Asian cooking techniques and condiments are now so widely used in Kiwi kitchens that they have become the norm. Stir-frying has been around since New Zealand’s gold rush days and the popularity of Chinese restaurants in the 1950s had a big influence on home cooking. The change from English-based meals of meat and three veg has been evolving over many years. Today, combining Chinese sauces and spices with a lamburger is no longer thought of as fusion food — it’s Kiwi cuisine.
Root ginger was one of the first Asian ingredients to be widely accepted. It originated in the southern provinces of China and India where it is used as a medicine as well as for culinary purposes. Try steeping a few slices in hot water then strain to make a ‘tea’ to settle an upset stomach.
Young ginger can be sliced or grated without peeling. However, as it matures the skin become tough so peeling is then necessary. To store, wrap in a paper towel and keep in a cool dry place such as the pantry or refrigerator.
Kiwi cooks have been adding soy sauce to soups, stews and stir-fries for decades. Dark soy is thicker than the light variety and also sweeter. Light soy is saltier. I store my soy in the fridge to help retain its flavour. Fresh soy has the best flavour so only buy in small amounts if you don’t use it regularly. Both varieties are made by fermenting soy beans, wheat, salt and water. Tamari soy sauce is Japanese and is fermented for longer. It does not contain wheat so is suitable for people with an intolerance to gluten.
SPICY VENISON DUMPLINGS
Serve as nibbles with drinks or as part of an Asian-style meal. They can be frozen before steaming if you want to prepare them ahead.
50g (1/3 cup) dried shiitake mushrooms
500g minced venison
2 tablespoons each: soy sauce, oyster sauce, finely diced spring onion
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely grated root ginger
2 teaspoons diced seeded red chilli
salt and pepper to taste
35 (approx) wonton or dumpling wrappers
Place the shiitake in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 30 minutes, until soft. Drain well, squeeze dry then finely chop.
Combine with all the other ingredients except the dumpling wrappers.
Hold a wrapper in your hand and brush water around the edges. Place about a teaspoon of the filling in the centre. Fold and seal the edges together in your preferred style. (I brought all four corners up over the filling to a point in the centre, pressed the edges together then slightly twisted the tops.) Repeat to make more dumplings.
Line a steamer with lightly oiled baking paper. Add the dumplings in a single layer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes over simmering water, until cooked and tender. You may have to cook the dumplings in batches.
Great served with a combo of soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar for dipping. Makes about 35.
CHICKEN NOODLE NANJING
Makes a scrummy lunch or light meal.
Sauce: 2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
3 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
1 teaspoon diced chilli
Garnishes: 1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup each: chopped roasted peanuts, spring onion
Chicken: 2 teaspoons canola oil
200g minced chicken
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons each: soy sauce, Shao Xing (cooking wine)
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
200g Udon noodles or similar
Combine the sauce ingredients and place aside.
Place the garnishes in small bowls.
Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan on medium. Add the chicken and stir-fry until coloured. Press any lumps out with a fork. Add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, cooking wine and five-spice. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain, reserving a half cup of the cooking water. Combine the water with the sauce ingredients. Place in 2 serving bowls.
Top with the noodles, chicken and garnishes. Serves 2.
If preferred, tenderise the squid by marinating with a mashed green kiwifruit for 30 minutes. Pat dry.
400g cleaned squid tubes
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped root ginger
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon each: diced chilli, curry powder, sugar
Sauce: 1 teaspoon cornflour
1/4 cup each: fish or chicken stock, white wine
2 tablespoons each: soy sauce, hoisin sauce
Cut the squid tubes open and, with the point of a sharp knife, score the inside in a close criss-cross pattern. Then cut the squid into 5cm squares.
Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli, curry powder and sugar and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the squid and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until just cooked. Remove the squid to one side.
Combine the ingredients for the sauce and stir into the pan, cooking until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Return the squid to the pan. Serve immediately.
Excellent served over steamed beans and spinach leaves that have been drizzled with a tablespoon of sesame oil. Serves 4-5.