Recipes from Chin Chin

Chinook salmon, from Chin Chin's cookbook.
Chinook salmon, from Chin Chin's cookbook. Photo: Adrian Lander

Chinook salmon in banana leaf

The curry paste slathered on the salmon is a unique combination of slightly sweet and not too spicy.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup red curry paste (see below)
4 kaffir lime leaves, julienned
40g palm sugar
1/4 cup shredded coconut (available frozen from Asian supermarkets)
3 tbsp chilli jam (see recipe below)
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 sprigs Thai basil, leaves picked
banana leaf (about 500g), wiped clean, cut into 4 rectangles
4 x 150g Chinook salmon fillets*
2 tsp chilli oil

* We’ve used Chinook fillets for this dish, but you could easily replace them with Atlantic salmon or ocean trout fillets or, if you want to make a lasting impression, a whole salmon. If you go this route, you’ll need to proportionally increase the amount of curry paste so it’s equal to half the weight of the fish.


1.Heat the oil in a heavy-based pot, add the curry paste and three-quarters of the lime leaves and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the palm sugar and continue to cook until caramelised. Add the coconut, chilli jam and three tablespoons of coconut cream and stir to combine.

Chin Chin's gai lan dish  (Chinese broccoli) taken from the restaurant's new cookbook.
Chin Chin's gai lan dish (Chinese broccoli) taken from the restaurant's new cookbook. Photo: Adrian Lander

2.Bring to the boil then add the fish sauce and oyster sauce gradually, tasting for seasoning as you go. Add  basil and continue to cook until the paste becomes quite dry and dense, almost like mashed potato. Be careful it doesn’t become too dry or it will burn when you barbecue the salmon.

3.Lay the banana leaves on the bench, shiny-side down. Divide half the curry paste among the rectangles and spread it out evenly as a base for the fish. Place the salmon on top, then spoon over the remaining curry paste. Fold the banana leaf over the top, then fold in the ends and sides to form a parcel. Secure with toothpicks. Repeat for the other parcels.  Ideally you’d leave this in the fridge overnight to marinate, although  a couple of hours will do.

4.To cook, remove the parcels from the fridge and allow to  warm slightly to room temperature. Place parcels on a grill  over medium heat, cover then cook for 10–15 minutes until the salmon is done. (You could also cook it in a 250C oven for  the same amount of time.) Remove from heat and open the parcels. Garnish with remaining coconut cream and lime leaf and drizzle with chilli oil.


Red curry paste

8 large dried red chillies, seeded, soaked in warm water
3 large red chillies
2 stalks lemongrass (pale part only), chopped
5 shallots, 2 roasted, the rest chopped
2 heads garlic, peeled
1/2 bunch coriander root
zest of 2 kaffir limes
1 1/2 tbsp roasted gapi
3-4 white peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds
 tbsp cumin seeds
 tsp cloves

For curry paste
Put the chillies, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, coriander root, lime zest and gapi in a food processor and blitz to a fine paste. Grind the peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds, nutmeg and cloves. Add to the paste with a large pinch of salt. The curry paste should have a balanced aroma of the fresh ingredients with an endnote of the dry spices. The finished curry paste will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, but you can also freeze it in portions.

Makes 3 1/2 cups

The gai yang (barbecued chicken) from Chin Chin's cookbook.
The gai yang (barbecued chicken) from Chin Chin's cookbook. Photo: Adrian Lander

Chilli jam

10 red birds-eye chillies
8 red banana chillies
2 red capsicums
6 red onions
1 stalk lemongrass (pale part only)
1 knob ginger
5 heads garlic, peeled
1 cup vegetable oil
250 g palm sugar
3 tbsp tamarind water
1/2 cup fish sauce

For chilli jam
Blend chillies, capsicum, onion, lemongrass, ginger and garlic to a fine paste. Heat oil in a wok or heavy-based pan, add paste and fry until fragrant. Add palm sugar and caramelise. Add tamarind water and fish sauce gradually, tasting as you go (you may not need the whole measure to get it to your own tastes). If you’re vegetarian, replace the fish sauce with soy sauce. Again, taste as you add to ensure it doesn’t become too salty.

Makes about 1kg

Steamed gai lan with oyster sauce

Gai lan is Chinese broccoli. If you want to make this dish completely vegetarian, use vegetarian oyster sauce, made from shiitake mushrooms, instead.


1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs shao hsing
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbs oyster sauce
1 bunch gai lan, cut into 5cm lengths
2 knobs ginger, julienned
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted


1. In a small pan, combine the sesame oil, soy, shao hsing, sugar, 1 tbs oyster sauce and about 1/2 cup water. Stir over medium heat until the sauce has reduced by a half.

2. Place the gai lan and ginger on a plate and into a large steamer to cook over high heat for 2–3 minutes. Remove the lid periodically and turn the vegetables to ensure they cook evenly.

3. Remove the gai lan from the steamer and pile it on a serving plate. Ladle over the sauce, drizzle with the remaining oyster sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Gai yang chicken (babecued chook)

The aroma of this chicken dish transports you straight to a Thai street barbecue. Adults might add chilli to the end result; kids can just eat messy chook.

1–2 stems lemongrass (pale part only)
1 small knob ginger
1 small knob turmeric
2 cloves garlic
2–3 coriander roots
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 cup Mekong whisky
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup coconut cream, optional
1 whole chicken, butterflied
1 head garlic, skin on
1/3 cup sweet tamarind (see recipe below)
1/3 cup prik nahm pla (see recipe below)


1. To make the marinade, blitz the lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, garlic, coriander and pepper to a fine paste. Add the whisky, fish sauce and coconut cream if using, and mix well. Rub the marinade all over the chicken and refrigerate overnight.

2. When you’ve got the barbecue going, wrap the whole garlic head in foil or a banana leaf and put it over an area of the grill with low heat. Cook for 30–40 minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. (You could also do this in a 120ºC oven.)

3. Meanwhile, ensuring the barbecue isn’t too hot, place the chicken, skin-side down, on the char-grill and cook for 10 minutes. Turn and cook for another 8-10 minutes or so. The chicken should be golden and the juices should run clear when you stick a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh joint. When it’s cooked, wrap in foil and rest for 10 minutes.

4. Cut the chicken into pieces, then serve alongside the roasted garlic, a dish of sweet tamarind and a dish of prik nahm pla.

Sweet tamarind

120g palm sugar
1 cup tamarind water (below)
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbs aromats (chilli, lime leaf, lemongrass scraps)

Break up the palm sugar and, in a saucepan, cook all the ingredients over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add a little water if it reduces too much. Strain. Keep in an airtight jar in the fridge.
Makes 2 cups

Tamarind water

Mix 3 tbs tamarind pulp (available as ‘bricks’ in Asian grocers) with 1 cup hot water and let it soak for about 30 minutes.

Work the pulp with your fingers to help it dissolve. Strain, forcing through as much pulp as you can with a spoon. Discard leftover solids.

Because tamarind water is used a lot in these recipes, make up extra and freeze it in ice-cube trays then defrost and use as necessary.

Makes 1 cup 

Prik nahm pl

1/4 cup scud chillies
1/2 head garlic, peeled
1/2 lime
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup fish sauce

In a mortar and pestle, pound the scuds to a paste. Slice the garlic cloves into slivers. Slice the lime into very thin triangular slivers.

Combine the scud paste, garlic and lemon juice, mix well and add fish sauce. This is a seasoning (like salt and pepper), so it should be salty. Add the lime slivers just before serving.
Makes 1 1/2 cups

Chin Chin the book is on sale from tomorrow October 30 in selected bookshops and is available online at, $49.95.