Monday 12 March 2018


Got a tofu denier in your life? Are you a tofu denier yourself? Well then my friend, this is the recipe for you. It is, surely, the most delicious way to eat it. Some restaurants go overboard with the oil - traditionally, it seems, it is quite oily - and I've found that making it at home means I can control the spiciness and the tingliness of the Sichuan pepper that goes in to making mapo tofu.

Many use minced pork. I love the deep flavour of minced beef here, inspired by Fuchsia Dunlop. This is my standard base recipe for Mapo Tofu; you can modify it, using chopped up shiitake and brown mushrooms to replace the meat, or you can go super turbo, by trying out Danny Bowien's version from Mission Chinese, or watch Mind of a Chef and try that recipe. But I implore you to try a straight-up version first to get to grips and fall in love with it. Here's a video I made with Chinatown London to encourage you to give it a go. 

Here's the recipe; serve with lots of steamed fluffy white rice, and stir fried vegetables. 

Ma Po Tofu

Serves 4 with other dishes 

1 box tofu, the type you get in water - I prefer medium-firm silken. Remove, cut into cubes and steep in just boiled water with a pinch of salt
100gr of minced beef
2 tbsp of cooking oil
2 fat cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 - 2.5 tbsp of chilli bean sauce (depends on saltiness)
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional, for hot-heads)
1 tbsp fermented black beans soaked in water
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp of sugar
175ml water
1 heaped tsp of cornflour mixed with a little water
3 stalks of spring onions, whites separated and cut into thumb-length stalks, greens sliced diagonally
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground into a powder

Heat oil in wok add minced beef with the oil and fry until crisp, mashing the beef with the back of a wooden spoon to break it up. Add garlic, whites of spring onions, stir for 10 -15 sec, add the chilli bean paste and black beans, stir till fragrant - then add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, ground pepper, water and chilli flakes

Drain and add the tofu to meat sauce, stir gently and simmer till hot, around 5 minutes. Add the cornflour mixture, and when thickened it’s ready. Transfer onto serving dish and sprinkle with the ground Sichuan pepper. Top with spring onion greens.

Thursday 8 March 2018

Potstickers, & a Video on How To Fold Them

On the 10 year anniversary of this little blog, we have come full circle. Here I am again, posting a recipe for potstickers - my first ever post was about potstickers. Maybe it means that in fact in 10 years I've gone absolutely nowhere with this. The pictures are better though, and my pleats are pretty great so if that's all the progress I've made then I'll take it.

Potstickers are a big part of my life. My freezer always has a bag, and I am forever experimenting with new flavours. We don't veer too far away from pork, because mmm pork, and my favourite so far have been the soup dumplings, from 2016

I love wontons equally, as is evidenced by a snapshot look at my instagram account and I strongly believe that there isn't a hangover that can't be at least slightly quelled by these tiny parcels of joy.  The intimidating part is the folding, and I would recommend starting with shop-bought wrappers for quick and easy while you get those fiddly pleats sorted out. 

Here's a video of me showing you how to fold them and cook them (don't worry, my face isn't in it). For this recipe, I partnered with Chinatown London, and you can try these for yourself, if you don't want to make them, in restaurants all over Chinatown. My favourite places are Jen Cafe and Dumplings Legend.  

Once you get that down, get going on rolling your own wrappers. They are worth it. Here's a recipe that makes a bunch; it's best to make too many and freeze them on a floured plate as you can easily cook them from frozen. 

TIPS! With pre-made wrappers:

Have a piece of kitchen roll or a clean j-cloth to hand, that is damp. This is so you can press the wrapper face down onto it before you stuff it, to help stick the pleats. 

Make sure you squeeze the pleats shut - dampen your finger when doing so if they're being a bit dry. 

This is a pretty standard base recipe; from here you can start adding things. Sometimes I take out spring onions and add finely minced Chinese chives. In the springtime, I add blanched, minced wild garlic. I really like diced water chestnut too for some secret crunch, and I like experimenting with flavours like celery, or fennel seed. Tofu fillings also work well, though be sure to squeeze out moisture and st


60gr fatty minced pork
4 napa cabbage leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp oyster sauce
5cm piece of ginger, grated and soaked in 1 tbsp water
3 shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated
1 tbsp light soy
½ tbsp sugar
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 packet of dumpling wrappers (white, round)
1 tbsp oil
Water, to hand


Soy sauce
Chilli oil
Black vinegar
Slivered ginger
Pinch of sugar

Salt the cabbage and set in a sieve over the sink while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Mix the pork in one direction with the oyster sauce, sugar, light soy, spring onions. Squeeze the ginger in the water and add the water only. Mix well until formed into a paste. Rinse the cabbage, squeeze all the moisture out well, and add to the pork mixture. 

Set out a clean dampened j-cloth or damp couple of pieces of kitchen roll. Press the dumpling wrapper into the moist, then add a tsp filling. Pleat, set aside to cook. To cook, heat up 1 tbsp cooking oil in a non-stick pan, then place the dumplings flat bottom side down in the oil. Fry for 3 minutes, add 50ml water and the lid, and steam for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and evaporate the water on a medium heat, making sure the bottoms aren’t burning.

Combine sauce ingredients to dip the dumplings in.

(Disclosure: This is a paid partnership for me to develop the recipe and cook it in the video. All views and words are my own)

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Gong Bao Chicken, Part 2

Oh hello! 

On the 10th anniversary of this blog (10 YEARS) I've decided to resurrect it from it's dead-of-Winter hibernation, to post a recipe for Gong Bao Chicken. 

I know. The ubiquitous Gong Bao Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, snore snore snore. No less because I have already posted about it, in 2011. Why do you need to know how to cook this, a takeaway classic of chicken and peanuts? 

Because it's delicious, that's why. I've made this so many times over the years, and it really benefits from being made at home, eaten fresh out of the wok. Silky chicken, spicy little punches of dried chilli, and crunchy rich peanuts makes a fine weeknight dinner with some rice and a vegetable side. I've made it with chicken thighs but also breast and for a quick cooking time, this is one of the only things I use chicken breast for. Sometimes I use cashews if I'm feeling flush, other times peanuts. A Google image search suggests that some add red and green peppers but I like the simplicity of just meat, nut and fire to highlight the sweet and sour aspects of the sauce. 

Velveting the chicken - that is, marinading in a liquid, cornflour and wine - is a handy technique to keep up your sleeve. Marinading in this style (often also with egg white) means that when the meat hits the hot oil, it cooks but still remains juicy and soft, where it can sometimes turn tough and stringy. With any chicken, pork or beef stir-fried dishes that includes quick flash-frying, removing from the pan, and then re-introducing the meat back in at the end, this is essential to keep the meat ....MOIST. Sorry. There's no other word for it. 

The main thing about this recipe is to be prepared. All the time taken is in the prep - have your spring onions chopped, your garlic and ginger minced, sauces all set out. The time it takes in the wok is really minimal so you don't want to be flapping around the kitchen while your chillis burn and cause an intense napalm-haze that makes everyone cry. If you think I'm sounding very specific then yes, you are right, that has happened to me. 

I partnered with Chinatown London to create this video inspiration for you to try it out yourself; the recipe is below. You can also eat it at pretty much any restaurant in Chinatown, though for the most authentic results I would head for Sichuan restaurants, like Er Mei, Bar Shu, or Bai Wei.

Gong Bao Chicken

Serves 2 - 4 depending on how many side dishes 

For the chicken: 

350gr chicken breasts cut into 3 cm cubes
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp cornflour 
Large pinch of salt

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cornflour
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp water to hand 

For the dish: 

3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
8 small dried red chillis, stems removed, cut into 3cm pieces with scissors, seeds shaken out
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
5cm knob ginger, peeled and minced
6 spring onions, cut into thumb size lengths,
150gr roasted unsalted peanuts or cashews

Combine chicken, wine, soy sauce, cornflour, and salt in a small bowl and turn until well mixed and chicken is evenly coated in a thin film of the paste, and then set aside for at least half an hour.
For the sauce, add the sugar, vinegar, wine, soy sauce, and cornflour in a small bowl. Stir together with a fork until no clumps of cornflour are left.
Have all your ingredients out and prepared in front of you when you start cooking. 
Pour half the oil into the wok. Place over high heat and preheat until smoking, swirling up the sides. Add remaining oil and immediately add chillis and Sichuan peppercorns. Do not leave it alone at this point! Stir-fry until fragrant but not burnt, about 5 seconds. Then add the chicken, breaking up the clumps, and stir fry, pausing to allow the outsides to sear. Before the chicken is fully cooked (so, after 1 minute or so), add garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add scallions and peanuts and stir-fry for another minute.
Add the sauce ingredients and stir well until all the ingredients are coated evenly and the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary to keep the sauce from sticking. Serve immediately with steamed white rice and vegetables.
(Disclosure: This is a paid partnership for me to develop the recipe and cook it in the video. All views  and words are my own)