The Far East
These are a few easy Chinese and Indonesian dishes that Scrote cooks at home, but go to a restaurant to get an idea of the real thing.
last updated 30th April 2000
Chop Suey is not strictly speaking chinese- it was apparently invented by chinese in California at the turn of the century to suit western palates and Scrote believes the name means something like 'food mess'. However it tastes very good and it is quite easy and quick to prepare. It helps considerably if you try one from a chinese restaurant first to get the general idea of the consistency and taste.
You need about six ounces of raw, boned chicken or stir-fry beef cut into very thin strips and some fresh beansprouts. Shred a clove of garlic and a similar-sized piece of fresh root ginger. Chop several spring onions, including the fresh green bits. You can also include a other fresh vegetables such as chinese lettuce, carrot cut into fine strips, sliced mushrooms, water chestnuts and sliced bamboo shoots.
Fry the meat in a little oil until it is well coloured. Add the garlic and ginger. Add the chopped onion and fry for a couple of minutes until they are done, add the other vegetables, except the beansprouts. Add a little tomato puree, some chicken broth or water, a spoonful of light soy sauce to make a good gravy. Mix half a teaspoon of cornflour in a dessertspoonful of water and add it to the gravy to thicken it. Add the beansprouts, and continue to cook for a minute or two longer stirring so that the chop suey is well mixed and the bean sprouts soften, but do not over-cook the bean sprouts. Serve hot in bowls, and eat immediately.
This is a perennial favourite- it is quick, quite easy, very healthy, looks good and tastes superb.
Finely chop and shred some fresh root ginger and a clove of garlic. Chop several spring onions, including the green parts that are fresh and not withered. Cut a good number of closed mushrooms into slices. Wash some beansprouts. Cut into fine slivers about 4 to 6 ounces of 'stir-fry' beef- this is a good cut of beef such as a piece of sirloin. You also need 2 cakes of Chinese medium egg noodles.
In a spoonful of peanut or sunflower oil, fry the shredded ginger, garlic & spring onion, add the finely sliced 'stir-fry' beef, and fry until the meat is coloured. Add the sliced mushrooms, then add the bean sprouts & 2 tablespoons of Oyster sauce or Soya Sauce.
Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the egg noodles, bring them back to the boil, turn off the heat & allow the noodles to cook for 6 mins. Drain the noodles & toss them in a spoonful of chinese Sesame oil- this is important- the flavour of sesame oil is part of Chow Mein. Add the cooked noodles to the pan with the meat, mix in thoroughly, cook until hot throughout & serve.
This is another favourite Scrotey quick and easy main meal. In China, fried rice is a way of using up leftovers and is usually a breakfast dish, not a side dish as in western restuarants. Fried rice fills a similar role in the far east as risotto or pilaff in the west, and like them varies considerably from the plain egg fried rice up to the elaborate special fried rice.
For egg fried rice you must have enough leftover boiled rice for the people who are going to eat, a little chopped spring onion, some finely shredded fresh root ginger, an egg and soy sauce. You can also enhance your fried rice with any or all of the following: leftover bits of chicken or pork, shrimps or prawns, quartered mushrooms, diced green pepper, peas, shredded lettuce, beansprouts or chopped cucumber. It is important that the rice is leftover and a bit dried- freshly cooked rice is too moist and sticks to everything- and it is helps to include something that releases some moisture as it is cooked such as a few beansprouts.
In a little peanut oil, fry the finely chopped ginger & spring onion, add some sesame oil, then break the egg in and stir it about until is sets. Add the meat, chopped mushrooms, prawns, peppers, shredded lettuce, and bean sprouts. Add the cold rice, pour in a dessertspoonful of soya sauce, mix up thoroughly so all the rice is coloured by the soya sauce and everything is evenly distributed. Continue cooking and stirring until it is steaming hot throughout then serve and eat immediately.
For these you need about a pound of premium minced pork (not too much fat and definitely not sausage meat!), a chopped clove of garlic or two, one or two chopped spring onions, some finely shredded fresh root ginger, a teaspoonful of sesame oil, a dessertspoonful of soya sauce and an egg.
Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly in a bowl. Take a teaspoon and gently plop spoonfuls of the mixture into pan of moderately hot oil. Deep fry the meatballs gently in batches for 5 to 10 minutes until they are nicely brown all over then transfer them to a dish in the oven to keep them hot.
Hoisin is a very dark, reddish paste which has the aniseed taste of the chinese five-spice mixture. You need about a pound of good, preferably lean, pork cut into thin slices, a clove of garlic, a similar sized piece of fresh root ginger, and a big onion, plus some mushrooms sliced if you feel like it to extend the dish a bit.
Shred and finely chop the root ginger and garlic and chop the onion roughly. Put a little peanut oil in your pan and sear the pork on a high heat so it is coloured. Add the garlic and ginger followed by the onion a few moments later and continue to fry until the onion softens and colours. Add the sliced mushrooms. Reduce the heat, and add a really big teaspoonful of the hoisin. Leave the spoon in and add a cupful of water so that the meat is just covered. Swirl the liquid around so all the hoisin comes off the spoon and a rich gravy is formed. Cover and simmer very gently for about an hour, until the pork is really soft and well done. Serve hot with plain boiled rice.
This is Scrote's infallible method of making plain boiled rice. This is the ubiquitous white, long-grained rice served alongside middle-eastern and far-eastern dishes. Brown rice (which is white rice with the husk still on) is somewhat different and takes three times as long to cook as white rice. Incidentally, white rice by itself is not very nutritious- it is almost entirely carbohydrate, without any vitamins, protein or dietary fibre.
There are a number of rival theories and an immense amount of argument about the best way of cooking rice, which coupled with varying characteristics of the different varieties of rice make boiled rice one of the most infuriating and difficult things to get right reliably and on time. The turks for instance favour washing the rice with boiling water first- others say wash, but use cold water. Others assure you that if you cover the rice an inch over with water and boil it without a lid then it will come out exactly right. Others use lots of water and drain it away before the end, or dry the rice out at the end in the oven. The idea is to produce rice that is hot, perfectly cooked, and dry so that it is not all sticky. Unfortunately most methods do not give enough control of the amount of water which is absolutely vital and therefore tend to be very hit and miss. Scrote says his method works, exactly and every time, but then he would.
Apparently the secret is to precisely control the proportion of rice to water. For this reason, you don't want to wash the rice as this carries an unknown quantity of water into the recipe right at the beginning. Different types of rice vary slightly in the amount of water they need to absorb to cook properly, so you need to try this recipe with the rice you usually use and then adjust it with experience, but you will get very, very close on your first go. Scrote usually uses Basmati rice because it has a nice flavour, but he says any white long-grain rice will do. Do not use quick-cook rice.
Choose your measuring container. Scrote usually uses his coffee cup (which is about a quarter of a pint- not a coffee mug which is a third of a pint). For three people, heat a spoonful of oil in a pan, and tip in two measures (cupfuls) of rice. Heat strongly so that the rice at the bottom begins to crackle slightly, then add three measure (cupfuls) using the same measure as you used for the rice filled to exactly the same level. There is a satisfying hiss of steam from the depths. Add a pinch of salt, bring the rice and water back to the boil, stir it around, then turn the heat down as low as it will go, cover the pan closely and leave it for 20 minutes- no lifting the lid and peeking! After the time is up, turn off the heat completely, and lift the lid- your rice is perfectly done at the exact time you want it and no water is left. Give it a stir with a chopstick to separate the grains and serve it immediately, piping hot. (Always make too much, so you have some left over for fried rice later.)
Spare Ribs are gorgeous, utterly delicious and very messy to eat. They are food for good friends and also laughably simple to make. You need an oven dish for this. Get some plain pork spare ribs from your butcher, preferably in the piece as it is perfectly easy to cut them up yourself. Do not buy anything covered in brightly coloured stuff- to put it bluntly what you want is a big piece of the lower side of a dead pig with the rib bones still in and nothing else done to it.
Cut between the ribs with your knife and lay them out in your oven dish. You now need a jar of Char Siu sauce, available from good chinese shops- not barbecue sauce. Actually you can make Char Siu yourself at a pinch, since it is basically just honey and dark soy sauce with a small amount of ground ginger and garlic. Smear two or three tablespoonfuls of Char Siu over the spare ribs. It is supposed to be a marinade, but in practice it is so thick when cold that it doesn't have much effect on the meat, but give it a chance anyway and leave the dish in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Now heat your oven to a medium roasting temperature and put the dish in for about three quarters of an hour to an hour. Check progress after about half an hour so they don't get burnt completely dry. The Char Siu sauce melts in the heat and soaks into the meat, colouring it a deep rich brown. The ribs should be well done so give them a bit longer if they don't look a bit overdone, then serve in the pan and eat with the fingers while hot.
This is another restaurant dish, which is in fact perfectly easy to make at home.
Make the Sweet & Sour sauce separately first. Sweet & Sour Sauce is very sweet and very sour and that is about all there is to it. The ingredients for the sauce are assembled cold and then cooked until the sauce clears and thickens. Mix together in a pan some red colouring such as a big teaspoonful of tomato puree, 2 dessertspoonfuls of wine vinegar, 2 dessertspoonfuls of sugar, a big teaspoonful of cornflour or arrowroot, a good dash of orange juice and about a cupful of water. You will get a cloudy pink mess. Heat the pan gently until the sauce thickens & clears to a glutinous, deep clear red, hot sauce.
Take about a pound of lean pork and cut it into quite small pieces. Marinate the pork pieces in a spoonful od soy sauce. Meanwhile make a batter from an egg, a tablespoonful of cornflour and about 4 tablespoonfuls of water. Dip the pieces of pork in the batter, and deep fry gently in hot oil for about 4 minutes each, in batches. Keep the pork balls hot in a dish in the oven. When they are all done, reheat the sauce, and either pour over the porkballs or serve hot alongside. Sweet & Sour sauce also goes well with the chinese meatballs.
Satay is a peanut sauce served with grilled pieces of chicken on wooden skewers. You need bamboo skewers. Take the boned skinned chicken meat and cut it into strips. Thread the meat onto bamboo skewers which have been previously soaked in water. Marinate the skewered meat in dark soya sauce.
Meanwhile make the sauce- you can actually buy very good ready-mix satay sauce, but this is how you make it yourself from scratch. Roast gently in a pan about 4 ounces of fresh peanuts (or you can use ready-roasted peanuts if you want). Grind the peanuts to a smooth paste in the pestle & mortar- this is very hard work. Finely chop and add a couple of spring onions. Add some ground chili- there should be a little hotness, but the amount of chili will depend on how much heat you like. Fry the paste gently in a spoonful of oil. Add the juice of a lime, a spoonful of dark brown sugar, a lump of creamed coconut and a tablespoonful of thick dark soya sauce. If you can get it, add a good pinch of a paste called blachan or trasi, a strange stuff made from dried shrimps which smells absolutely disgusting but surprisingly adds something to the end-result. Add a cupful of water and heat to form a hot thick creamy sauce.
Grill the skewered chicken under a grill or on a flat pan until well cooked. Serve with the hot satay sauce poured over.
This is Indonesian version of fried rice. Scrote hardly ever makes this, because it involves one of the most disgusting-smelling ingredients in the known universe , the Indonesian shrimp paste known as blachan, baluchan or trasi. This is sold in a solid, brown, crumbly brick wrapped in cellophane, but the smell is so appalling that Scrote keeps his in a hermetically-sealed kilner jar. Despite its stomach-churning odour, a small amount of it somehow makes the overall taste of the dish, and it doesn't quite taste right without it.
Fried rice is really a dish for using up the left-overs from the previous day. You need a bowlful of cold, cooked rice of course, an egg, some shredded fresh root ginger, some chopped onion, some chopped cooked meat or prawns, Ketjap Manis the dark sweet Indonesian soy sauce and a small pinch of blachan.
Fry the ginger and onion in a little oil. Break the egg in and scramble it. Add the cooked meat and the shrimps. Add the blachan and stir it in. Add the cold-rice and a tablespoonful or so of the sweet dark soya sauce. Mix it in thoroughly so the colour is even and the rice is re-cooked well. Serve hot with chopped salad of tomatoes and green peppers on the side.
This is the Indonesian version of Chow Mein. You need two cakes of chinese egg noodles, about a quarter of a pound of fresh diced chicken meat, a few ounces of peeled shrimps or prawns, a clove of garlic shredded, some spring onions chopped, one or two cabbage or lettuce leaves shredded and light soya sauce.
Bring a panful of water to the boil, break the chinese noodles into the water and stir them around. Bring the water back to the boil, turn off the heat and cover. leave for six minutes until the noodles are cooked, then drain and reserve the noodles.
Meanwhile fry the diced chicken meat in a little oil in a pan until the meat is cooked. Add the onion & garlic and fry them. Add the shrimps. Add the shredded lettuce or cabbage. Add the cooked noodles and stir in until they are coated with the oil and juices. Add the soya sauce and a little water or chicken broth to make a little gravy, then serve.