Thursday, 25 October 2007

Another trusted Chinese cookbook

My last post centered around one of my favourite Chinese food cookbooks and I thought I'd share with you yet another. This one is not so much one cookbook but a set of 3 and they are titled Xi Yan I, II and III. Xi Yan, which translates into banquet dinner, is actually a private kitchen which originated in Hong Kong in 2000. Unlike a regular restuarant, Xi Yan dictates many rules for its diners including what time they should eat (there is only 1 seating time per night), how many people should eat (a minimum table size of 6) and what they should eat (there is no menu per se - the chef serves whatever he feels like). Despite this, due to the quality and innovativeness of the food, Xi Yan has enjoyed immense popularity with waiting lists in Hong Kong as long as 6 months.

The food at Xi Yan is based in Chinese cuisine but is also influenced by the different cuisines of East and South-East Asia. It is this creative genius, I believe, that has been at the heart of Xi Yan's ascent in the culinary world. Since its humble origins back in 2000, Xi Yan now also has a branch in Singapore and has plans to open in Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo. I've had the good fortune to dine at the Singapore branch and I must say that I was blown away. From simple dishes such as Momotaro tomatoes in a wasabi sesame sauce to more unusual dishes such as Shisamo (pregnant fish) in chili oil, the freshness and quality of the ingredients always shone through.

Xi Yan is the brainchild of Jacky Yu who spent 19 years working in advertising before deciding to make a radical change in career. This gives me some hope that maybe its not too late for me to consider a switch in career afterall!

Dumplings before cooking

Sichuan Dumplings in Chili Oil
From Xi Yan

20 pieces wanton wrap
300g pork shank (minced)
diced spring onion

seasoning 1
1 tsp salt
ground white pepper

seasoning 2
3/4 cup ginger and spring onion juice

chili sauce 1 (makes 8 servings)
8 tbsps dark soy sauce
2 1/2 tbsp Zhenjiang black vinegar
4 tbsp cold boiled water
2 tbsp sugar

chili sauce 2
1/3 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
chili oil
diced spring onion
ground Sichuan peppercorn

Mixed minced pork with seasoning 1. Add seasoning 2 and keep stirring until the mixture is sticky. This is the filling for the dumplings.

Wrap some filling in each piece of wanton wrap.

Pour 1 1/2 tbsp of chili sauce 1 in a bowl. Add chili sauce 2 and mix well.

Bring water to the boil. Put in dumplings and cook until they float. Remove from heat and drain. Transfer to the bowl with chili sauce and sprinkle diced spring onion on top. Toss the dumplings in chili sauce and serve.

NB: To make ginger and spring onion juice, put 1 cup of water, 1 small piece of thinly sliced ginger and 3 sprigs of spring onion (shredded) in a big bowl. Squeeze with hands to extract the juice. Discard ginger and spring onion and reserve the juice.

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