Cookbook 167: All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cusines of China

All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cusines of China by Carolyn Phillips was a birthday or Christmas gift to me by Scott some time ago. It’s another book that I cooked from in 2019 and lost all the photos (and memories) of, so I cooked from it again. I want to state for the record that I massively stuffed up a lot of this cook-through of this cookbook, and that’s all on me, and not the recipes themselves. I thought I could substitute one thing for another (see below), and I thought I could substitute one cooking method for another (also see below). I didn’t do a good job of this cookbook, though I vaguely remember the other dishes I made in 2019 being ok (except for the beanshoots and tofu – I don’t like beanshoots that much). I plan to revisit this cookbook in the future and try a different set of recipes, right now I’m giving it 4 out of 5 for the receipes that worked – as they were amazing.

What you see below are the receipes as written (and links to YouTube vidoes on techniques where appropriate), and the details of what I did wrong. Don’t repeat my mistakes. 🙂

This cookbook looks at the 35 regions of China and documents their recipes, grouping them into soups, starters, side dishes and main dishes. As the author says:

Of course, All Under Heaven is by no means encyclopedic; as far as China’s foods are concerned, what lies between these covers is little more than the tip of the iceberg. Rather, this book is meant to be a subjective compliation of my personal favourites from each part of the country. The reason for this is simple: China’s culinary traditions are so vast, ancient, and varied that each one of the thirty-five cuisines touched upon here deserves a book of its own.

Carolyn Phillips – All Under Heaven.

The book was written and published in the US, so there are ingredients that aren’t necessarily available in Australia, and measurements that aren’t in metric (because why would you do that?). If that bothers you (it does bother me, so you’re not alone), keep that in mind.

Fried Scallion and Flaky Flatbreads (makes 6) – aka Spring Onion Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups of Chinese flour (I used plain flour from an Indian grocer, you basically don’t want to use USian and probably not Australian flour, but it is not the end of the world if you do), plus more as needed
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Peanut or vegetable oil as needed

Paste and seasonings

  • 1/2 cup Chinese flour (see above)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp ground toasted Sichuan peppercorns, optional
  • 1/4 cup melted lard or white shortening (I used butter because my copha was off)
  • 2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
  • 4 green onions (entire spring onions will be fine), trimmed and very finely chopped
  • Peanut and vegetable oil for frying

Method:

  1. To make the dough, place the flour in a medium work bowl. Use chopsticks to stir in the boiling water until large flakes have formed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead it gently, adding a ilttle extra flour as needed, until the dough is as soft as an earlobe. Rinse out the bowl, wipe it dry, and pour in a little oil. Toss the ball of dough around in the oil and then cover the bowl with either plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the dough rest for 20 – 30 minutes.
  2. While the dough is resting, make a thin paste by mixing together in a small bowl the flour, salt, optional Sichuan peppercorns, lard (or shortening or butter), and oil. Set the green onions next to the paste.
  3. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll each portion into a smooth ball. Working on one piece at a time, and keeping the other portions covered so thaty they do not dry out, use a Chinese rolling pin to roll the ball out into a strip about 12 inches (30 cm) long, then pull gently on both ends to create a strip about 18 inches (46cm) long. Smear one sixth of the paste on top of the strip and sprinkle one-sixth of the onions all the way down the strip.
  4. Roll up from one of the long sides to form a rope, and then pull this rope gently to form a strand 24 inches (61cm) long. Repeat with the rest of the dough and paste until you have 6 strands – keeping each strand covered while working on the others.
  5. (I’m only going to include the section on making fried spring onion pancakes here). Coil the strand until you have a ball and then roll this ball out into a 8 inch (20cm) disk. Repeat with each of the strands until you have 6 disks. Heat a flat frying pan over medium-high heat and film the bottom with oil. As soon as the oil is hot, place a bread in the pan. Cover the pan and fry until the bottom is golden and the bread is puffy. Turn the bread over, cover again, and fry until the second side is also golden. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel and keep the bread warm in a 120C oven for up to 20 minutes. Cut each pancake into 6 pieces.

Watch this video on how to do some of the steps.

Notes on this recipe:

  • Although fiddly, these were so good. They were really tasty, with a good cripsy edge. I had requests to make these every night (hah, unlikely) and James thought that they were the best spring onion pancakes he’s ever eaten, and we’ve tried a lot at restaurants.

Huaidian Smoked Lamb (serves 4 – 6)

Ingredients:

Lamb and Brine:

  • 500g lamb riblets or breast (or some other fatty but tasty cut of lamb, goat or mutton that can be easily cut into smallish pieces)
  • 4 cups of water, divided in half
  • 3 tbsp salt

Poaching liquid

  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 black cardamom pod, lightly crushed

Smoking and finishing

  • Large handful of wood chips (apple, oak, or another sweet variety)
  • Spray oil
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Method:

  1. Start this dish at least 2 days before you plan to serve it. Pat the lamb dry, and if the meat hasn’t been cut into inch-wide strips between the bones, do it now. Bring half the water to a boil, add the salt, and stir to dissolve. Add the rest of the water to the brine and allow it to cool completely. Place the lamb in the brine, toss it carefully so that each piece is coated and covered in the brine, cover and refridgerate. Check the lamb after 24 hours; if it has turned a dark red, remove it fromt he brine and pat dry. If not, brine it for another 12 – 24 hours, but not too much longer than that, as the meat will become too salty.
  2. Place the whole spices in a dry wok and stir over medium heat until they smell fragrant and start to pop. Pack the spices in a piece of cheesecloth or a mesh ball and place them in a large saucepan with the brined lamb. Cover the lamb with about 1 inch of water, bring to a boil, and then lower to a gentle simmer. Poach the lamb until it is very tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Remove it from the liquid, drain it thoroughly, and let it cool until it is easy to handle. The dish can be prepared up to this point and refridgerated for a couple of days.
  3. Prepare your smoker and place the wood chips at the bottom. Arrange the rack over the chips, spray it with the oil, place the lamb on top of the grill with space between the pieces, cover and then heat the smoker over high until white smoke begins to puff out of the top. After 3 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the smoker from the stove, and leat the meat sit in the smoker for no more than another 5 minutes. Take the meat out of the smoker, rub it lightly with the sesame oil, and arrange on a serving platter. Serve warm or not.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I massively stuffed this up. I don’t have a lid for my wok, and so I thought I’d use a regular smoker, and use the poaching liquid in the base of my smoker and really I just ruined it (I had never smoked before). Now that I’ve watched some videos on how to not completely ruin your wok while smoking things, I want to try this again – though probably with lamb breast because I think that will taste great.
  • Watch the video linked in the “prepare your smoker” for some tips on what to do. You probably don’t need to drill a hole in your wok lid given you’re smoking for less than 10 minutes in total for this recipe.

Fried Green Onion Noodles (serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients:

Fried onions:

  • 12 green onions (spring onions will be fine)
  • 1.5 cups vegetable oil

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce, plus more if needed
  • 3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock (I used low salt massel stock powder and water), plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons small dried shrimp, soeaked for 30 minutes in boiling water – optional

Noodles:

  • 3.75 L of water (really as much water as you need to cook the noodles)
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 340g thin dried noodles of any kind

Method:

  1. Clean and trim the green (spring) onions, pat them dry and then slice them into either thin rounds or on an angle into long, thin ovals.
  2. Line a plate with paper towel and place it next to the stove along with a slotted spoon. Heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. When the oil just begins to shimmer, add a few pieces of the onion. What you want is for the onions to gently bubble, so adjust the heat as needed and then add the rest of the onions. Stir the onions every minute or so and let them slowly cook, giving them a chance to release their fragrance and gradually dry out. Keep an eye on the onions and as soo as they start to smell toasty and a few begin to brown, stir them almost constantly so they toast evenly.
  3. Once almost all of them are brown, remove them from the oil with the slotted spoon and place them on the paper towel. Set the wok with the hot oil aside. (The remainder of the oil can be saved once cool to use in other savoury things)
  4. Pour the soy sace and stock into a large work bowl and stir in about 1/4 cup of the flavoured oil. If you are using the dried shrimp, drain them, discard any sandy veins or foreign matter, and chop them into fine pieces.
  5. Put the water in a large pot, add the salt, and bring to a boil. About 5 – 10 minutes before you want to serve this dish, cook the noodles in the boiling water according to packet instructions. Once the noodles are cooked, drain them, do not rinse.
  6. Put the cooked noodles into the work bowl with the sauce, and optional minced shrimp, and toss them well. You want the noodles slightly soupy since they’ll absorb some of the sauce, so add more stock if needed. Taste and add a bit more soy sauce or onion oil if you want.
  7. Divide the noodles and sauce among your serving bowls, garnish with all of the fried onions, and serve.

Notes on this recipe:

  • This was the most fancy 2 minute noodle recipe I have ever made and it was really delicious. Do recommend cooking this and then adding anything else you think might go along side it.
  • I want to cook this again, and writing this recipe up has made me hungry.

Garlic Chive Flowers with Pressed Bean Curd (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of garlic chive flowers (450g)
  • 4 squares (about 230g) pressed bean curd
  • 3 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp mild rice wine

Method:

  1. Snap off or trim of any tough ends on the chive flowers, rinse, and then cut them into 1 inch lengths.
  2. Rise the pressed bean curd, then cut each square horizontally into slices about 3mm thick. Cut the slices crosswise into juilenne about 3mm wide. They should be about the same size as the cut chive flowers.
  3. Set an empty wok over a high heat until it smokes, add the oil and salt, and swirl them quickly to melt the salt. Add the bean curd and toss it over high heat until it sears and browns lightly. Remove the bean curd to a plate, keeping as much oil in the wok as possoble. Add the chive flowers to the wok and toss them quickly until all are lightly coated with the oil. Pour the rice wine over the chives, cover the wok, and let them steam-fry for about 30 seconds. When you remove the lid, the chives should be emerald green and tender. Toss in the bean curd, taste and adjust the seasoning and serve hot.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I couldn’t find chive flowers, so I used chives. You need a lot of chives to get to 450g.
  • I don’t know whether it was the substitution of chives for the chive flowers that made this dish not great, or maybe we just didn’t like the flavours, but I wouldn’t make this one again. No one was a fan.