Monday 15 August 2016

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles by Fuchsia Dunlop from Land of Fish and Rice

The other day I was extremely lucky and received a copy of Fuchsia Dunlop's new cookbook 'Land of Fish and Rice' in the mail. Fuchsia Dunlop is known for her authentic Chinese cooking but I've never owned one of her cookbooks before, having heard only good things everywhere I was pretty exciting to get a copy. The first thing I did was grab a pen and paper to make my shopping list, knowing well and good I'd need to stock my pantry with a few bits and pieces from the Asian supermarket. What I didn't realise was that there would be quite a number of vegetables that I've never heard of and to be honest, no idea what or where to look for them.

It was the dumpling section of the book which had me hooked the minute I flicked to it. I have a weakness for Chinese dumplings, doesn't everyone?! but the thought of making them on a Thursday night after work was a little intimidating so I'll admit it, I went for an easier looking, midweek option rather then some of the other more complicated dishes in this cookbook. The other section of the book which I was drawn to was the noodles and rice chapter, any type of fried noodles or rice and I'm done. I decided to make the Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles as it can be a stand alone dish or part of a banquet style dinner, plus the ingredients weren't too obscure and no random vegetables I'd never heard of so I jumped at it almost instantly.

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles by Fuchsia Dunlop from 'Land of Fish and Rice'

My first tip if you're going to make this dish or in fact any of the dishes that require stir-frying in this book, get a wok. I don't have one and I kind of struggled. The pot I used had noodles sticking to the bottom instantly and needed soaking for a good 48 hours after. My second piece of advice when making this dish is get the wok stupidly hot! Do not use your crock pot like me and have it over a medium flame. I felt like I was having a work out trying to toss the noodles and get to the the bottom of the pan to stop the sticking.

Apart from my pan troubles, the flavour of these noodles with strips of lean pork dotted throughout and crunchy pakchoi was delicious. It was salty and comforting and the vegetables added a lovely freshness to the whole dish, it was moorish. I could have eaten the whole pot myself in one sitting if my stomach had allowed it. Normally when I make a throw-everything-in-a-pot-stir-fry I make them a little heavier on the vegetables but what I've come to realise is that Chinese cooking is a lot about sharing a variety of dishes so I think a vegetable dish on the side would be a perfect combo to these noodles.

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles by Fuchsia Dunlop from 'Land of Fish and Rice'

I can't wait to get stuck into the other recipes in this book and even plan a banquet style dinner party... might need to tell people to byo a chair but it'd be worth it to try some of the other dishes. A trip to the asian fruit and veg store might need to happen first and maybe even bring the cookbook along with me so I can ask for help. With some of the ingredients I wouldn't even know where to start but there is nothing wrong with a challenge now and then for a delicious dinner.

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles

by Fuchsia Dunlop from 'Land of Fish and Rice'

100g lean pork
425g fresh Shanghai noodles or Japanese udon
2 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
200g baby green pakchoi or 2 large handfuls of spinach (I used regular pakchoi)
1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
ground white pepper

for the marinade:
1/2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
2 teaspoons potato starch (potato flour)
1 tablespoon beaten egg or 1 tablespoon cold water

- Cut the pork evenly into thin slices, then into slivers. Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.

- Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes (fresh shanghai and udon are half-cooked when you buy them which is why this doesn't take long) or if using dried noodle, according to packet instructions. Turn the cooked noodles into a colander and cool under the cold tap. Shake them dry. Drip over 1/2 tablespoon oil and stir in thoroughly to prevent sticking.

- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a seasoned wok over a high flame. Add the pork strips and stir-fry swiftly to separate them. When they are just cooked, remove from the wok and set aside.

- Clean and re-season the wok if necessary, then return it to a light flame with the remaining oil. Add the noodles and stir-fry until piping hot (if you used regular pakchoi, add it with the noodles), adding both soy sauces and seasoning well with sale and ground white pepper. Add the baby pakchoi or spinach and continue to stir-fry until just wilted. Finally, stir in the pork. Serve.

Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop is published by Bloomsbury Publishing, August 2016 (RRP $49.99)

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