Cooking Experiences

A home cooked Sunday Sichuan feast!

I love proper home cooking. I won’t lie: we don’t do it often enough during the week as we are both normally shattered by the time we get home and pasta or a quick meat-based dish often seems like the easiest option. That said, when we do get the chance to devote proper time to making something, we try our best to cook something a bit special. So, last Sunday, we decided to go for it by attempting something a bit different: a Sichuan inspired feast!

We had already had a go at a relatively simple Fuchsia Dunlop Sichuan recipe and had enjoyed some success (as you can see here), but this time we decided to really push the boat by preparing three dishes.

Using two recipes from the Fuchsia Dunlop Sichuan Cookery book, one being boiled beef slices in a fiery sauce and the other being a vegetarian dish aimed at being a side (fried eggs with tomatoes), we also used our own creativity to make an accompanying noodle dish.

In my opinion, the key to cooking Chinese food (especially of the Sichuan variety) is getting everything prepared before you begin. This might seem obvious but the speed at which everything happens when you are stir frying means that you really cannot be messing about with chopping and getting other things ready during the cooking process. For this reason, cooking Chinese food can be a great family together moment as you can work together to get all the preparation done before then working as a team to get everything cooked, dished up and then kept warm! I can certainly say that having Charlotte work with me was invaluable in making our Sichuan feast a success!

Fried egg Sichuan style

Getting ready for the fried egg

While many people are put off Chinese (or indeed many other types of cuisine) because of the difficulty involved in getting hold of the ingredients, the cookbook dishes didn’t leave us needing to spend too much time or effort tracking down the ingredients. You can get things like Shaoxing wine from a fair number of supermarkets now, although you will need to go out to a Chinese supermarket or look online for a decent chilli paste and some potato flour. For my own curiosity, if you can find a decent, high quality online shop do let me know in the comments below as I am always on the hunt for new sources for ingredients!

Sichuan potato flour

Potato flour being mixed with the beef

Having decided that the beef and noodles would keep warmer for a little longer and the eggs would need to be eaten there and then, we established that doing the beef first would be the best idea. That said, we did actually prepare all the ingredients in advance and got the wok seasoned so that we were ready to go!

Sichuan fried eggs

Getting the nest ready!

Sichuan fiery boiled beef

Getting the beef to boil

In terms of the authenticity of the dishes we created I would be intrigued to see what other people have created with the boiled beef dish, as ours seemed to be a decent effort but we have very little to compare it against! We were pleased that, despite working with some of the more unusual ingredients like the gloopy potato flour, we managed to create a dish that looked and tasted pretty good.

Sichuan fiery beef

The finished beef topped with Sichuan peppercorns

Our noodle dish was my own little creation. Putting some medium thick egg noodles in warm water for about ten minutes and then draining them, I then put some rapeseed oil in the wok, let it get hot but not quite smoking, and then chucked in some chopped garlic and ginger as well as some chili flakes and red onion. After chucking in the noodles and adding a little sesame oil, it ended up being a pretty winning Chinese dish!

The egg dish was used by us as a side dish but could be made into a lovely main dish if you are vegetarian and fancy some authentic Sichuan food. While the description in the cookbook was not that hard to follow, we again were not certain how everything should look, so we had to use our initiative and intuition rather than a full understanding of the dish.

Sichuan fried egg

The finished egg!

In terms of complexity it was a little like making an omelette but was a very cheap and quick dish to make, meaning that in terms of timing I could get it cooked while Charlotte got everything else ready for us to eat outside in the lovely Leeds sunshine.

For me, the boiled beef slices (I forgot to mention we used rump steak and that worked really well) in a fiery sauce was an excellent dish. It felt authentic and it taught me that a boiled dish in a wok can be a delight to eat. I also learned that the slippery and slightly gloopy taste in some Chinese dishes comes from the potato flour! I personally have had spicier dishes but the taste, texture and cost were all excellent and it wasn’t that tricky to make in the end (with help on hand!).

Sichuan feast

Getting the food stir fried!

My noodles were scrumptious and added a really nice texture change to the slippery and softer beef dish, with the elements of crunch. I am certain it wasn’t really that Sichuanese but it was still very tasty and suited the food well for me.

The egg dish was delightful. I found it again to be a nice change from the other dishes; it was so light and fluffy compared to the other dishes that you could enjoy it almost as a break in the meal.

Sichuan feast

Our Sichuan feast!

All in all, this was a lovely and different Sunday feast for us! We enjoyed it and I would recommend it as something different to feed your family with when you have your next family gathering.

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