Chinese Food In Minutes: episode 9

Tuesday 6 April 2010 at 7.30pm on Five

The series exploring the joys of Chinese cuisine continues. This instalment sees two London taxi drivers experiment with spicy flavours and chillibased ingredients. Ching cooks prawn and chilli bamboo shoot stir-fry, breaded haddock with Sichuan pepper and roast beef with four-spice chilli oil. It is then the turn of her two proteges to recreate the recipes for their friends and family.

Before she starts cooking, Ching-He Huang takes her latest students, cab drivers and friends Alex and Bernice, to London’s Chinatown to show them the vast array of chilli-based products on the market. Both Bernice and Alex are confident cooks but are keen to learn how to prepare what Ching describes as “fast, fresh and flavoursome Chinese food”.

However, their tastes differ greatly – Bernice likes dishes with added spice, whereas Alex’s palate is a little more conservative and he tends to shy away from hot or curried food. Ching tries to change Alex’s mind about spicy dishes by producing a mouthwatering recipe from her mobile kitchen. She fries juicy tiger prawns with fresh shiitake mushrooms in garlic and rice wine, then adds pickled chilli bamboo shoots to create a quick, light stir-fry. Both Bernice and Alex agree that it is “quick and tasty”.

The second dish Ching whips up is a Chinese take on a British classic, fish and chips. After coating fresh chunks of haddock in breadcrumbs, she flash-fries the fish then seasons with ground toasted Sichuan peppercorns, dried chillies and salt. The fish pieces are then served on a bed of crispy lettuce leaves and shredded carrots. The dish gets Bernice’s seal of approval, but is a bit too spicy for Alex, who turns down a second portion. Ching jokingly rolls her eyes at Alex’s lack of stamina and brands him “a chilli wimp”.

It is then the turn of the two cheeky cabbies to try to replicate Ching’s recipes. Alex takes on the fried fish, toned down to his tastes, while Bernice tackles the prawn stir-fry. While the banter flies in the kitchen between the two friends, Ching makes her roast beef dish. She takes a thick sirloin joint and rubs it in a mixture of crushed dried chilli flakes, Sichuan peppercorns and salt. The beef is then propped on Cassia bark so that the hot air can circulate around it in the oven. The bark’s cinnamon overtones will also add flavour to the meat. She then oven-cooks the beef and prepares a four-spice chilli oil using fennel seeds, cloves, star anise and long green chillies, crushed in groundnut oil. After thinly slicing the beef she dresses it with the oil before serving.

In the meantime, Alex is having some difficulty with his recipe, and appears to be sending Ching smoke signals from his over-heated wok. Bernice, who has already finished her stir-fry, has the luxury of standing back and enjoying the show. Will Alex’s burnt fish and lack of spicing flair give Bernice the edge in their cook-off? As the pair plate up their food to serve to their family and friends, they are reminded that Ching’s winning decision is final. Who will she crown the week’s winner?


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