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Lifestyle : Focus on China 2012
1HERSA1 0018 Platform One, Sizzling Cour t and La Piazza’s Stuzzichino Restaurant offer a choice of fresh seafood in a variety of popular dishes. 8 Greenfield Parade, Bankstown For bookings, or more information visit www.bankstownsports.com | Ph. 9722 9888 18 Tuesday, May 15, 2012 smh.com.au good living taste of China special report Foundations of flavour Three keen cooks discuss their essential ingredients with Carli Ratcliff. Staples . . . Claudia Chan Shaw and her must-haves. Photos: Marco Del Grande ‘‘NO MATTER where I am in the world I have to find a Chinese restaurant eventually,’’ says designer and the co-presenter of ABC TV’s Collectors, Claudia Chan Shaw. ‘‘I love French food, but I need Chinese after a week.’’ She recalls French interpretations of classic Chinese dishes, including wonton soup. ‘‘The menu listed it as ‘ravioli vapours’,’’ she says. ‘‘A bowl of them cost more than the wine.’’ When cooking at home, there are also certain things she needs. The five ingredients she can’t do without are soy, ginger, chillies, star anise and garlic. Then there’s also dried mandarin peel, used to flavour the stock for one of her favourite dishes, chicken wings. Chan Shaw’s version is adapted from the recipe made by her mother, from whom she absorbed cooking techniques as a child. ‘‘We always watched mum in the kitchen,’’ she says. Chan Shaw is particular about fresh spices; her star anise comes from Herbie’s Spices in Rozelle, where she also gets Sichuan peppercorns for her favourite comfort food. ‘‘Ma Po bean curd is a sloppy dish that is lovely and fragrant,’’ she says. Pork mince is combined with silken tofu, Sichuan peppercorns and chillies. Some ingredients come from Chinatown, others the local shop. ‘‘These days I can find most of what I need pretty easily,’’ she says. Chef and restaurateur Mathew Chan also nominates chicken wings with soy as a dish he likes to cook at home. Chan opened Mathew’s Peacock Gardens – last year named best Chinese restaurant by the Restaurant & Catering association – in Crows Nest in 1975. ‘‘When we first started, beef and black bean was the most popular Chinese dish in Sydney,’’ he says. Chan came to Australia aged 15 to attend boarding school in Albury. The food was nothing like home. After graduating he moved to Sydney and started working in restaurant kitchens. ‘‘That is when I found my passion,’’ he says. Chan no longer cooks every day in the restaurant, but is still responsible for the changing menu and recipes. At home he prefers to cook simple food, such as chicken wings, or pork ribs with some of his favourite ingredients, garlic, ginger and black bean. ‘‘I couldn’t do without them, or shallots, chilli, five spice, chicken stock or hoisin sauce,’’ he says. The family of market gardener Gordon Ha are also fans of chicken wings. ‘‘My kids would eat chicken every day if I let them,’’ he says. The Ha family has grown vegetables on a two-hectare plot in La Perouse for more than 50 years. Gordon and his brother, Terry, grow 19 varieties of vegetables, including Chinese broccoli, choy sum, red radishes and three types of parsley. Gordon does the cooking at home. ‘‘When I was a kid, mum cooked us a plate of vegetables every night,’’ he says. His children get the same. The ingredients Gordon can’t do without are green vegetables, garlic, chilli, oyster sauce and ginger. Chinese breakaways Sydney restaurants help diners explore the popular cuisine’s great diversity, writes Lucy Clark. I t may be some time before Sydney diners are blithely ordering side dishes of deep- fried scorpion, but we’ve come a long way since going for Chinese meant sweet-and-sour pork and beef in black bean sauce. Chinese dining is far more nuanced these days – if you want the slow braises of Shanghai cuisine, or the numbing spice of Sichuan peppercorns, or the central Asian flavours of Uighur food, you can find them in Sydney. Peter Lew of Fei Jai restaurant in Potts Point agrees things have changed radically since ‘‘the dodgy lemon chicken we grew up with’’. He serves Cantonese food, which he says is closest to what most Australians understand as Chinese food from the good old days. Lew uses recipes from his uncle Gilbert Lau, formerly of Melbourne’s famed Flower Drum restaurant, but has made his menu lighter and fresher. Traditional Cantonese food, Lew says, doesn’t rely heavily on spices, but rather focuses on ginger and garlic to flavour dishes. It comes from Guangdong province and can also be sampled at House of Guangzhou, Haymarket. Northern Chinese food, says Davis Lu of Da Wan Lai in Eastwood, has denser flavours – saltier, sweeter and richer, using stocks in preparation instead of water. The most famous northern dish is Peking duck, the favourite imperial dish from the Qing Dynasty, when it
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