Many of our dishes now embrace Asian flavours with gusto. Gone are the days when we thought ‘fusion food’. Kiwi cooks are creatively and instinctively combining foods and flavours from around the world.
A popular new sauce appearing in many recipes is sriracha (see-rotch-aa), a hot Thai sauce prepared from a paste of chilli peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It is named after a city on the east coast of Thailand — Si Racha — and it is frequently used as a dipping sauce for seafood. However, due to its increasing popularity sriracha is now included in Vietnamese pho, in jams, on burgers and as a flavouring for potato crisps.
Star anise, a dark brown, wood-like spice, is favoured in Chinese cooking. Each of its five petals encase a seed. Its robust liquorice flavour means only one or two star anise are required to flavour a dish. It should perfume rather than overpower a dish, and it adds depth as a background flavour in slow-cooked recipes.
Lemongrass is another popular addition to Asian dishes. It has a subtle citrus flavour and smell that repels some insects such as mosquitoes but attracts honey bees. Although it is easy to grow, it does take up garden space and a lot is required to make a difference in a recipe. Hence, I enjoy lemongrass paste available from the produce section of supermarkets.
SINGAPORE SEAFOOD SAUCE
A fragrant enhancement for seafood.
Sauce:1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon each: grated root ginger, lemongrass paste
1 large clove garlic
2 tablespoons rice bran oil
1/2 teaspoon each: turmeric, chilli powder
3/4 cup coconut cream
juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon each: salt, brown sugar
Fish: 500g skinned and boned white fish fillets
cornflour for dusting
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons rice bran oil
Blend the onion, ginger, lemongrass and garlic in a food processor, until well mixed.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the onion mixture. Stir until pale gold in colour. Add the turmeric and chilli powder to taste and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the coconut cream, lime juice, salt and sugar. Cook and stir, until thick.
Pat the fish dry. Dust with cornflour and season. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Pan-fry the fish for about 2 minutes each side depending on thickness. Serve immediately topped with the sauce. Serves 4.
CHINESE CHICKEN WITH SPICY MACADAMIAS
2 tablespoons each: sesame oil, hoisin sauce
1/2 cup thick soy sauce
1kg free-range skinned and boned chicken thighs
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
2 tablespoons sriracha
Baste: 3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated root ginger
coriander sprigs to garnish
Combine the sesame oil, hoisin and soy sauces in a large bowl. Add the chicken and coat evenly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for up to an hour.
Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Combine the macadamias and the sriracha in a small bowl, stirring to coat well. Spread the nuts evenly in a small foil-lined baking pan. Bake until dry, about 20 minutes. Remove the nuts, cool, then coarsely chop.
Combine the ingredients for the baste, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Line a grilling pan with foil. Place the chicken on a rack on the foil. Baste the chicken and grill for 5-7 minutes. Turn the chicken over, baste again and continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes. Serve garnished with coriander and the macadamias. Serves 6.
SPICED PURPLE DAWN KUMARA
Also known as blue kumara.
400g Purple Dawn kumara
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons each: cumin, coriander, sesame and mustard seeds
1 teaspoon diced chilli
finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
Peel and cut the kumara into chunks. Steam or microwave until just tender.
Heat the oil on medium in a heavy frying pan. Add the seeds and stir until they begin to pop. Add the chilli and kumara and stir until it is coated with the seeds. Add the lemon rind and juice.
Great served topped with yoghurt. Serves 4 as a side.