If you’ve come this far with me in this little series, you may as well go the whole way. No, this one can’t be done with your usual supermarket ingredients. You are going to have to make a trip to the Asian supermarket. But, before you throw your hands in the air and mutter something that demeans your spirit, take my word for it, the journey will be worth it. This is probably the most famous dish from the Szechuan region, a provence famed for it’s fiery food. The bad news is that it is very, very (extremely very) hot. The good news is that it is really easy to prepare. The bonus is hot or not, it is delicious.
I’m not a big fan of pork fillet. Traditionally, here in Ireland, it would be prepared by slicing it open and pounding it flat with a mallet or rolling-pin. Then it would be filled with a breadcrumb based stuffing, wrapped up and roasted for about an hour longer than needed. The result was always dry, flavourless and, strangely, prized at dinner parties.
The inspiration for this post in my mini series came when I overheard a conversation last week between two chaps in a Dun Laoghaire bar. Some snippets of their collective Chinese cookery wisdom; “They make it tasty by adding MSG. That stuff is really bad for you, full of lard.” “It makes you real hungry”. “There’s always loads of salt in the curry.” “The one in XXXX got closed down for serving seagull.” So went the assassination of the centuries old culinary traditions of one point four billion people.
This is the second in my mini series dedicated to showing some really easy and extremely tasty Chinese inspired dishes. But, before we get into that, I have a bit of a problem. A few years ago, one of the media statisticians in our business was presented with a list of numbers and a simple question; Which is the odd one out?
Being a bit of a boffin (no relation) he got to thinking about the problem. He opened a spreadsheet and got to work…
I am lucky enough to have a number of friends who hail from China. One of their number (who shall remain nameless for fear of my causing any embarrassment) went back to her home city to visit a sick relative. Knowing of my love for Oriental cookery, she brought me back a knife. I thought I should celebrate by starting a small series on Chinese inspired dishes.
One of my favourite foods is tempura. It is easy to do as long as one gets the batter right and the oil temperature just so. Easy IT IS NOT! It’s like saying juggling Samurai swords is simple as long as you don’t lose your concentration or your hands.
Do you guys think I’m doing this for my own amusement? I have to tell you I am not impressed. I spend the early part of the week cogitating “What would they like to see?” “What would be good enough to share with them?” “I’ll need to buy another couple of plates, they are probably bored with these ones…” The thought process goes on. The angst builds until I finally settle on cooking something that I am convinced will win you over. The latter part of the week is spent ensuring I have the best and the freshest ingredients. Saturday, I check my camera gear. Tension in the household mounts. On Saturday evening or possibly Sunday, I take control of the kitchen and cook and photograph for you. Then I process the pictures and try to think of something to say.
This is part one in a two-part series that I have decided to run. Those of you of a more mature vintage will remember David Carradine in the 1970s TV series Kung Fu. You will remember the slow pace of things and the blind master imparting pearls of wisdom to his understudy Carradine. The younger amongst you will now be thinking about Kung Fu Panda and feeling warm and excited about the cuddly characters. I find that very sad. If you fall into the ‘more recent vintage category you need to play this to gain true enlightenment for reading this post.
“God, Conor you’re very funny. I was reading that post you did about, what was it? last night. How do you come up with your ideas for the blog. It’s about food isn’t it? That one last week, what was it? God, it was so funny. How do you think of the things you say, like, eh, eh, eh. What was it about again? You know the one you did. It was so funny… God, yeah, etc. etc. etc ad nauseam.”
I’m not a big man. I stand about 5′ 8″ in my socks (not a sight you would want to see). When I married the Wife a good few years ago, I was smart enough to be sure that I married somebody smaller than me. That way, she would represent no physical danger. As I have matured over the years, I realise that there are more ways to be threatened by the Wife than with simple physical violence.