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A lesson on cooking “Chinese(ish)” recipes at home

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A lesson on cooking “Chinese(ish)” recipes at home

When Rosheen Kaul found herself out of work amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, she, like many, looked for ways to experiment in the kitchen. Except unlike others, it wasn’t by mastering sourdough and Kaul is a chef by trade. Having previously worked at Lee Ho Fook, Ezard and Dinner by Heston, Kaul’s talent for cooking is undeniable, so when faced with so much downtime, she decided to put it to good use.

Teaming up with friend and self-taught illustrator Joanna Hu, the pair launched The Isol(Asian) Cookbook, a comprehensive guide to cooking “Chinese(ish)” recipes that Kaul says are “achievable even in the hands of the most inexperienced home cook.”

“The unexpected upside of not being able to work, is how much time I’ve been able to spend in the kitchen at home,” says Kaul, “Contrary to popular belief, cooking professionally and cooking at home are completely different.”

The unexpected upside of not being able to work, is how much time I've been able to spend in the kitchen at home.

Illustration: Joanna Hu

Illustration: Joanna Hu

Illustration: Joanna Hu

Illustration: Joanna Hu

“I started recording my recipes only as friends began asking for them on social media. Frankly, I was just cooking dinner, and I hadn’t realised anyone cared enough to want to replicate what I was making.”

Except they did, and we do. With global social distancing regulations in full force, many chefs and restauranteurs have sought out new methods to share their passion with the world, channelling their energy into social media by sharing recipes and tips from their very own quarantine-kitchen.

Growing up in a multi-cultural household (Kaul’s dad Kashmiri and mum Singaporean), Kaul learnt to cook using more traditional eastern methods.

“My task from a very young age was always to wash and cook our rice for dinner. Naturally in an Asian household, there are no cup measurements or scales for cooking rice. You learn to cook rice using your index finger, measuring the water depth to your knuckle. Works every time.”

An experience that no doubt set her on her path to culinary greatness, Kaul’s heritage and seemingly no-fuss attitude towards cooking is felt throughout the entire book, from her ‘Lazy XO Sauce’ to her occasional anecdotal advice on what Chinese cooks do.

When asked what her favourite dish is from the cookbook, Kaul says she can’t look past her chilli oil.

“I’ve always felt like conventional chilli oils from the shelf don’t have enough salty, spicy ‘bits’ or sediment, so I wrote a recipe that maximises it.”

“The process is deceptively simple, and it has an incredibly long shelf life. The result is a chilli oil that is vibrantly red and glorious.”

The Isol(Asian) Cookbook includes the eight essentials of a Chinese pantry as well as four staple recipes, including congee, fried rice, wontons and an everyday broth, with added variations for the more daring “intermediate” chef. The cookbook also includes both vegetarian and meat options for snacks, stir fry, noodles, condiments and seasonings.

The Isol(Asian) Cookbook is available now in both digital and hardcopy versions and can be ordered here.

Plus, scroll down to try Kaul’s chilli oil and dim sum crispy prawn toast recipes.

Kaul’s ‘Chilli Oil’

Kaul’s ‘Completely “Unauthentic” Dim Sum Crispy Prawn Toast’

Kaul’s ‘Chilli Oil’

Kaul’s ‘Completely “Unauthentic” Dim Sum Crispy Prawn Toast’

Chilli Oil

The common Chinese name for chilli oil ‘hong you’ or ‘red oil’, is a reference to its astonishingly vibrant colour. In its purest form, chilli oil is made by pouring boiling oil over crushed dried chillies and leaving it to infuse. I like my chilli oil with heaps of salty sediment, and this recipe ensures the maximum amount of ‘bits’ at the bottom of the jar. I’ve divided this recipe into parts for clarity.

Ingredients

Part 1
40g dried chillies
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 tbsp oil

Part 2
10 fresh chillies
3 garlic cloves
10g ginger
12g salt
10g sugar

Part 3
300g oil
3 star anise
1 black cardamom
3 slices ginger
1 spring onion

Method

Part 1
1. Use a pair of sharp scissors and cut the dried chillies into small pieces.
2. Heat the oil and fry the chillies and peppercorns over a low heat until they are very fragrant, and the chillies have turned a deep red. Be extremely careful not to burn them.
3. Allow to cool, and crush in a mortar and pestle.

Part 2
1. Transfer into a bowl.
2. Blitz chillies, garlic and ginger in food processor.
3. Warm 3 tbsp of oil in a small pan and add the blended chillies. Fry on low heat until all of the moisture is cooked out.
4. Allow to cool and stir through salt and sugar before adding to bowl with crushed dried chillies.

Part 3
1. Heat the oil in a large pot (ensure it can hold double the volume of oil as it will bubble up).
2. Add the spring onion and ginger, and fry until golden. Remove from the oil.
3. Add the star anise and cardamom. Fry over a low heat until fragrant. At this point, the oil should be very hot.
4. Pour half the oil over the bowl of chilli flakes and stir. Wait for 5 or so minutes for the oil to cool further and pour the rest of the oil over the chillies.
5. Once fully cooked, remove the star anise and cardamom. Leave covered overnight at room temperature.
The next day the oil should be an intense dark red colour. Pack into an airtight jar and store in a cool place.

Completely “Unauthentic” Dim Sum Crispy Prawn Toast

Ingredients

For the prawn paste
120g raw prawns, shelled and deveined
40g minced pork
5g ginger, grated
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp fish sauce
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp salt
20g guanciale or fatty pancetta, very finely diced
20g dill, finely chopped
½ lemon zest

For the confit garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

To serve
4 slices white bread
2 cups vegetable oil
lemon cheeks

Method

1. Warm the olive oil in a small pan and add the garlic. Cook on a low heat until the garlic is soft, and set aside to cool.
2. Place prawns, guanciale, pork mince, ginger, cornstarch, fish sauce, white pepper, and salt into a food processor and blitz to a paste. Stir the confit garlic, dill and lemon zest through to combine.
3. Cut each slice of bread into four triangles. Spread the prawn mixture thickly over each piece and set aside.
4. Heat vegetable oil to 180°C, and deep-fry in small batches until golden brown.
5. Drain using a slotted spoon, and eat with a squeeze of lemon juice.

 

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