Cookbook 173: The Real Food of China

So I bought this book on sale somewhere, some when, because it is a big hefty hard cover and it was full of recipes that I wanted to try out. The Real Food of China by Leanne Kitchen and Antony Suvalko acknowledges the vast heritage of Chinese cuisines as well as the fact that the authors are limited in access to ingredients outside of China and just space in truly representing the true scale of Chinese food. That said, the book is 431 pages (including the index), full of beautiful photos of food, people and places, and easy to follow recipes.

This cookbook had one recipe I heard a lot about last year, and to my knowledge is the only cookbook I own with this recipe included – scrambled egg with tomato. Everyone seemed to be talking about this dish last year and it was only recently that I tried to make it for myself and that was thanks to this cookbook. It really is as good as everyone was saying. I was really happy with all the dishes from this cookbook and want to try some others from here as well. Overall I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Steamed Eggplant (serves 4 as part of a shared meal)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants (about 900gs)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 60ml light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp clear rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp clear rice wine
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp Chinese sesame paste
  • 1 red chilli, or to taste, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or grated)
  • 1 small handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and then in half crosswise. Place the eggplant quarters in a colander and sprinkle with the salt, then leave to drain for 25 – 30 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Put the eggplant on a rimmed plate and place in a steamer over a woke or saucepan of boiling water, then cover and steam for 25 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender when pierced with a skewer. Carefully remove the eggplant from the steamer, then cover with foil to keep warm.
  3. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, sesame paste, chilli, garlic and ginger in a small saucepan. Place over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Carefully place the steamed eggplant on a platter and then pour over the sauce. Sprinkle with the coriander before serving.

Notes on this recipe:

  • Smells and tastes amazing. Was the second favourite dish of the night. The eggplant really is there to carry the sauce.

Scrambled egg with tomato (services 4 – 6 as part of a shared meal)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp black rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tsp cornflour
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 large firm, ripe tomatoes (about 700g) cut into 2.5cm pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Put the tomato sauce, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a bowl and stir to combine. Mix half the cornflour with 2 tablespoons of water and add to the mixture, stir to combine well, then set aside. Break the eggs into a bowl, whisk well, then stir in the rice wine and the remaining cornflour.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and garlic and stir-fry for 2 minutes, or until the tomatoes just start to soften. Add the tomato sauce mixture and cook, stirring for 1 – 2 minutes, or until the mixture boils and thickens.
  3. Working quickly, heat the remaining oil in a large non-stick frying pan or another wok over a medium-high heat. Add the egg mixture and cook just until the eggs start to set around the edges, then use a spatula to push the edges into the centre of the pan. Continue cooking the eggs, pushing them into the middle as they cook, for another 2 minutes, or until just set. Add the tomatoes and gently stir to combine, then transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.

Notes on this recipe:

  • Hands down the best dish of the night. This was EVERYTHING that everyone was raving about at the beginning of the pandemic, and I’m already making plans to cook it again this week because it was so easy and so delicious.
  • The whole thing cooks really quickly, so as soon as your rice is done in the steamer, you can start cooking this while it sits on the warm setting for a couple of minutes.
  • Hot tip, instead of putting the cornflour straight into the eggs (which will just form lumps), mix it with the rice wine first so it’s more of a slurry and then there will be no lumps.

Stir-fried lamb with leeks and coriander (serves 4 – 6)

Ingredients:

  • 700g boneless lamb leg, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 60ml clear rice wine
  • 2 leeks, white part only
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely shredded
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp black rice vinegar
  • 1 bunch coriander, leaves and stems coarsely chopped

Method:

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the lamb across the grain into very thin slices. Place in a large bowl with the cornflour, cumin seeds, dark soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the rice wine. Use your hands to gently toss everything together, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Bring back to room temperature before cooking.
  2. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and wash well, then cut the halves on the diagonal into thin strips. Heat half of the oil in a large wok over a medium-high heat, then add the leaks and garlic and cook, stirring constantly so the leeks don’t turn brown, for 2 – 3 minutes, or until softened slightly. Remove to a bowl.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the wok and increase the heat to hight, then add the lamb, using kitchen tongs to open the slices out so they cook evenly (as best as you can). Cook the lamb, stirring often, for 2 – 3 minutes, or until all the slices have changed colour. Add the remaining ingredients (reserving a handful of coriander leaves), the leeks and the remaining rice wine and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, or until well combined and heated through. Divide among bowls, scatter over the reserved coriander and serve immediately.

Notes on this recipe:

  • 700g of lamb is a lot of lamb to cook at once, so it was a little awkward.
  • The dish overall was very tasty, but I wanted more cumin in the flavouring (so ground versus seeds). I think this would have also cooked better (well the lamb at least) on a BBQ – so there was more surface area for the lamb to cook and it would be more likely that the lamb would caramelise. I’ll try that next time.

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