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Cooking Chinese 6 December 2006

Posted by cath in Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Recipes, shopping notes, stir-fry.

A Note About Chinese Supermarket Goodies

If you enjoy stir-frying, then you’ll definitely want to pick up a few essentials from the Chinese Supermarket:

Shaoxing rice wine

Shaoxing Rice Wine

You can try using white wine, or if you happen to have some dry sherry, that would be better…but really there is nothing better than the real thing – it keeps well once opened.

Dried Shitake Mushrooms

Shitake Mushrooms - Dried

Really useful for more than just Chinese food…You only need to soak them for around 10 minutes in warm water, then chop and add to the dish. Some cooks suggest removing the more fibrous stalk – but it’s never done me any harm!

I also add chopped, soaked mushrooms them to risotto – and soaking a mixture of dried porcini, chanterelles and shitake for half an hour or so makes a fantastic mushroom stock for the risotto too.

I would also consider them as a substitute for fresh mushrooms in other recipes too.

Sesame oil

Sesame Oil

Also good for marinades and to add some nutty flavour to noodles.

Dried Noodles


You can get a vast array of Chinese (and Japanese) style noodles, quick to cook so that always means fast food!

Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce

Excellent for a variety of marinades and sauces (including Sweet and Sour Sauce). Keeps (for ages, and I mean literally years) in a cold cupboard or in the fridge.

Vegetarians, look out for a mushroom version, which is very similar in style to this sauce and makes a good veggie substitute.

Soy Sauce – Light and Dark

Soy Sauces

A must have – and definitely worth buying these large bottles at the Chinese supermarket they are much cheaper than supermarket equivalents.

The Light version is usually added to cooking and to season the finished dishes.

The Dark version more often used in marinades.

Stir Fry > Spicy Sweet and Sour Pork with Vegetables 29 November 2006

Posted by cath in mildly spicy, Recipes, stir-fry, variations, vegetables.

Sweet and Sour Pork - Cookalicious Style

Spicy Sweet and Sour Pork with Vegetables


This isn’t the battered pork balls that you may think of when you think of sweet and sour pork – instead, this is a Thai/Chinese fusion of healthy, local, in season vegetables, with lean pork, stir fried in a spicy sweet and sour sauce.

I like to try and encourage home cooking, and all in one dishes are a popular choice. The stir fry, although Asian in influence is made with mostly local produce – carrots, courgette, Savoy cabbage, sprouting broccoli, onions, garlic, mixed mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh coriander. The only imported ingredients are my chillies and ginger – not bad.

Any lean pork will do, here I’ve used tenderloin – that’s like the fillet of beef in pork. The meat has a mini-marinade before cooking. This is often the case with Chinese recipes and can be done for as little as 5-10 minutes, or you could leave it longer but not overnight. I usually prepare the meat first then leave it to marinade for a bit whilst I chop the vegetables.



The sauce is easy – I’ve used it before.

  • 2 tbsp pineapple juice (from the tinned pineapple)
  • Juice of a lime
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • a dash of tomato puree for colour.

Just mix it together in a bowl and set aside.


Sweet and Sour Ingredients

The ingredients

(Clockwise from Top-left: Sweet and Sour Sauce, Pineapple pieces, coriander, chili and tomatoes, chopped courgette and cabbage, carrot and broccoli, sliced onions, garlic and ginger. Bowl of mixed mushrooms in the centre.)


  1. Thinly slice the pork and combine it in a bowl with 1 tbsp dark or light soy sauce, 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (or you can use white wine or dry sherry if you have it) and 1 tbsp sesame oil with 1 tbsp of cornflour.
  2. Chop the vegetables – carrots, courgette into thin sticks, cabbage thinly sliced, small sprouts of broccoli trimmed, slices of mushroom. You can chop more than you need for one night and keep half aside for an even quicker meal the next day. (If you have this dish with noodles rather than rice that also makes it quicker).
  3. Chop the base ingredients – thin slices of onion (red or white as you like), garlic and ginger.
  4. Chop a couple of tomatoes if you still have some from the “summer”, some chillies (2 large red chillies is a good heat) and some coriander stalk and leaf.
  5. Drain a tin of pineapple (natural juice or fresh if you can get it) and chop into bite-size pieces.


Cooking Instructions

When you’re ready to cook, start with the rice. The stir-fry will take only 5-10 minutes to complete, so when you’re ready to begin cooking, heat up the wok with a little oil (groundnut is good) in the base. Heat it up well, then add the sliced onion, followed by garlic and ginger. Stir fry for a few minutes but do not brown (particularly the garlic). You can add some chillies here if you want it hot and spicy.

Then add the marinaded pork and stir fry on a medium high heat for 2-3 minutes until nearly cooked. You can choose to remove the pork, onions etc. now if you like – to stop the meat drying out and to give you more room for the vegetables – remove and leave on a warm plate.

Now add the carrots, mushrooms, then broccoli, cabbage and finally the courgette (add them in the order of size and crunchiness – carrot usually takes the longest unless it’s been grated.) Use the remaining pineapple juice and water to loosen the stir fry rather than adding more oil.


Stir fry until all the vegetables are cooked. Then put the pork back in the wok with the sauce and stir through, heating the sauce. Finally, add the pineapple, tomatoes and decorative chili slices. Sprinkle fresh coriander on the top and serve with the rice.


Vegetables > Steam-fried Cabbage 8 June 2006

Posted by cath in Recipes, stir-fry, variations, vegetables.

stir-fry cabbage

Cabbage steam-fried with herbs and balsamic vinegar

I often find it difficult to find interesting recipes for vegetables. Cabbage is always a hard one. It’s often best simply steamed or wilted, but some more substantial cabbage varieties, particularly red cabbage and dark green cabbages, are really good stir-fried with steam, what I call: steam-fried. Steam frying can be done simply by shredding cabbage, followed by a quick stir-fry in a tablespoon of oil, then the addition of up to a glass of water, usually in one or two splashes.

This method is quick and easy, depending only on how much cooking the cabbage needs. Once you’ve added the water to the hot stir-fry, put the lid on for 5-10 minutes with the heat turned down to medium. The steam wilts the cabbage, the oil or butter gives it a glaze. Test a bit to see if it’s done. If not, add some extra water as required and put the lid back on for a few minutes more.

To make cabbage a bit more interesting, you can add herbs to the steam-fry. In this recipe I’ve used thyme, lemon thyme and chives along with a wee sliver of garlic in the oil. I’ve also finished the glaze with a splash of balsamic vinegar, which gives a slightly sweet edge and I think works nicely with cabbage. I also slipped in some nutty walnut oil – just a splash as I like that flavour in cabbage too.




1 cabbage

freshly cut herbs, i.e. thyme, rosemary

1 clove garlic

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 glass cold water

1 tablespoon olive oil

small lump of butter

(optional, some walnut oil)

Some chives (chopped) and lemon thyme (removed from stalk) to sprinkle on top

Salt and pepper




  1. Shred the cabbage into strips, not too fine, removing any tough stalks (you can also cook the stalks in the same way – I love eating them, but others are not so keen!)
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a wok or large-based pan (make sure you have a lid)
  3. Add sliced garlic to the hot oil and quickly swish round the pan. Add any thicker herbs (rosemary, thyme) to flavour the oil a bit.
  4. Now add the shredded cabbage and stir-fry for 2 minutes, coating the cabbage with oil. Season with a little sea salt.
  5. Now add some water, making sure it starts to bubble. Half a glass is usually sufficient at this point. Put the lid on, lower the heat slightly, and cook for 5-10 minutes, shaking occasionally. The longer you cook the cabbage, the more likely you will need to add some extra water. Take the lid off and check inside for steam, add water and stir again if necessary, then replace the lid.
  6. Once the cabbage has wilted, remove the lid, make sure that you dry the cabbage by steaming off any excess liquid in the pan. To give the cabbage it’s final glaze, add the balsamic vinegar and stir through.
  7. Turn off the heat.
  8. Sprinkle the top with the extra herbs, some freshly milled black pepper and stir to combine.

A great accompaniment to many meals, Vegetarian-friendly. Try it with cauliflower and macaroni cheese…recipe coming soon…


Walnuts added to cabbage make a great combination, similarly with brussel sprouts.

You can add any herbs you like to this dish. Meaty cabbage: Try steam-frying the shredded cabbage by first rendering the fat from some bacon or pancetta. Remove the fried bacon and any excess oil. Add the cabbage to the bacon fat in the pan, stir-fry and then add the liquid and steam for 5-10 minutes (less for sliced brussel sprouts) and then take the lid off and steam off the excess liquid. Now stir-fry some chopped walnuts into the cabbage and add the chopped crispy bacon back to the dish. I love making this with brussel sprouts and people certainly seem to enjoy it.

Thai Recipes > Stir-Fry > Spicy Sweet & Sour Vegetables 1 March 2006

Posted by cath in mildly spicy, Recipes, stir-fry, Thai food, variations.
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Mildly SpicySpicy Sweet & Sour Vegetables

Serves 4 as a lunch or main meal with steamed rice

3 tablespoons oil
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, sliced
½ cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into strips
1 courgette, cut into strips
8 baby corn, cut in half lengthways
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 handful beansprouts
150g tin pineapple cubes/chunks in natural juice
Big red chillies, use as many as required for desired spiciness, sliced (remove the seeds for a gentle heat)

For the Sauce:
1-2 tablespoons lime juice (roughly the juice of one plump lime)
3 level tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2-3 tablespoons pineapple juice from the tinned pineapple


  1. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together and set aside.
  2. Put the oil in a wok and fry the garlic for a minute or two until golden, add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower and carrot and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, then add the courgette, baby corn and stir-fry for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add the chillies, tomato and continue to stir until the vegetables are cooked (doesn’t take long).
  5. Add the pineapple, the sweet and sour sauce and stir to combine and heat until bubbling (this won’t take long in a hot wok).
  6. Then add the beansprouts and stir well again.

Serve immediately with steamed rice or noodles.

Keep some of the pineapple juice or a cup of water by the wok. Use this instead of more oil to add to the ingredients to keep them loose in the wok. This allows the vegetables to steam-fry and reduces the oil content of the finished dish.

To get the most lime juice from a lime, just give it a quick roll on a chopping board with gentle pressure before cutting and squeezing it…this really works!

This dish can also be made by adding strips of meat to the vegetables, stir-fry the strips of chicken, pork or beef in the garlic and onions and remove from the pan but keep warm. Then adding any seasonal vegetables and stir-fry as above. Return the cooked meat to the pan to combine at the end.

You can also use up pre-cooked meat in this dish, left-over roast chicken works well. Try marinading the cold chicken for half an hour or so in a little soy sauce, sesame oil and add a sprinkle of sesame seeds, before adding to the stir-fry to heat through.

You can use any vegetables that you like (or that are in season) in a stir fry. Simply cut a selection of veg into similar sizes and shapes. Start with the hardest, crunchiest vegetables as these tend to be the longest to cook (e.g. carrots, cauliflower, jerusalem artichokes) and add the more delicate vegetables towards the end (such as finely shredded cabbage, green beans, peas).

Instead of long white beansprouts – I’ve also used mixed sprouts such as lentils, chickpeas, aduki beans. You can make these easily yourself or buy them ready-sprouted from some supermarkets and health food shops.

Need more ideas?

If you like this, try my recipe for sweet and sour pork, with more ideas and variations for stir frying.