Cantonese pork belly.

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We have pork belly reasonably frequently at home, one way or another. It has two great benefits: it’s cheap and it’s tasty. This recipe elevates it to something special. This makes it fall-apart tender and has the added benefit of fantastic crackling.

Get a slab of pork belly, season it, cover the skin in salt, roast in a foil surround and then the important part: grill it gently until the crackling is perfect. Contrary to the recipe, I reckon half an hour under a gentle grill and then let it rest while you dish everything else up.

The recipe I stumbled on was from The Woks of Life and if I had my way I’d make it every week. A slab from the supermarket is enough four people or two with enough left over for a soup noodle and a sandwich.

Make this!

Eating Taipei

We made our annual pilgrimage to eating Taipei. This was on condition we got to see *my* friends for a change. This we did. And, because it was Taipei, we ate across Asia: China, Japan, Myanmar and Tibet. This is a document of all the great things we ate. Food is awesome in Taipei because of its torrid past and present.

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Of the food we had, and pictured here was:

  • Teppanyaki. It was OK. Most of the dishes tasted similar, however, Thai basil elevated them.
  • We had lunch from a Myanmar café. That was interesting. A totally different combination of flavours, most of which I didn’t recognise. Peanuts were a major component.
  • The old fish market. This was out of this world. I’ve never seen shrimps or crab legs this large. If I did it again, I would get more vegetables, some sweetcorn maybe.
  • Family wedding. An assortment of Chinese dishes trooped out over a couple of hours. Overall, not bad. Shrimps weren’t quite as big but still juicy. Lamb chops (not something I’d associate with Taiwan) and eel (more Japanese, I’d guess).
  • Tibetan. A certain style of Indian food executed competently. The garlic naan was amazing and the chicken tikka good.
  • Even the final meal at the airport food court wasn’t bad. Despite my being in a wheelchair (another story) at this point! You can’t go wrong with fried chicken in Taipei!

All I can say is: if you ever get the chance to go to Taiwan: GO! Great place, great food, lovely people. Yes, English, well, American is widely spoken and there’s a 7-11 on every street corner.

Panko Tofu

Tofu in itself isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. But that doesn’t stop a billion or more Chinese, Japanese and vegetarians around the world eating it. It comes in many textures from silky to solid. The one we pick up is solid and once it has the liquid drained from it, is a good dish for everything from this panko tofu, to ma po tofu, to adding to soup. Even if it’s bland in itself, it absorbs flavours from the sauces around it.

We cook this when we’re going through a non-meat phase. The leftovers made a good lunch in a wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, cucmber, hoummous and chilli sauce, like you would with falafel.

Ingredients, serves 2

200 g tofu, drained and cubed
1-2 eggs
enough panko
2-3 tbsp oil.

Method

Drain the tofu. Press it with kitchen rolls until the liquid is gone then cut into chopstick-sized cubes.

Prepare your flour. It could be plain, with salt and pepper or as I like it with paprika and dried garlic, the two herbs and spices I use most of in my kitchen.


Crack one or two eggs in a bowl and beat.

Prepare your panko for coating.

Fry in the oil until brown and crispy.

Serve with the vegetable of choice. Last night we had al-dente broccoli with sesame oil and sesame seeds, a combination I like. Spinach works just as well. Wilt spinach with a kettle full of boiling water and again, give it some sesame oil and sesame seeds.

Finished fried panko tofu

The crispy cubes of tofu go well with dips such as sweet chilli sauce and oyster sauce.

This recipe works just as well with slabs of pork for tonkatsu, or even pork chops. With chops, being thicker, give them 5 minutes in the oven at 200C to finish off and cook properly through the middle.

So there you have one of our meat-free dishes. This will certainly be in the cookbook!

Sweet and sour chicken balls

Sweet and Sour chicken balls

I’m British. I love sweet and sour. Bite me. Last night we had chicken in the fridge, and a small can of pineapple chunks in the cupboard so what better to do but sweet and sour chicken? Actually, sweet and sour pork would have been marginally better, but whatever.

Chicken Balls

Dinner was actually a mashup of two recipes. This one gave lovely, crispy, chicken balls:

http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/26835/sweet-and-sour-chicken-balls–takeaway-at-home.aspx

sweet and sour chicken

I was quite surprised at how good they actually where. The combination of self-raising flour, cornflour, garlic powder, salt, pepper, sugar and bicarb made for a really crunchy exterior. Definitely keep the sauce apart from the chicken otherwise it’ll go soggy.

The Sauce

For the sauce, it’s basically a sweeter, more vinegary version of a barbecue sauce. It’s similar in the sense it excites my taste buds just as much, and we go to the great BBC for this one, which was on point:

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3227674/easy-sweet-and-sour-sauce

Hong Kong style

hong kong style

I also learned that Hong Kong style sweet and sour is where the chicken is served in the sauce as more of a stir-fry, rather than having the sauce on the side:

https://www.greedygourmet.com/recipes-for-diets/omnivore/hong-kong-style-sweet-and-sour-chicken/

I have fond memories of taking a walk in the evening with my then girlfriend and future first wife, passing the Chinese takeaway, getting a couple of spring rolls and a cup of sweet and sour sauce. Good times.

Taiwanese Sweet and Sour

My new wife doesn’t regard Cantonese as “proper” Chinese, it’s just some regional thing and nowhere near as good as Taiwanese cooking. I beg to differ. I’ve also had sweet and sour in Taiwan and that was REALLY good. Less sweet and LOADS of garlic in the sauce. So maybe I’m agreeing.

This is the legendary Taiwan Duck’s Taiwanese take on it:

http://taiwanduck.com/how-to-make-sweet-and-sour-chicken-taiwanese-style-cooking-video/

Maybe I’m overthinking it, and it’s something I’ll cook only occasionally, but it’s still one of my favourites.