I bought The Dumpling Sisters cookbook: Over 100 favourite recipes from a family kitchen after I got a $50 Dymocks gift voucher from my work after completing 5 years of service. I liked that it was written by two Chinese, New Zealand women (who according to the bio over at Fishpond (link above) are incredibly smart), that it was full of recipes that I was itching to try, had vegetarian variants for some of the non-vegetarian dishes, and had good commentary on the dishes. I also really liked the title, and that was a large part of me picking it up in the first place to look inside.
The recipes are clearly written, most of the ingredients are easy to find at Asian grocers (though not all), and in many cases the ones which are harder to find are optional. I really enjoyed everything I cooked from this cookbook and would happily repeat the dishes I cooked from, as well as try almost everything else from this book. The Ma Po tofu I made was vegetarian (I substituted eggplant for the minced meat, as suggested by the recipe) and I will write the recipe as stated in the book, including the alternate suggestions in the notes. Also, the chicken cashew nut stirfry serves 2 people. I doubled the recipe so there would be enough for all of us.
Overall, I give this book 4.5 out of 5.
Chicken cashew nut
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 200g skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
- 2.5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 tbsp finely diced ginger
- 4 button mushrooms, halved
- 1/4 green capsicum, 1/4 red capsicum, 1/4 yellow capsicum, deseeded and chopped (or just one colour if you prefer)
- 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
- 80g cashew nuts
- steamed jasmine rice to serve
For the marinade
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 3/4 tsp cornflour
- 2 pinces of salt
- 1/4 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
For the sauce
- 1.5 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1/2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
- pinch salt
- 3 pinches ground white pepper
- Put the chicken into a bowl, add the marinade ingredients and 1/2 tablespoon of water and stir well. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes.
- Heat 1.5 tablespoons of the oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat. When a cashew nut dropped into the oil sizzles but does not brown, add the remaining nuts and shallow-fry for a few minutes until golden brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
- Put all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, add 1.5 tablespoons water, then stir well and set aside
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the oil in a wok over a high heat and stir-fry the ginger until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and 1 tablespoon water and stir-fry until all the water has evaporated. Add the capsicum, onion and a further tablespoon of water, then reduce the heat to medium and stir-fry until the water has evaporated. Scoop the vegetables out of the wok and set aside.
- Wipe the wok with kitchen paper and place over a high heat. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil and stir-fry the chicken, stopping occasionally for a few seconds to spread the chicken out in a single layer on the base of the woke until the chicken is white, slightly singed and bouncy. Return the vegetables to the wok and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
- Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the sauce and three-quarters of the cashew nuts and stir-fry for 1 minute to warm the sauce through. Serve with steamed rice, sprinkling the remaining cashews on top.
Notes on this recipe:
- It looks complicated, and it isn’t really. The most complicated part of this recipe is to have everything ready for when you start cooking, as it is a very quick dish to prepare.
- It was really tasty, we’re already talking of cooking it again.
You say Ma Po, they say Mapo…
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 500g soft tofu, cut into 2cm cubes
- 2 tsp cornflour
- 100g beef mince
- vegetable oil for cooking
- 1 clove garlic, finely diced
- 1cm piece of ginger, finely diced
- 2 tbsp chilli bean sauce
- 1 tbsp fermented black beans, roughly chopped (optional)
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 spring onion, thinly sliced diagonally
- salt and ground white pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground Sichuan pepper, to serve
- Steep the cubed tofu in lightly salted boiling water (about 1/4 tsp salt per 500ml)
- Meanwhile, mix 1/2 tsp cornflour into the beef. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a wok or large frying pan over a high heat and briefly fry half the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add the beef and brown, breaking up any large pieces as you go. Remove and set aside.
- In a bowl, mix the remaining cornflour and 2 tablespoons water into a slurry and set aside. Carefully drain and discard the water from the tofu. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in the same frying pan, over a medium heat, and stir-fry the chilli bean sauce for a few minutes until the oil turns a deep red colour and you feel like you’re standing inside a comforting cloud of spicy smells.
- Stir in the remaining ginger and garlic, and beans, if using, then return the beef to the pan, slide in the tofu, and pour 125ml water on top. Gently slide your frying pan back and forth to encourage the tofu cubes to nestle together under the liquid. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes as the tofu works on soaking up the flavours. Gently stir in a pinch of salt, pepper and the sugar.
- Give the cornflour slurry a stir and drizzle it into the pan. Delicately stir the mixture as the sauce thickens and becomes glossy. Stir through the spring onion and serve sprinkled with ground Sichuan pepper.
Notes on the recipe:
- From the book: Make it vegetarian by omitting the beef or replace it with diced onions, mushrooms or eggplant. Just pre-cook as you would for the beef and follow the recipe as per above
- This was so good I want to make it again tonight. Mapo tofu is one of my favourite Chinese dishes, and I could eat a lot of it. I really liked it with eggplant, and am happy to have found a vegetarian version for my partly vegetarian household.
- I couldn’t find the fermented black beans and so left them out of the dish. Not sure where to find them in Coburg, but I will keep an eye out.
- I used silken tofu for the soft tofu, and that worked.