Chinese simple dishes
Kenneth Lo’s egg fried rice. Photograph: Martin Poole for the Observer
Kenneth Lo’s egg fried rice
Simple as it is, this is a satisfying dish to eat even with only a very limited amount of accompaniments, such as some chopped pickles, or just a tablespoon or two of soy sauce.
Serves 2-3, with at least one other dish
onion 1 medium-sized
salt 1 tsp
spring onions 2
vegetable oil 3½ tbsp
cooked rice 1½ bowls, cold
Slice and coarsely chop the onion. Break the eggs into a cup, add the salt and beat with a fork for 10 seconds. Clean and cut the spring onions into fine shavings.
Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok. When hot, add the chopped onions and stir fry in the hot oil for 45 seconds. Pour the salted beaten egg into one side of the pan or wok, and add the rice on the other side. When the eggs are about to set, scramble them, then bring them over and mix evenly with the rice which is being stir-fried in the same pan. Sprinkle the contents with half the spring onion shavings. Turn and stir the ingredients together.
Serve by transferring the contents into a large serving bowl or into individual bowls, and sprinkle the top of the fried rice with the remainder of the spring onion shavings.
From New Chinese Vegetarian Cooking by Kenneth Lo
Fuchsia Dunlop’s Xie Laoban’s dan dan noodles
Photograph: Martin Poole for the Observer
This legendary recipe comes from a small noodle shop in Chengdu that was erased a few years ago when the whole neighbourhood around Sichuan university was redeveloped.
It was a tiny place in old wooden house, tiled in white, with a few tables spilling out into the street, but it sold the best dan dan noodles in the city and arguably the world. Before it was demolished, I managed to coax the proprietor, Mr Xie, into giving me his recipe, and this is it. Somehow, this dish more than any other sums up for me the story of Chengdu street food and the atmosphere of the now-demolished old city. ‘Dan dan’ refers to the shoulder poles that old-fashioned street vendors once used to transport their stoves, ingredients, bowls and chopsticks around town.
Serves 2 as one big bowlful, or assemble in 2 separate serving bowls
cooking oil 1 tbsp
Sichuanese dried chillies 3, snipped in half, seeds discarded
whole Sichuan peppercorns ½ tsp
Sichuanese ya cai or Tianjin preserved vegetable 25g
minced beef 100g
light soy sauce 2 tsp
dried Chinese wheat flour noodles 200g, or fresh noodles 300g
For the sauce
roasted Sichuan peppercorns ¼ tsp, ground
sesame paste 2 tbsp
light soy sauce 3 tbsp
dark soy sauce 2 tsp
chilli oil 4 tbsp, with its sediment
salt to taste
Add the oil to a seasoned wok over a medium flame and swirl it around. Immediately add the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir fry briefly until the oil is spicy and fragrant. Take care not to burn the spices. Add the ya cai and continue to stir fry until hot and fragrant. Add the meat and increase the heat to high, splash in the soy sauce and stir fry until the beef is brown and a little crisp, but not too dry. Press the beef against the wok with your scoop or ladle as you go, to encourage it to separate out into little morsels. Season with salt to taste. When the meat is cooked (it should only take a couple of minutes), remove the mixture from the wok and set aside.
Place the sauce ingredients in a serving bowl and mix well.
Cook the noodles. Turn into a colander, rinse and drain, then place in the serving bowl. Sprinkle over the meat mixture, give the noodles a good stir until the sauce and meat are evenly distributed, and serve.
Vegetarian dan dan noodles
This tastes stupendous. Soak one large dried shiitake mushroom in hot water for 30 minutes. Slice off and discard the stalk and finely chop the cap. Snip 3 dried chillies in half or into sections, discarding the seeds as far as possible. Heat 1 tbsp cooking oil in a seasoned wok over a medium flame. Add the chillies and ½ tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns and sizzle until fragrant, taking care not to burn them.
Add 25g Sichuanese ya cai or Tianjin preserved vegetable and the mushroom. Stir fry until they smell wonderful, seasoning with 2 tsp light soy sauce and 1 tsp dark soy sauce. Remove from the wok. Prepare the bowls with the sauce in the main recipe, add the cooked noodles and then your vegetarian topping. Mix well before eating.
Gok Wan’s dad’s fried ho fun noodles with mixed seafood
Photograph: Martin Poole for the Observer
I never learned to speak Chinese as a child. Dad was always very busy with the restaurant so he didn’t really have time to teach me his native tongue. On occasion, my sister, brother and I were sent to Chinese school but that didn’t last long as I was far too naughty and spent most of my time sitting under the table looking up the girls’ skirts! As a result, the only Chinese phrases I knew, used or recognised were associated with eating. Sit fan (rice dinner), sit mein (noodle dinner), sit mem bo (bread dinner), sit bao (full up). The last phrase wasn’t used very often! This meant that as I got older, food became the way that Dad and I communicated about his culture. Being able to ask for food in Chinese was so important to me, not just because I was hungry but because it gave me precious moments with Dad when he was able to teach me about himself, his life before England and his life before me. Enjoy this recipe – ho fun to your heart’s content!
groundnut oil 2 tbsp
ho fun noodles 250g, soaked and drained according to packet instructions
salt and ground white pepper
raw king prawns 6, peeled and de-veined
squid 1 medium (200g), cleaned and cut into strips
scallops 4 medium, out of their shells, cleaned and roes removed
Chinese fried fish balls 4 (optional)
oyster sauce 1-1½ tbsp
light soy sauce ½-1 tbsp
prawn-shell or fish stock 200ml
sliced bamboo shoots 2 tbsp, drained