Category Archives: Eastern Flavours

Beef Gyozas and a bit of a breakthrough

We do love a gyoza now and then, strictly as a treat as we enjoy them in their unhealthily cooked forms. I’ve recently found a local shop that stocks gyoza skins, so they’re back on the menu.

Now, our favourite place to eat gyozas is Wagamama, and I’ve long-marvelled at how they get the pastry so dry and crispy, yet the inside moist and delicious. It’s not just deep-frying as I’ve tried that before (and I actually find them far too fatty when deep-fried) and didn’t get quite the same effect – see gyozas here. Tonight, however an experiment and a brainwave combined to solve the problem. So I now present my (current) favourite way of cooking gyozas.

How to cook a gyoza/ dumpling/ pot sticker

  1. Put the filling in the centre of the pot sticker (about a teaspoon, or just under)
  2. Wet the edges of the gyoza all round (keep a small bowl next to you)
  3. On a flat surface, gather the edges of the gyoza up, and crimp together all along (this way the gyoza will sit upright with the crimp along the top rather than fall sideways)
  4. Place gyozas into a steamer and steam for 5 minutes (I used a microwave steamer and it was fine)
  5. [[At this point, I think you may be able to freeze them for a later date so long as you used fresh gyoza pastry – I will try this in the future]]
  6. Finally, remove the steamed gyozas, then shallow fry for a minute or two on each side

And this method is my new way of cooking them. They sit upright, the pastry is crisp and the inside is moist still.

(Wondering why this comes under ‘frugal food’? Well, the filling was comprised mainly of roast dinner leftovers. You know that nub of beef that can’t be carved and is use to neither man nor beast? I simply shoved it in the whizzer, then added two cloves of garlic and two shallots. I finely chopped some mangetout and added it to the whizzed mixture, before sprinkling in a little white pepper, sesame oil, hoisin sauce and Chinese rice wine.)

Thai Fish Soup (Tom Yum Gai)

My hilarious attempts to speak Thai should not be left in Thailand, so I present to you: tom yum gai nam kohn – what I believe could mean fish soup with coconut milk. I can’t find exactly what ‘tom yum’ means, it could describe the sauce or could be the word for soup, but it is a very popular dish in Thailand. Tom yum goong (tom yum with prawns) was one of my favourite meals during out trip and so when I saw tom yum paste in Wing Yip, our local Asian supermarket, I had to get some.

I know mixing a sauce in with some vegetables and protein isn’t much of an achievement, but I was pleasantly surprised by how this came together. Guided by the servings per jar, I used a tablespoon and a half of tom yum sauce (which made the soup -ahem- very very very spicy), fried it with onions and green peppers, then I added reconstituted creamed coconut, juice of half a lemon (lime is the best, but we didn’t have any), some carrot, some cabbage and at the last minute some cubed fish. I used monkfish because we happened to have some in the freezer from the last time I fell foul of the fishmonger, and its firm and meaty texture really stood up to the spices.

I added some rice noodles, which sucked up some of the soup but it was worth it! Next time I will use less tom yum sauce (oh the joys of a new ingredient!) but overall I was very pleased, and it proved to be a less fearsome version of a hot and sour prawn soups I’ve made in the past.

Thai Green Pea Green Curry

After a week of picnics, barbeques and celebratory dinners we were 1) very full and 2) left with only a packet of pea shoots in the fridge. It was 8:30 pm by the time we realised we were hungry, and on a Sunday there’s not a lot you can do to remedy the situation. What with Glastonbury coming up, we predicted being sick with take away very shortly so we really wanted something homemade. I posted about our trip to Thailand in the afternoon and after a quick look in the kitchen I realised I could make up the basic curry (had all the ingredients in – as an easy storecupboard meal) and add pea shoots and frozen peas and frozen soya beans.

I couldn’t be bothered with rice, so we used noodles. This worked remarkably well and we were fed by 9pm. Woop!

Thailand, and a Superfast Authentic Thai Green Curry Recipe

Last summer I had a few days stopping over in Thailand en route to Australia and ultimately the Solomon Islands. It was the first time I’d ever been to Asia, and what struck me most was the contradiction that seemed to be everywhere: relaxed contemplation with constant erratic bustling; dingy and dirty corners with vibrant colour; smells that brought a tear to your eye and smells that made your mouth water.

We had a few days in the north of the country which was somewhat less hectic than Bangkok (!). Below is a snap from Sekothai (which is ruined ancient city, rather like a Thai Pompeii) where I saw my first deadly poisonous snake, and barely flinched and encountered an enormous harmless spider and screamed blue murder.


Bangkok was incredible, and we had a couple of lovely days sight-seeing with a Thai contact, which meant we were able to communicate and have an insider’s knowledge.

We visited the markets in Bangkok, and I gorged myself on the incredible fruit there: dragon fruit (the bright pink fruit below, which is white with black polka dots inside!), mangosteens (which you pinch open, they taste sweet like a lychee but not sickly) and longans (below, on the right hand side growing in stick branches).

The fresh produce was just so bountiful, it’s clear why the food was so fantastic! It was really helpful to have a local who was really keen to discuss the ingredients and the flavours of the food and explain the methods of preparation and cooking. A favourite of mine was a green papaya salad, and it was so interesting to be shown how the papaya was shredded with a giant machete and a great amount of care and patience. One flavour that I found was particularly pervasive was the kaffir lime (above photo, on the left) which has a very distinctive, aromatic flavour which took me a while to fully appreciate, but really encapsulates the Thai flavour.

At the time we went, I wasn’t in to keeping a photographic record, so I only have one very bad snap of a typical meal we had: sat barefoot and cross-legged, Singha beers garlanded with flowers and spicy soups and rice dishes.
We also enjoyed a lovely Thai massage at this lovely spa, tucked away on Soi 11. Oh, it was painful in places (maybe I should have put ‘very light’ on the massage form beforehand?!) but it was exquisitely relaxing and kept me in a doped-up mood throughout the long hail flight to Australia (quite an achievement!)


In the airport on the way out, I bought a couple of slim Thai cookery books (after all, we were backpacking) so I could attempt to re-create the flavours I enjoyed so much when we returned home. The following is probably the most famous Thai dish, and it is EXTREMELY fast to put together and tastes just fantastically authentic.

Thai Green Curry (for 2)
Ingredients
  • lamb fillet, finely sliced
  • 50 g creamed coconut
  • 300 ml water
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste (it’s not cheating…)
  • rind and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander
  • spring onions, if desired

How to Make it

Re-constitute the coconut by adding the creamed coconut to the water. Fry the lamb, ginger and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the curry paste followed by the coconut and water mixture. Add the lime. Bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer for five minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander and spring onions (if using) and serve! It is that easy.

The only thing missing from this dish is the use of kaffir lime leaves, but I can’t find them around but will be keeping my eyes open!

Five Spice Lamb Stir Fry

Please excuse the recent obsession with lamb, but I’ve never liked it before and we keep finding it on offer. This is SO quick to cook, and would work very well with beef too. I used half an onion, a red pepper, a green pepper, some mange tout and a handful of pea shoots (what I had left over from the weekend) – any old veg would work well.

The sauce is what the recipe’s about really. I’ve always been apprehensive about Chinese 5 Spice (easily found powder in a supermarket) as it always smells strongly of liqourice. But I gave it a go, and it was DELICIOUS.

SO for two, whisk up the following in a little dish and marinade the finely sliced meat in it.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce (the recipe asked for Hoisin, so I substituted)
  • dash sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 red pepper (seeds and everything)

How to Make it

Marinade the fincely sliced meat (as much as you choose) in the sauce. Heat a wok with some oil, then throw in the meat and sauce, cook for barely a few minutes to keep the meat tender. Set the meat aside, then cook the onion and peppers and hardier veg for a few minutes. Add the mangetout and lighter veg and cook for maybe a minute longer. Take the wok off the heat. Add the cooked meat and sauce back, stir it in and let it sit while you plate up the noodles or rice. The meat will warm through again and the sauce will have a chance to coat the veggies.

And that is that. Superfast and delicious.

Chicken Rogan Josh

Sometimes only a curry will do, and takeaways have a lovely mouth feel but sometimes only one ‘note’. Beneath the heat of this curry, you can taste the mildness of the yoghurt, the lemon and the coriander.

I think a rogan josh is traditionally a lamb curry, but we have plans on a lamb curry another day so this time we plumped for chicken. I’ve never followed a recipe for curry before as I usually just bung things together and see how it goes, but I wanted to try a recipe from my “One Pot” book and did so, inspired by Ruth’s “Bookmarked Recipes” event.

Ingredients – makes enough for two large portions

  • 150 ml natural yoghurt
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2.5 cm piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt
  • 2 chicken breasts (though I usually use chicken thighs)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced (this wasn’t hot enough for me, so I added some flaked dried chillis later, next time I’ll use two or more chillis)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 handful of coriander, chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • water to slacken, if needed

How to Make it

Chop up the chicken breast and marinade in the yoghurt, garlic, ginger and lemon. Get it in the fridge in the morning for best results.

Heat the oil in a large frying/saute pan and throw in the cardamom pods to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the onion, chilli, and cumin and cook for 5 minutes or till the onion is slightly softened. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and coriander. Allow this mixture to cook down over a simmer for half an hour or so, it should be fairly stiff. Add the chicken in its marinade, which immediately slackens the mixture. Cook with a lid on for about 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt as necessary, and add a dash of water if the sauce is too thick for your liking, and it’s ready.

I felt this curry could have done with more garlic, so I will be using far more cloves next time – cooked with onion as well as in the marinade.

For that authentic curryhouse feel, cobra beer went along with curry dishes from the local pound shop (which is in the city’s curryhouse central) as we waited for the rice to go ‘ping’

Chicken and Ginger Gyoza


A friend lent me their wagamama cookbook and though the gyoza appealed, I thought the likelihood of me getting my hands on gyoza skins was so small I didn’t note the recipe. When I went to the asian superstore, however, I found some in the freezer section. So I looked around the net, improvised and guessed the filling.

I made the above gyoza for a buffet (I made over 40 in total!!) and I fried them to appeal to the masses. You can just as easily steam them or part-fry, part steam them by adding some water in a wok. Although they’re called gyoza (sometimes Beijing dumplings I’ve read) we seem to have got into the habit of calling them potstickers as we usually have them in the more healthy steamed way.

I love the flavour of these, and I get to use my swish Cuisinart mini food processor (Christmas present) to zap the chicken.

The following recipe makes about 20 -25 depending on how much you stuff them.

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken breast – blitzed
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 onion very finely sliced
  • 1 cup of finely sliced cabbage (any works, but chinese cabbage is best)
  • 2 tablespoons beansprouts, sliced in thirds
  • 1 cm of minced ginger
  • 1 clove minced garlic

How to Make It

It’s a case of whizzing the chicken to a pulp, then mixing all the above ingredients together. And it should end up looking like this:


You then put about a teaspoon or so of filling into the centre of each gyoza, wet all round the edges and press round. Apparently very experienced people can do this with one hand. It took me some time… TOP TIP: use an enormous plate to put them on and cover it with cling film (I learnt after the picture below) or they tend to stick to things, including each other.


You then cook in the desired fashion. Fry until they go golden brown, steam through (may take about 10 minutes? Check by cutting one open), or fry initially in a wok then add water and cover for 10 minutes or so. There is such a small amount of chicken in each that these short cooking times cause no worry.

I’ve tried various dipping sauces, many turning out overwhelmingly strong. A lovely dipping sauce to go with the gyoza is:

Dipping Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons light soy
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger minced

Leave in a fridge for the flavours to mingle beforehand.

These disappear instantly when offered around, so make plenty! If you have any insights about gyoza, please let me know, I’d love to try variations on this.

Beef in Oyster Sauce

On Saturday we went to our local farm shop and picked up some wonderful ingredients, including beef and brocolli. I love beef stir frys, but I’ve never cooked one at home before. So with the coupling of an excellent piece of meat (I trust cooking it quickly if it’s good quality) and a super sharp knife I set to work.

Ingredients (marinade)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mirin (or dry sherry/sake/white wine)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • good grind of black pepper
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloved, sliced
  • 1 cm piece of ginger, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
How to make it 

Slice the beef as finely as you can and then marinate the beef for at least 20 minutes, or overnight if you’ve thought ahead. Then stir-fried the lot: onions first, then take them out, followed by beef, then take it out, then the green veg, then re-add the beef and onions. If I were to do this again I would cut the beef even thinner so I could cook it in 2 minutes rather than 5 (approx).