Tony Tan's Chinese bolognese, char siu and siu mai recipes

Beijing-style noodles with minced pork and brown bean sauce.
Beijing-style noodles with minced pork and brown bean sauce. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Three hero dishes of Cantonese cuisine, made easy ... you just need a trip to your Asian grocer for a few special ingredients.

Beijing-style noodles with minced pork (aka Chinese bolognese)

This one-dish meal – noodles tossed in a delicious meat sauce with crunchy shredded cucumber – should be called minced pork with brown bean sauce, says Tony Tan. "But that doesn't sound particularly enticing, so I prefer to call it Chinese bolognese." It calls for brown bean sauce, made from fermented soybeans and wheat flour and available in jars. In Cantonese, it's known as mo si jeung (in Mandarin it's tian mian jiang). Look for the Pun Chun brand, but if you can't find it, substitute miso.

INGREDIENTS

Tony Tan tucks into his Chinese spag bol.
Tony Tan tucks into his Chinese spag bol. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen
  • 2 tbsp brown bean sauce
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp shao hsing (rice wine)
  • 1½ cups chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 5 spring onions, finely chopped, separating the white part from the green
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 300g minced pork
  • 1 tsp sugar, to taste
  • 500g fresh Shanghai or Tianjin noodles
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 medium cucumber, shredded

METHOD

  1. Combine the brown bean sauce, hoisin sauce and rice wine with the stock and mix well. Heat a wok and when hot, add the oil and white part of the spring onion with garlic. Stir-fry for 20 seconds then add the minced pork. Continue to fry until the meat changes colour and breaks up.
  2. Add the sauce-stock mixture, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cook noodles in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain and rinse off excess starch if necessary and divide among bowls.
  4. Check seasoning, adding sugar if liked. Ladle meat sauce over noodles and serve at once topped with cucumber and remaining spring onion tops.

Serves 2-4

Tony Tan's char siu.

Tony Tan's pork belly char siu. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Char siu (Cantonese barbecue pork)

Char siu has a certain deliciousness that's forever locked in my food memories. I can still recall eating it with all its charry, smoky goodness dripping with sticky honey as a kid in my family's restaurant in Malaysia. Although pork shoulder is traditionally used in char siu, Australian pork is much leaner than Chinese pork. So I've been using pork belly lately to replicate the lean-fat ratio that makes Hong Kong's char siu so succulent and delectable. This is a simple recipe and it is as authentic as the ones you'll find in the best Cantonese restaurants.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 500g pork belly, skin and top layer of fat removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • spring onions, thinly sliced to serve

Marinade

  • 1 tbsp light soy
  • 1½ tsp dark soy
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 cubes red fermented bean curd, mashed (see note)
  • ½ tsp five spice powder
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp Mei Kuei Lu Chiew liquor (see note)

METHOD

  1. Cut the pork lengthwise into strips 5cm wide and 2.5cm thick.
  2. Heat all marinade ingredients over low flame and stir until blended. Leave to cool. Stir in chopped garlic and massage the marinade into the pork. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 5-6 hours or overnight.
  3. Before roasting, bring the pork back to room temperature. Preheat oven to 240C (220C fan-forced). Drain off excess marinade into a bowl. Place the pork on a roasting rack (leaving as much space as possible) in the middle of the oven and put a roasting pan containing a cupful of hot water underneath on the bottom rack. Roast the meat for 20 minutes, basting it with the marinade every 6-7 minutes. Flip the pork and reduce to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional) and cook for another 15 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 74C.
  4. By now, it will be beautifully caramelised and crisp. Remove and leave the pork to cool briefly before slicing it into bite-sized pieces. Garnish with spring onions and serve as an appetiser or with steamed rice.

Serves 3-4

Note: Red fermented bean curd (nam yue in Cantonese) is a funky ingredient sold in jars. Mei Kuei Lu Chiew liquor is made with sorghum and rose petals and adds a delicate fragrance to the marinade.

Tony Tan's chicken and mushroom dumplings with chilli oil.

Serve the steamed dumplings with chilli oil and chopped chives. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Siu mai (steamed pork and prawn dumpling)

Siu mai is an open-faced steamed dumpling traditionally made with minced pork and it's wrapped with wonton pastry made with wheat flour, available in Asian grocers and some supermarkets. The key is to create the characteristic bouncy mouth-feel. To achieve this, most yum cha palaces use pork with some fat, though some cheaper places use more fat, which I find unpalatable. The best ratio is 80 per cent lean meat to 20 per cent fat, so I often ask my butcher to mince pork belly for me. Better yum cha restaurants now use a combination of pork and prawns in the filling, which I've done here. I've also given the dumpling a contemporary twist by including makrut leaves in the filling for added zest.

INGREDIENTS

  • 25-30 wonton wrappers
  • handful chives, finely chopped

Filling

  • 2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water
  • 300g pork belly, coarsely chopped
  • 180g peeled prawns, coarsely chopped
  • 80g water chestnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp light soy
  • 1½ tbsp shao hsing rice wine
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp peeled ginger, finely chopped
  • 5 makrut lime leaves, shredded
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tbsp potato flour
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped chives to serve, optional

METHOD

  1. Squeeze excess water from mushrooms. Discard stems and chop mushroom finely. Put all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. (Dim sum chefs traditionally stir the mixture in one direction 20 times.) Cover with cling wrap and set aside for 20 minutes or longer to marinate.
  2. To make the dumplings, place a teaspoon of filling in the centre each wonton wrapper. Gather up the sides and squeeze to form a dumpling. Tap bottom gently on the bench so it stands upright.
  3. Line a bamboo steamer with non-stick paper and make a few tiny slits for steam to rise through. Alternatively, brush steamer lightly with oil. Steam dumplings in batches for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through. Serve at once sprinkled with chives and your favourite chilli sauce or soy sauce.

Makes about 30

Note: Siu mai dumplings can be frozen while still raw.