Classic Chinese dishes
Mr Peng’s stuffed baby squid Photograph: Martin Poole for the Observer
Mr Peng’s stuffed baby squid
Both chicken and prawn mince work well as a stuffing for the squid here, though chicken offers a greater contrast in texture after cooking. Try the squid with other sauces too, like sweet and sour sauce or sweet chilli sauce etc.
The punchy Sichuan chilli sauce is essential to Hunan’s cooking, and the Sichuan peppercorns lend their characteristic numbing spice to many of our dishes. You need a lot of oil to make this sauce as it captures the flavours of the chilli and also helps to preserve it. When the sauce settles, you should have a layer of oil on top. If you add too much, you can always use the excess as chilli oil.
Makes 4 portions
baby squid 4 whole, cleaned and ready to use (ask your fishmonger to do this)
cornflour to dust
sesame seeds to coat
oil for frying
For the stuffing
coriander leaves 10g, finely chopped
fresh ginger ½cm piece, minced
spring onion ½, minced
fresh red chilli 1, finely chopped
salt a pinch
chicken mince 30g
For the Sichuan chilli sauce (makes about 300ml)
chilli flakes 4 tbsp
cooking oil 200ml
Sichuan peppercorns 2 tbsp, crushed
chicken stock 6 tbsp, plus more if necessary
tian mian jiang 2 tsp
tomato puree 2 tsp
white wine vinegar 1 tsp
To make the Sichuan chilli sauce, add the chilli flakes to a hot wok with about a tablespoon of cooking oil. Heat the chilli flakes until the pan begins to smoke, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Be careful as it will spit a little and there will be a lot of smoke.
As the chilli flakes absorb the cooking oil, add more oil one tablespoon at a time until you have a paste. It should take around 5 minutes.
When the chilli flakes begin to darken, add the Sichuan peppercorns off the heat with 3 tablespoons of stock. Stir through and return to the hob on a medium heat.
Add the tian mian jiang, tomato puree and the remaining stock with salt and sugar. Stir through all the ingredients, adding more stock and oil if necessary. You need a thick but runny sauce.
Finally add the white wine vinegar and stir through just before taking it off the heat.
Blanch the baby squid in a pan of hot water briefly for about 1 minute, then transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water. The squid should shrink a little from the cooking.
To make the stuffing, mix all of the ingredients, except the chicken, together in a bowl. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, then mix in the chicken mince.
Drain the squid, then dust with cornflour and stuff each squid tube with the stuffing, taking care not to overfill them. The squid should only be slit open on one side.
Cover the opening, where the stuffing is exposed, with sesame seeds.
Heat a glug of oil in a wok until nearly smoking and shallow fry the squid, sesame side down, on a high heat until golden.
The oil should cover half of the squid. Be careful as this will splash a lot. Once the sesame seeds are golden, turn the squid over and cook the other side. It should take no more than 6 minutes altogether.
When the squid is ready, remove to a plate, dress with the Sichuan chilli sauce and serve.
Mr Peng’s spicy chicken wingsPhotograph: Martin Poole for the Observer
This salty and aromatic dish is a great companion to beer. Marinating the chicken for a short time beforehand helps the flavours seep through, while keeping the meat delicate enough so it doesn’t fight with the spicy dressing.
Makes 4 portions
For the marinade
Shaoxing rice wine 4 tbsp
garlic juice 2 tbsp
Sichuan peppercorns 2 tsp
salt 1 tsp
chicken wings 4, skin on
For the dressing
chilli oil 2 tsp
fresh red chilli ½, finely sliced
spring onion 1, finely sliced
Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl, add the chicken and leave to marinate for 5 minutes. Heat a griddle or griddle pan, and slowly cook the wings on a medium heat without adding any oil. You want the skin to crisp up evenly but the meat to be cooked through. This should take around 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl. Adjust the seasoning.
When the wings are ready, spoon the dressing over them and sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.
Yan-kit So’s Peking duckPhotograph: Martin Poole for the Observer
This famous duck dish was introduced to Europe and America during the latter half of the 19th century: one source gives a definite date of 1875. In the well-established restaurants in Peking, the ducks used are raised for the express purpose of being roasted in a specially constructed oven. Paradoxically, this duck can be made as in this recipe in a simple way, with remarkably good results. The duck will be very crisp with a rich dark red skin; the meat perfectly cooked and juicy. Traditionally, only the skin was presented to eat with the pancakes. The meat, cut up in the kitchen and stir-fried with bean sprouts, was served as a second course. These days, however, in both Peking and the west, the meat is carved to be served with the skin.
Serves 4 as a main course, or 6-7 with 3-4 other dishes
honey 2 tbsp
hot water 300ml
duck 1, plump, oven-ready, 2-2.3kg
boiling water 1.7 litres
spring onions 12, white parts only
cucumber 1 large, cut into matchstick-sized pieces
hoisin sauce or sweet bean sauce
Mandarin pancakes 25-30
Melt the honey in the hot water in a cup or jug. Keep warm.
Put the duck in a colander. Scald it with the boiling water from a kettle, turning over several times to ensure even scalding. As the water is poured from the kettle on to the duck, the skin shrinks at once, becoming shiny. Wipe off excess water but leave damp. Put into a large bowl.
Pour the honey mixture all over the skin, including the wings, neck and tail. Return the liquid to the cup and repeat the process once more. To ensure even distribution, dip a brush into the liquid and smear over less accessible spots as well.
Hang the duck on either a special Chinese 3-pronged duck hook or on 2 butcher’s “S” meat hooks, one each securing the shoulder joint and wing. Hang in a windy place for 10–24 hours until the skin is parchment dry. Do not prick the skin.