As the F1 circus rolls into China for race 2 of the season, we turned our attention to the orient for cooking inspiration. We’re lucky to have excellent suppliers of Far Eastern ingredients in Newcastle, as well as some great vendors of Chinese foodie staples.
Nan Bei tea and dumpling bar is one of our favourites. Situated permanently in the Grainger Market but with a roving presence at various events around Newcastle, Nan Bei sells the most perfect little steamed dumplings and buns with a range of beautiful meat, fish and veggie fillings. You can eat at the bar, taking full advantage of sauces and accompaniments or bring them home for a quick reheat.
Whilst we could eat for a week at the various Chinese restaurants in and around Newcastle, we couldn’t quite resist giving Chinese cooking a go ourselves. It’s not naturally a cuisine that we turn to regularly, we don’t really know all that much about it to be honest and generally prefer to turn to the Middle East or Mediterranean for inspiration but we like a challenge and with abundant availability of products from HiYoU Oriental Food Emporium, we got stuck in.
On the menu: salt and pepper chicken wings, sticky BBQ pork, tempura enoki mushrooms and steamed rice. Ok, so we know tempura isn’t strictly Chinese and is more commonly found in Japan but we really fancied a crunchy element and enoki mushrooms are just lovely.
Our pre-dinner snack was hot and spicy Chinese jerky from HiYoU. How completely addictive! We’ll be heading back soon. The texture is really great and not plastic-like in the way that some others can be.
We were pleasantly surprised by our chicken wings. We bought fresh from the Grainger Market and flavoured them ourselves using, you guessed it, salt, pepper, sumac and flour and garnished with spring onion, red chilli and garlic. We pulled out our infrequently used fryer to cook the wings and they were a lovely crunchy golden brown after just a couple of minutes. With really hot oil we managed a beautifully crispy skin. We finished them in the oven to ensure they were well cooked through.
We served this with Screaming Chimp Pineapple Sauce, a slightly unconventional twist on the usual Chinese accompaniments but the sweet, citrussy and delicately spiced sauce was perfect to cut through the salt and fresh chilli.
Our sticky BBQ pork was somewhat of a lazier option. We used some excellent quality pork from Blagdon Farm Shop and, using the cute little paint brush that came with our BBQ sauce bought from HiYou, we regularly doused the chunks whilst in the oven over the course of about 20 minutes. We got a really great flavour and some excellent caramelisation of the sauce. It was tasty, tangy and moreish. We’ll definitely be doing it again.
Top tip: Pour out some BBQ sauce if you’re using the paintbrush to avoid double dipping! Sounds simple but easy to fall foul!
Moving on, tempura enoki. It was our first shot making tempura batter and it is remarkably easy. Plain flour and really, really cold soda water whisked together before dunking the mushrooms (also from HiYoU) and immediately plunging into the fryer for a matter of seconds. We had really light, tasty golden clusters of mushrooms. They were fantastic served with soy sauce and fish sauce.
We cheated a little with the sticky rice. We used standard sushi rice cooked according to the box instructions. Rice can be a bit of a fickle thing and we didn’t want to ruin the rest of a good meal with overly soggy or grainy accompaniments. It turned out great and we have the rest of the box to make sushi with for the Japanese grand prix.
We were really pleased with how this turned out despite some initial reservations. The chicken wings were a particular revelation!