. Cook to medium rare or well done to your choice. The heat must be on fullest to ensure the meat is searing then stewing. If a lot of juice is coming out of the meat while searing, stir in some slackened cornflour this will help the meat the sear than bleeding with juice. 
  • Add the cooked onion and some or all of the marinade. Stir briefly, have a taste to check if you need some sugar to balance the flavour and more ground pepper. If the sauce is watery can add some slackened cornflour to thicken.
  • Serve hot with rice. 

Monday, 6 June 2011

Crystal zhongzi 水晶粽子

水晶 shui jing  = water crystal
粽子 zhongzi  = leaf wrapped dumpling

Here is another unusual zhongzi. The recipe is based on Thai tapioca dumplings, Sawku Sai Muu. The pastry dough is made with tapioca pearls. They are called crystal zhongzi because the pastry is translucent.  The pastry is very soft, bouncy, rubbery and chewy. I really like the texture. The filling is delicious and spicy enough to give the right kick.  They look more crystal clear when hot - warm. Once cooled the pastry is more opaque, but still very soft and more bouncy.

Hakka mochi zhongzi 客家粄粽

Ker ja bun zong 客家粄粽

Zhongzi can be written as 子 or 糭子

Today is Duan Wu Festival 端午節 or Dragon Boat Festival. The origin and story behind this festival see Wiki. Zhongzi or leaf wrapped dumplings are a must to be eaten during this festival.

There are few ways to wrap zhongzi. Most people use bamboo leaves, available dried in most countries and fresh is available in some S E Asian countries. Other leaves may be used. Nyonya style zhongzi sometime added pandan leaves mainly to add flavour. Shapes of zhongzi, the most common are triangular shape and a longish pillow shape. I always wrap mine in triangular shape.

These are different zhongzi recipes posted previously. More detailed pictures available for wrapping.
Five spice, peanut and pork zhongzi
Lye zhongzi

Today recipe is a different type of zhongzi made with a rice flour dough than the usual with glutinous rice grains. This is a Hakka delicacy called bun zong 粄粽 or guo zong 粿粽.

The resulting dumplings pastry is similar in texture to mochi. Soft and chewy.