Four fresh menu ideas from the southern Chinese province: chestnut chicken, aubergines in a sour gravy, prawn in cashew nuts and a savoury custard with a minced pork topping
Braised chicken with chestnuts (pictured above)
Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
4 boneless chicken thighs (about 350g), preferably skin on
20g ginger, unpeeled
2 spring onions, white and green parts separated
3 tbsp cooking oil
1 ½ tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (now available widely, especially in larger supermarkets)
300ml chicken stock or water
1 tbsp brown or caster sugar
1 ½ tsp dark soy sauce
200g cooked, peeled chestnuts (canned or vacuum-packed)
Cut the chicken thighs into even, bite-sized chunks. Lightly smack the ginger and spring onion whites with the flat of a cleaver blade or a rolling pin just to loosen them, then cut each spring onion white into a couple of pieces. Cut the spring onion greens into neat 4cm lengths.
Heat the oil in a seasoned wok over a high flame. When it is hot, add the ginger and spring onion whites and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the chicken pieces and fry until they are lightly browned: don’t move them around too much, but let them rest against the base of the wok so they take a little colour. Drain off some of the excess oil, if you wish.
Splash the Shaoxing wine into the wok and stir well, then tip in the stock or water. Bring to a boil, then add the sugar, soy sauce and chestnuts, along with salt to taste (three quarters of a teaspoon should do). Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the chicken to cook through and the chestnuts to absorb some of the flavours of the sauce, stirring from time to time.
At the end of the cooking time, increase the heat to reduce the liquid, if you wish, and adjust the seasoning as needed. At the last minute, add the spring onion greens, cover for just a moment to let them feel the heat, then serve.
Steamed egg custard with minced pork topping
Prep 20 min
Cook 20 min
3 large eggs
About 225ml hot stock or water
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp sesame oil
For the topping
2 tbsp cooking oil
75g minced pork
½ tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp sweet flour sauce
First make the topping. Heat the oil in a seasoned wok over a high flame. Tip in the pork, stir-fry until it turns pale, then add the Shaoxing wine and sweet flour sauce. Stir briefly until fragrant, add salt to taste, then set aside.
Break the eggs into a measuring jug, beat until evenly mixed and note the volume, then add one and a half times as much stock or water, and mix well (the stock or water should be hot, but not boiling: ideally 70–80C, if you have a thermometer). Stir in the Shaoxing wine and half a teaspoon of salt. Use a spoon to skim off any froth from the surface, then pour into two or three rice bowls and cover with foil or small saucers.
Put the bowls in a bamboo steamer over boiling water. Cover and steam over a high heat for five minutes, then keep the lid slightly ajar and steam over a gentle heat for another 10 minutes or so, until the eggs have set to a delicate custard.
While the custard is cooking, reheat the pork topping in a small saucepan, with a little water if necessary. When the custard is ready, spoon over the topping, drizzle with sesame oil and serve.
Prep 15 min
Rest 30 min
Cook 30 min
Cooking oil, for deep-frying
1 ½ tbsp Sichuan chilli bean paste
1 ½ tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
150ml hot stock or water
4 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp light soy sauce
¾ tsp potato starch, mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar (from specialist Asian food stores)
6 tbsp thinly sliced spring onion greens
Cut the aubergines into batons about 2cm thick and 7cm long. Sprinkle with salt, mix well and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Rinse the aubergines, drain well and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat the deep-frying oil to around 200C/390F (hot enough to sizzle vigorously around a test piece of aubergine). Deep-fry the aubergines, in two or three batches, for about three minutes, until tender and a little golden. Drain well on kitchen paper and set aside.
Carefully pour off all but three tablespoons of oil from the wok and return it to a medium flame. Add the chilli bean paste, and stir-fry until the oil is red and fragrant: take care not to burn the paste (move the wok away from the burner if you think it might be overheating). Add the garlic and ginger, and stir-fry until they smell delicious.
Tip in the stock or water, sugar and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then add the aubergines, nudging them gently into the sauce so the pieces do not break apart. Simmer for a minute, so to allow the aubergines to absorb the flavours.
Give the potato starch mixture a stir and add it gradually, in about three stages, adding just enough to thicken the sauce to a luxurious gravy (you may not need it all). Tip in the vinegar and all but one tablespoon of the spring onion greens, then stir for a few seconds to fuse the flavours.
Turn out on to a serving dish, scatter over the remaining spring onion greens and serve.
Gong bao prawns with cashew nuts
Prep 30 min
Marinate 2 hr
Cook 30 min
250g peeled raw prawns, fresh or frozen and defrosted
300ml cooking oil
1 celery stick, cut at an angle into diamond shapes
10 dried chillies, deseeded, cut into 2cm sections
½ tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
An equivalent amount of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
5 spring onion whites, cut into 1cm slices
75g fried or roasted cashew nuts
For the marinade
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp potato starch
1 tbsp egg white
For the sauce
3 tsp caster sugar
¼ tsp potato starch
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 ½ tsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar
With a sharp knife, make a slit lengthways, through the thickest part. Put in a bowl, add the marinade ingredients and refrigerate, ideally for a few hours. Snip the chillies in half or into 2cm sections and shake out the seeds as far as possible. Cut the spring onion whites into 1cm slices. Cut the celery at an angle into diamond shapes. Mix the sauce ingredients with one and a half tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl.
Heat the oil in a seasoned wok to 150C/300F (hot enough to produce a notable, though not violent,sizzle around a test prawn). Add the prawns, separating them with long cooking chopsticks or tongs, then add the celery. When the prawns are half-cooked, remove them and the celery with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Carefully pour off all but about three tablespoons of the oil from the wok and return to a high flame. Add the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry briefly until the chillies are fragrant. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onion whites, and stir-fry until fragrant. Tip in the prawns and celery and stir-fry until just cooked (test a prawn to make sure). Give the sauce a stir, pour into the wok and stir to thickenc and oat the prawns. Finally, stir in the cashew nuts and serve.