Neil Perry’s Prawn Scrambled Eggs

Serves: 2 as a starter

Neil Perry is famous for his Asian omelettes and my first experience was in 1997 when I graduated from school (boarding school no-less) and in a surprise, my old-man picked me up and we drove into the Sydney CBD and had lunch at the original Rockpool.

We had Neil’s famous blue swimmer crap omelette and it was just awesome.

This particular dish is simpler – incredibly simple in fact – though it is that simplicity that makes it just such a wonderful treat.

What a cracking starter by Nat for a long afternoon of Chinese grazing.

Ingredients

300gm green king prawns, peeled and deveined
2 large eggs
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 spring onion, sliced

Sauce

2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
A few drops of sesame oil

Method

  1. To make the sauce, combine the soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil with 2 tbsp water in a small pot and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat.
  2. Break the eggs into a bowl and lightly break up with a fork.
  3. Heat a wok until it is almost smoking, Add half the oil and, when hot, stir-fry the prawns in two batches until almost cooked through. Remove the prawns and wipe the wok clean.
  4. Heat the remaining oil and stir fry the eggs until just beginning to set, then add the prawns and spring onion and gently toss together. Remove from the heat, spoon onto a plate and pour the warm sauce over the eggs to serve.

Neil Perry’s Stir-Fried Blue Eye with Snake Beans

Serves: 4

Another cracking dried curry – which I love – and one from Neil Perry’s book Balance and Harmony: cooked by Nat no less as part of a long Covid lockdown lunch.

I appreciate that pastes can be painful on first inspection though take the time. This is how we make the food that we love, right?

Dried shrimp and shrimp paste are easily gettable and the rest is mainstream.

Enjoy. (I certainly did with a side-bowl of steamed white rice.)

Ingredients

300gm blue eye fillet, cut into bite sized pieces
8 snake beans, cut into 3cm pieces
100ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp grated palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp dried shrimp, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes

Spice Paste

1/2 tsp white peppercorns
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried long red chillies, deseeded, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and chopped
1 tsp sea salt
3 red shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp finely chopped galangal
1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer leaves removed, chopped
6 coriander roots, scraped and chopped
1 tsp Thai shrimp paste, wrapped in foil and roasted until fragrant

Method

  1. To make the spice paste, lightly roast the peppercorns, fennel and cumin seeds in a dry heavy-based pan until very fragrant and dark, then grind to a powder in a spice grinder. The pound all the past ingredients in a mortar and pestle until you have a fine paste. (Or use a blender, adding a little water if necessary.)
  2. Boil the beans until tender, then drain and refresh in iced water.
  3. Heat a wok until smoking. Add half the oil and, when hot, stir-fry the blue eye in batches until golden, then remove. Add the remaining oil to the pan and stir fry the spice paste until fragrant, then add the palm sugar, fish sauce, beans and shrimp and toss together. Return the blue eye to the wok and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Tony Tan’s Chicken Pepper Stir-fry (Curry)

Serves:4

Holy shit, this dish is amazing.

Amazing.

The heat, the bang, the spices. The whole thing.

We were blown away. It’s part Malaysian, Sri Lankan, maybe Southern Indian. Not sure.

Singaporean?

Though Lordy.

It’s the paste with the coconut. I’m sure of it.

This is a stir-fry curry that you have to do. This is a home run.

When we find a new curry that is so unique, we smile.

This is one of them.

Serve with lots of rice and plenty of white wine and here is your night done.

Ingredients

1/4 c ghee (or vegetable oil)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
3cm ginger, finely shredded
3 green cayenne chillies, thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
500gm chicken thigh, cut into bite sized pieces
Large pinch of black pepper
Juice of half a lime
Extra fried curry leaves to serve

Spice paste

1 tbsp vegetable oil
100gm coarsely grated coconut flesh (or 50gm desiccated coconut)
2 cloves
3 cardamom pods
5 black peppercorns
1cm piece of cinnamon quill
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander

Method

  1. For the spice paste, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add the coconut, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns and cinnamon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until coconut is golden brown. Add ground spices and cook for another minute. Cool and transfer to a blender. Add 200ml water and blend to a fine paste.
  2. Heat ghee or oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add mustard seeds and as soon as they pop, add curry leaves, ginger and green chilli. Cook, stirring frequently until softened: 2 – 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until golden brown: 2 – 3 minutes. Add garlic, followed by tomatoes and spice paste, stirring each ingredient for a minute, before adding the next one. Season to taste with salt.
  3. Add chicken to the pan and cook until golden. Add 250ml hot water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to, cover pan partially until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is thickened. Serve sprinkled with black pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and with extra fried curry leaves.

XOPP’s Prawn Mini Mantou, XO Mayonnaise and XO Sauce

Yields: 25

XOPP is a wonderful Sydney restaurant, a spin off of the sensational and institutional Golden Century.

The signature dish between the two restaurants is surely known by half the city: the Wok Fried Pippies with XO Sauce and Crispy Vermicelli.

We cooked this particular dish over Sydney’s last lockdown and it is just awesome. One of most identifiable dishes in Sydney.

Anyway, when we ate at XOPP, we kicked it off with their Prawn Mini Mantou with XO Mayonnaise and XO Sauce.

A predictably decadent plate of the most wonderful bites: a warm, soft bun with a golden, deep-fried, crispy outside, filled with chopped prawns mixed with a kewpie mayonnaise, chopped chives and XO sauce.

They haven’t published the recipe, though Nat and I figured it wasn’t that complicated and walked it back. And it is simple.

For a family gathering where entry required a plate, we did these buns and they were spot on. Absolutely spot on. They disappeared in under a minute.

Mantou buns are in the frozen section of any Asian grocer; ditto XO sauce, though always get the best you can find.

No doubt in the next little while we will do a contemporary Chinese banquet and these will absolutely get a run.

Ingredients:

25 Mantou buns
800gm large, cooked prawns
6 tbsp kewpie mayonnaise (or to taste)
1 heaped tsp XO Sauce, plus extra to serve
Half a bunch of chives, cut into 2mm pieces
Vegetable oil to deep fry

Method

  1. Heat enough vegetable oil to fill a reasonable pot to 170c. Test the heat by lowering the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil. If it immediately bubbles, you’re there and reduce the heat slightly.
  2. Pick and clean the prawns. Pulse in a food process until you have 5mm and 1cm piece of prawn. Stir through the mayonnaise, tasting as you go. Stir through the XO sauce, adding more if needed.
  3. Deep fry the buns, a few at a time, ensuring all sides are golden. Drain and set aside on paper towels.
  4. Whilst still warm, slice an incision in the top of the bun. Place a small amount of the prawn mixture into the incision and then a pea-sized amount of XO sauce on top.
  5. Serve immediately.

Neil Perry’s Sweet Black Vinegar Pork Belly

Serves: 4

Nat cooked this dish from Neil’s book Balance and Harmony as part of a long Sunday lunch and it was just so good.

This is not your local Chinese “sweet and sour”. Not by a long shot.

It isn’t a complex dish either. Just start the night before and with a bowl of rice, some sliced spring onions and roasted sesame seeds…

Lordy.

Ingredients

500gm boneless pork belly cut into 3cm thick pieces across the grain
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp shaoxing
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 1/2 tbsp peanut oil
1/3 c soft brown sugar
4 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
Finely sliced spring onion and roasted sesame seeds to serve

Method

  1. Mix together 1/4 tsp of the sea salt, sugar, shaoxing, soy sauce and 1/2 tbsp of the peanut oil, add the pork and leave to marinate for at least2 hours, or overnight. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Heat a wok until smoking. Add the remaining oil and, when hot, stir fry the pork in batches for about 4 minutes, turning occasionally, until well coloured on all sides. Return all the pork to the wok and add the brown sugar vinegar, remaining salt. And 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until the pork is very tender. If the sauce is a little thin, remove the pork from the sauce and return the wok to the heat. Boil until it has a syrupy consistency, then pour over the pork. Sprinkle with the sliced spring onion and sesame seeds.

Adam Liaw’s Barramundi Curry with Tomato Coconut

Serves: 4

I’ve previously written about what a big fan I am of Adam Liaw.

Brilliant cook. Funniest Twitter account. Genuinely lovely guy.

And so there I am during Sydney’s Covid lockdown; in-line in a Chinese grocer and who walks up behind me, but Adam Liaw.

So I introduce myself and tell him what a fan I am of his; that I have purchased several of his latest book for friends.

He politely thanks me.

Clutching snake beans, I explain that I accidentally purchased garlic chives the day before and ho ho ho, what an easy mistake that is right?

And he gives me that look: no it isn’t moron. Only you could make that mistake.

Anyway, still a fan and yes, it was a moron mistake.

In keeping with all of Adam Liaw’s recipes, this one is a keeper. A total keeper.

A wonderful coming together of Malaysian and Indian flavours as he puts it.

We had this mid-week as a date night and didn’t we have a great evening! This dish and a bottle of cold white were big contributors.

Ingredients

1/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
4 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon quill
10 curry leaves
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2cm ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large green chillies, sliced
2 coriander plants, leaves picked, stalks and roots roughly chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbsp tamarind puree
400ml coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
10 okra, trimmed (optional and omitted)
750gm skinless barramundi fillets

Method

  1. Heat a large frypan or saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil. Add the fennel seeds, peppercorns, cardamom and cinnamon and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the curry leaves, and stir for 10 seconds. Add the onion, garlic, chillies, plus the coriander stalks and roots and stir well.
  2. Cook for about 4 minutes until the mix is fragrant but the onion is not yet coloured, then add the ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir well, then add the tomatoes, tamarind, coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar plus a splash of water* and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the okra (if using) and simmer for another 10 minutes, then add the barramundi and simmer until cooked through: about 6 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, then scatter with the coriander leaves and serve.

*Nat and I did a virtual cooking class with Neil Perry during Sydney’s lockdown and the most prominent comment from the 750 or so Instagram participants was “slow down”. And it wasn’t that we did not have the ingredients ready.

The issue was cooking time.

Neil’s induction was putting our gas hobs to shame.

And it is why I assume so many chefs ask for a cup of water to be added to a dish and then reduced in 10 minutes. Because they can… and we can’t.

I’m subscribed to the view that you add water as you go rather than reducing large quantities of it. Because it always takes multiples of what you are told it should take time wise. And with respect to Adam, adding a cup of water at this stage meant another 15 minutes frantically trying to bring this back over a very high heat.

Sophie Wright’s Steamed Sea Bream with Ginger, Chilli and Spring Onion

Serves: 2

Sophie Wright was a star on the British food scene about 10 years ago with two highly regarded cookbooks launched within a few years of each other.

This is one of the recipes from her second book.

Nat served this for lunch and wow did the conversation pivot to why we were not steaming enough Asian fish in our lives.

This is a classic recipe. The ginger, the chilli, the spring onions, the soy and sesame oil… classic.

The only change I would make would be to use a thicker fish such as barramundi, though the subtlety of the sea bream is definitely a thing, especially if serving as part of a banquet.

Monday night, Sunday-lunch banquet, either way… serve this with some rice, lemon wedges and Chinese greens and you will win the night… or the lunch.

Ingredients

2 sea bream fillets, pin-boned
3cm piece of ginger sliced into very thin strips
1 large green chilli, seeds removed sliced at an angle
6 spring onions, trimmed and shredded
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
Handful of coriander leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
Steamed rice and green vegetables to serve

Method

  1. Place a wok or saucepan with a steamer on the stove and half fill the wok with boiling water. Cover with a lid.
  2. Lay the fish fillets, skin-side down on a plate that fits in the steamer. Sprinkle the ginger chilli and half the spring onion over the fish. Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and vinegar in a bowl and pour over the fish.
  3. Place the plate in the steamer and cover with a lid. Leave to steam over a medium heat for about 6 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
  4. Serve the fish with all the ginger chilli and spring onion on top and sprinkle with coriander leaves and remaining spring onion. Pour any juices that are on the plate over the fish and serve with a wedge of lime, steamed rice and green vegetables.

Terry Durack’s Prawn and Lup Cheong Omelet

Serves: 1

Sunday is a long-lunch day and often, we do them at home.

Or more correctly this time, Nat did it at home. An utterly excellent, four course, lux-Chinese banquet.

This recipe by Terry Durack kicked the afternoon off and wow, it was a doozy of a dish. A dish that said things are going to be good.

The flavours are so mature and sophisticated; and it absolutely looks the part.

With Champagne… things were definitely good.

Ingredients

1/2 lup cheong sausage
1 tbsp vegetable oil plus 1 tsp for frying
5 medium prawns, peeled and cleaned
1 mild red chilli, finely sliced
50gm bean sprouts
3 eggs
The green tops of 2 green spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
Sea salt and black pepper
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp coriander leaves

Method

  1. Place the lup cheong in a steamer and steam for 5 minutes yo soften, then finely slice. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok and stir-fry the prawns, lup cheong and half the chilli for 1-2 minutes over a high heat. Add the bean sprouts and toss for 30 seconds, and remove from the heat.
  2. Lightly beat the eggs, half the onion tops, fish sauce, sugar, sea salt and pepper together with a fork. Heat 1 tsp oil in wok over a medium-high heat and swirl to coat the surface. Pour in the egg mixture and cook, using a fork to draw the mixture back into the centre, allowing the egg to cook.
  3. When lightly set on top, lower the heat, scatter with the stir fry mixture and most of the remaining onion tops and cook for another 30 seconds or until the egg is cooked through. Slide the omelet from the wok onto a warmed plate; optionally fold the it over on itself. Drizzle oyster sauce on top, and scatter with the coriander and remaining onions and chilli. Serve immediately.

Kay Chun’s Coconut-Miso Salmon Curry

Serves: 4

This curry I found on NYT’s Cooking had 7k+ 5-star reviews so… it had to be done.

Add one more 5-star.

What a mild, moorish dinner.

The caremalised miso with the coconut milk, the lime and then the fresh herbs. Wow.

I used a premium coconut milk and the difference was obvious. Don’t cut this corner.

And it’s so simple. Monday-night home date-night sort of stuff.

You could add fresh chilli at the end, though whatever you do, get that lime juice in and a solid handful of those herbs.

Note: I used two cups of water and not three and I would do it again.

Ingredients

2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium red onion, halved and sliced 5cm thick
1 10cm piece fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 c white miso
1/2 c coconut milk
750g salmon, cut into large pieces
5c baby spinach
1 tbsp fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
Steamed jasmine rice for serving
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
1/4 c chopped fresh coriander

Method

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and season. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the miso and cook, stirring frequently, until the miso is lightly caramelised: about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut and 3 cups of boiling water and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes until the liquid is reduced slightly. Lower the heat and add the salmon and simmer gently until just cooked through. Turn off the hear and stir in the spinach and lime juice until the spinach is wilted.
  3. Serve with rice, topped with the fresh herbs and lime wedges for squeezing.

Neil Perry’s Vietnamese Chicken and Prawn Coleslaw

Serves: 4

This is such a classic Vietnamese dish.

Pops of flavour, could be had as a main or a side.

Very hard to get it wrong. Very hard to complain.

Ingredients

1 small roasted or barbecued chicken
6 cooked large prawns, peeled and deveined
1 carrot, julienned
200gm shredded cabbage
1 small red onion, cut into thin rings
40g mint and coriander
1 1/2 tbsp crispy fried shallots, plus 2 tsp to serve
1 1/2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts, plus 2 tsp to serve

Nuoc Cham Dressing

2 long fresh red chillies, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar
60ml fish sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice

Method

  1. To make the dressing, pound the chillies, garlic and sugar in a mortar and pestle. Add the fish sauce, rice vinegar and 60ml water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse. Stir in the lime juice, taste and adjust as necessary.
  2. Pull the chicken meat off the bones, tear into bite-sized pieces and add it to a large bowl. Cut the prawns in half lengthways and add them to the bowl.
  3. Add the carrot, cabbage, onion, herbs, fried shallots and peanuts to the bowl. Pour over the dressing, mix well and transfer to a salad bowl. Serve immediately with the extra fried shallots and peanuts.