» Archive for the 'Chinese' Category

Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper

Monday, August 1st, 2011 by Tina

I’ve just finished reading Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop; A sweet-sour memoir of eating in China.

I have been somewhat obsessed by the tongue numbing tingly effects of the sichuan peppercorn for sometime now and am learning how best to cook with it. I have picked up a few tips from Kylie Kwong who advocates making a sichuan pepper and salt mix, filling your kitchen with its alluring aroma as you toast the two together in your pan.

I have enjoyed it as a spice rub on tiny succulent quail at Non La in Surry Hills. I have been overwhelmed at Spice Temple by Neil Perry’s heavenly facing chillies and sichuan pepper fish where the waiter scoops away ladles full of chillies to reveal a broth swimming with sichuan pepper.

So if you have any curiosity about sichuan pepper or the food history of China’s regional cusines, in particular the region of Sichuan and the city of Chengdu then pick up Fuchsia’s book, it’s fun and will have you running to Chinatown for your next meal, or indeed for the sichuan pepper and salt in your own kitchen.

If you’re looking for a wide range of cookbooks, check out The Cookery Book in Northbridge, or Kinokuniya opposite the QVB in the city.

Billy Kwong

Thursday, October 7th, 2010 by Tina

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The salted peanuts whet our appetites. I’d love to know if these are cinnamon sticks or cassia bark…

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Lightly steamed oysters with ginger, shallots and soy

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Chinese pickled vegetables, sweet, salty and sour with crispy wonton skins sprinkled with schezuan pepper & salt

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Bugtail wontons with schezuan chilli oil

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Crispy prawn wontons with a sweet Vietnamese style dipping sauce

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Slow roasted lamb pancakes- peking duck style. The home made sauce was tasty but a little too thin for the application, it dripped everywhere! I am not a big fan of ‘thickened’ sauces (apart from gravy) as a general rule, but here it needs it.

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A standout crispy pork belly dish. Salty and moreish, with a refreshing coleslaw packed with fresh herbs to balance the richness of the meat.

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The silken tofu was delicate and beautiful with a poached egg in the centre of the plate.

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Crispy skin duck with citrus sauce

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Stir fried mushrooms, fresh, flavoursome, delicate and a wonderful foil to the rich meats we ordered.

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Pears poached in red wine with sour cream and almond praline- cleansing and light

Sichuan Peppercorn Chicken

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 by Tina

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A clumsy ode to Spice Temple’s heavenly facing chilli and sichuan peppercorn dish.

Since eating at Spice Temple a month ago I haven’t been able to stop thinking about those feisty little peppercorns. I was chatting to a friend of mine on the phone the other night while cooking this so it got a little more crispy than intended but it just added to the intensity of flavour on the skin. Tongue numbing, aromatic, mouth watering.

I have seen Kylie Kwong toast sichuan peppercorns with sea salt in a hot pan until aromatic and then grind them up to a powder in a mortar and pestle. This is essentially what I did and then added a little smoky paprika and sugar and rubbed it into the skin of an organic chicken, added a little oil to the bird with a few cloves of unpeeled garlic inside and whacked it in a hot oven. Oh, and I threw in a few dutch cream potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks. I normally go for 220°C fan forced, 20 minutes each on its side, on its other side and on its back. I sound like Samantha from SATC.

The end result is a moist chicken with a crispy skin, with potatoes that taste more like wedges as they have absorbed all the chickeny goodness and are lightly flavoured with sichuan.

Next step is to try this with quail, or maybe duck…and I don’t think it needs the smoky paprika or sugar.

Just to stress the point, this is a roast that takes just an hour to cook, plus preparation time. So maybe realistic for a weeknight when you don’t get home too late.

Spice Temple

Friday, October 16th, 2009 by Tina

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Neil Perry’s Spice Temple is located underneath Rockpool Bar & Grill on Bligh Street in Sydney’s CBD. At first we walked past its plasma screen door, assuming it was an advertisement with its virtual shimmering silk curtains. Once we discovered that it was actually the front door we glided down the circular staircase to the industrial looking bar area. The restaurant area however couldn’t be more different. The room is warm, cosy and dark, with the centre of each table lit by a hanging light, so that each dish can be viewed clearly. This ambience is comfortable and relaxing. You can see your dining companion and food but feel bathed in shadow. Very sexy.

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The Sheep and the Monkey. I meant to have just one cocktail and then move to a civilised wine. Mmmm. The cocktails are dangerously good. Be warned. After three cocktails I thought perhaps it was time to pause.

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The Horse and the Tiger. The Tiger is my favourite. If you are not familiar with the term ‘pistachio fat-washed whisky’, do ask. They’ll tell you how its made. An amazing depth of flavour uncommon in most Sydney cocktails.

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Spinach and Sesame Salad. Sweet and tangy.

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Crispy pork belly. I don’t really have words to describe. Too good. Must have. Oh ok, found some. Sticky, salty, moreish. Feel bratty, want some now.

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Stir fried king abalone mushroom with garlic and chives. Thick, meaty, almost squeaky. Such a filling vegetable dish, delicious.

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Fish drowned in heaven facing chillies and Sichuan peppercorns (apparently Sichuan, Szechuan and Szechwan are all acceptable spellings). My favourite choice for drama alone. This dish was covered with many more dried chillies which were removed by the waiter using a spider (large wire spoon). The real star is the Sichuan peppercorn which numbs your tongue and teases you.

My only negative comment I could say about Spice Temple is the double seating. If you prefer to relax into the evening then book the later seating rather than the early one. With some restaurants you are happy to leave at a given time, but here I think you’ll want to linger a while.

Spice Temple

10 Bligh Street, Sydney

8078 1888

Uighur Cuisine

Saturday, September 5th, 2009 by Tina

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Shop 1/8 Dixon St, Sydney

Something has happened at the northern end of Chinatown. There is a whole block full of new places to explore that I have somehow managed to miss. The first trip in remedying this situation was to Uighur Cuisine, the more casual downstairs version next to the upstairs Apandim Uighur Restaurant. Confusing, yes. We sat upstairs for 10 minutes asking the lovely waiter questions while our friend waited at our ‘booked’ table downstairs. No harm done, just a few glasses of free water and a disappointed waiter.

When we finally got together at the same table we were quite excited as the menu was a mix of Turkish, Chinese and something resembling Cajun. Anyway, it was rich, lamby and delicious. This seemingly strange combination menu makes more sense when you learn the Uighurs (there are various spellings) are a Turkic people living mostly in Eastern and Central Asia.  See Wikipedia for a little more info.

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Shapanji (chicken & vegetables with rice noodles)
-this had a great sauce, very savoury and tasty with a bit of a Cajun flavour
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Koy Gosh Kawapi (lamb kebabs)
-some pieces tender, some chewy, but all good!
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Piti Manta (steamed lamb dumplings)
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Tawa Ban shir (fried lamb dumplings)
-I think the fact that we ordered two lots of dumplings was my fault, and in the end we decided they were too fatty. Definitely not as nice as traditional Chinese dumplings. However, the Polish-heritage girl liked them, so try for yourself and decide.
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Piyaz Poshkal (onion bread)
-this was a group favourite, very rich and soft and quite oily, but somehow we kept going back to break off  ‘just a little more’
Suzuk Jungol Kormisl (stir fried snow peas with garlic)
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Tawa Kawapi Uighur Style (lamb chops uighur style)
-the soggy bread underneath wasn’t my favourite on the menu but I imagine some people would find it comforting
Overall I think it was a great meal and something different. Even though we ordered a snow pea dish for some extra vegetables, that was oily too, so perhaps go for a walk and a cleansing lemon gelato afterwards ;)

Phoenix Restaurants

Sunday, January 18th, 2009 by Tina

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There’s something to be said for efficient food. Not necessarily in the preparation, but in the eating and the service. Not exactly fast food, but not slow food either. There are times when on a whim the idea of watching a new film at the local cinema sounds pretty good, and after the drama of finding a parking spot close by, a restaurant near the cinema holds great appeal.

So we visited Hilltop Phoenix with hungry bellies and an hour and a half up our sleeves. It could go either way, an hour and a half is plenty of time to eat unless it is busy, so on a Saturday night this is a bit of an ask. Luckily it’s still early and we’ve just missed the young family rush and have arrived before the later-arriving leisurely diners arrive.

After much indecision we decide to splurge on the Peking duck, it’s about $50 for two courses. First course is the pancakes, then choose how the rest of the duck flesh is prepared, either in a stir-fry with noodles or sang choy bau. I needn’t have worried about finishing the pancakes, they were perfectly powdery and soft in contrast to the crisp and rich duck skin, sharpness of the shallots and sweetness of the thick hoisin sauce. I could eat this forever.

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Peking Duck

When the lettuce leaves arrive I’m curious as to what’s in the filling apart from the duck which is finely chopped, along with mushroom, onion, sesame seeds, sliced shallots, deep fried vermicelli and something crisp but the flavour alludes me. It’s familiar, bamboo shoot? I wonder, as it seems to be more about texture than flavour. I ask the waitress, she only knows the Chinese name, which is sun (sounds like soon) but she goes away to find out the English translation, and I’m pleased to find out it was indeed bamboo shoot. We make our film with plenty of time and consider it a successful dinner, if a little rich.

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Sang Choi Bau

Our normal visit to Hilltop Phoenix involves Yum Cha on a Sunday mid-morning, and it’s now routine to tell the host how many in our party, grab a raffle ticket and take our place in the hopeful and hungry crowd, beadily eyeing-off diners who look ready to vacate. Even when busy it’s only a ten or fifteen minute wait. If you are a small group of two or four your chances of getting a table quickly are even better.

The Phoenix Group of restaurant has four restaurants in Sydney which are run by sisters Anita Yuen and Alice Lee. Hilltop Phoenix in Castle Hill Towers; Rhodes Phoenix at the top of Rhodes shopping centre; Manly Phoenix on the East Esplanade and Sky Phoenix at the top of Skygarden on Castlereigh Street in the city.

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Roast duck with choy sum in background

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Crispy fried rolls filled with prawn and dim sims in background

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Cha Siu Baau (BBQ pork buns)

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Steamed prawn dumplings

At Hilltop Phoenix the usual Yum Cha favourites are available, with dishes such as roast pork and duck floating around regularly for my dining companion. I’m satisfied with the many varieties of steamed dumplings, and my only gripe would be that I have to ask for chilli sauce, but when I do it arrives promptly.

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Sliced BBQ pork

My coveted dish of the moment is jin deui, red bean paste surrounded in a chewy pastry with a peanut on top then deep fried. It truly is heaven and I can always fit these in no matter how much I’ve eaten. I can’t find it on any trolleys so I order it from the kitchen. If there’s no more jin deui, as sometimes happens if you come too late, there is always dan tat, egg custard in flaky pastry, still warm if you are lucky; or mango pancakes, thin and moist and filled with chilled mango pieces and a fluffy sweet cream, perfectly soft and delicate so that one cannot help but make a bit of a mess. It’s all part of the experience. At around $45 for two greedy people it is an indulgent lunch but then again, we probably don’t need much for dinner now.

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Mango pancakes

In competition with Hilltop’s Yum Cha offer is the Excellent Chinese Restaurant outside Carlingford Court which offers a smaller venue and equally delicious food, but perhaps less range of dishes. I surprise the waiter by ordering Bo Lei tea which has a deeper, darker colour and flavour that is refreshing and cuts through the oilier dishes. He rewards my enthusiasm by pouring the tea with such grace that I feel inspired to tap the table with my knuckles to say thank you. He smiles and I feel welcome here in a way that a bigger venue cannot achieve.

If it’s tasty, efficient food you are after in the north west of Sydney, you would do well at both Hilltop Phoenix and the Excellent Chinese Restaurant, but perhaps your budget should dictate your final decision. After dining at the Excellent Chinese Restaurant your wallet will be thankful. We left content after five dishes and only $25 out of pocket. They may not have had the deep fried dessert that I love, but this is something I could do most weekends and feel good about.