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Chinese Unchopped: An Introduction to Chinese Cooking

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After several career changes, Jeremy decided to follow his heart and bring the world of Chinese cuisine to fellow food enthusiasts. In autumn 2009 he established School of Wok in London, a mobile cookery school specialising in teaching Eastern cuisine to students in the comfort of their own homes. Chop 10 large red chillies, 2 red onions, 2 lemongrass stalks, 1 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, 6 garlic cloves, 6 macadamia nuts (optional), 1-2 tsp belacan or toasted shrimp paste (vegetarians can use 2 tsp ready-made crispy fried onions), then whizz with the soaked chillies to a smooth paste in a food processor. Turn wok onto high heat and add ½ tbsp vegetable oil. Add marinated pork and sear until cooked, then remove. Add another ½ tbsp vegetable oil into wok. Stir-fry vegetables, then add pork, followed by noodles and sauce mix. Stir for 1-2 minutes and serve on a plate. Anna Chan, founder of Asian Leadership Collective, grew up as a self-proclaimed "British Chinese takeaway kid" and believes that the Chinese takeaway meal is quintessential to the definition of British Chinese food: "I remember the food from behind the counter. It's food that is adaptable, agile to the tastes and trends of the local palate." She says she craves crinkle cut chips and her dad's curry sauce, and will always ask for egg noodles with beansprouts, king prawns and onions – the curry sauce to be poured on top. However, the food Chan ate at home was different to what was served in the shop, which was more traditional Cantonese and Hakka food. What seems to be missing from the social media conversations is the people behind the food. All these dishes that are clearly loved by many are, and always have been, created by people – and are most often about family.

If you want to add the classic soft-boiled egg, for a non-vegan version, add 15-20 tablespoons of dark soy sauce to a pan of boiling water and cook room temperature eggs for 6 minutes. Cool in iced water, peel and leave in the cooled soy liquid until ready to serve.British Chinese food, and more specifically Chinese takeaway food, has recently become a focal point on TikTok among Americans with #britishchinesefood amassing 36.9 million views, spurring a flurry of controversy and debate. This dish requires your wok to be smoking hot. I would recommend leaving it on a high heat for at least 30-60 seconds before starting this stir-fry. Get that extractor fan on high, open all your windows and put away any laundry hanging in the kitchen – unless you want your clothes, too, to have a smoky finish.

The vastness of what British Chinese food is, and can be, in the UK is rapidly expanding. Jason Li, an ex-restaurant manager who currently runs a London-based Shanghainese supper club called Dreams of Shanghai, arrived in the UK in 1993 and has seen an evolution in the type of Chinese cuisine on offer over the past few decades. "It used to be 99% Cantonese food, and then 10 years ago, we saw a rise in Sichuan food," he said. "Now, there are a lot different cuisines, catering to new Chinese migrants such as students." Additionally, a wide range of people come to his supper club, often with some connection to China and wide knowledge of the cuisine. Soak the dried red chillies in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Finely chop the pak choi, kale, garlic, ginger, spring onion (scallion) and coriander (cilantro) and place in a large mixing bowl, then add the minced pork and the marinade ingredients and mix well. To make the fat cat fold, place one dumpling pastry flat on a clean surface. Place roughly one teaspoon of the marinated mix in the centre of the pastry. Dab a little water all around the edge of the pastry, then fold the top of the pastry over the filling until it meets the bottom edge and press down, closing the edges of the pastry to make a half-moon shape. Now, holding the side edges of the pastry, with the half-moon still pointing downwards, pull the two edges (cat ears) upwards to meet in the middle, creating a ‘fat cat’ shape.Looking forward, Lau wants to see much more regional Chinese food being showcased, including from places outside of China, such as from Indo-Chinese, Mauritius Chinese and Thai Chinese restaurants and cooks. And she suggests we should look at British Chinese food as another regional Chinese cuisine. Place 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Place fish skin side down. Press fish with a spatula for 30 seconds. Turn to medium heat and cook until fish is half cooked. Turn fish. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Place the tofu into the middle of the pan and the carrot quarters around the edges. Fry, turning from time to time, until the tofu is browned on both sides. Now add the spring onion around the edge of the pan and continue to fry for 1-2 minutes. Pour the miso glaze over the top of it all and bring to a vigorous boil for 2-3 minutes until syrupy in texture. You are now ready to make your curry sauce. Pour the vegetable oil into a medium saucepan and bring to a medium heat. Fry the onion for roughly five–six minutes, stirring occasionally, until well softened and starting to brown. Add the garlic, red chilli and curry leaves and continue to fry for another 2–3 minutes. After about 30 seconds, you should start to smell the distinct aroma of the curry leaves. Do not allow the leaves to burn, but once they are starting to brown a little, add the curry paste and stir well. It should start to boil within about 30 seconds or so.

For the majority of British people, Chinese food from their local takeaway comes with a sense of nostalgia. But with this nostalgia comes the danger of "museum-ifying" it, explained Jenny Lau, a writer who founded the platform Celestial Peach that investigates East and South East Asian identity and community, primarily through food. By this, she means that without fully appreciating the evolution of the food and how each generation tweaks recipes, it can be seen as static, like an artefact within British culture. It can also limit our understanding of what it means to be Chinese in Britain, relegating the identity of Chinese people to the foods of takeaways. There is a reason why this [British] Chinese food is still one of the most popular foods in the UK. The flavour profile is what people look for in comfort food," he said.Heat 5-6 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok over a medium heat, then add the paste. Reduce the heat to low and fry for 8-10 minutes until it turns a dark orange or brown. Stir in the liquid ingredients, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 4-5 minutes until the sambal stops steaming and starts to sizzle again. Keep scraping the bottom of the wok every so often to create a ‘chilli jam’ underneath the oil. Transfer to a sterilised jar, seal and leave to cool. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week. Place the salmon skin side down in the cornflour tray and press down. Place skin side down again into milk, then the sesame seed tray. Soak 10 dried red chillies in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain and chop. Mix 1 tbsp tomato purée, 3 tbsp tamarind concentrate, 3 tbsp light soy sauce, 90ml kecap manis and 1 tsp salt in a bowl with 120ml water. Place room-temp eggs into boiling water for 5½ minutes. Remove and cool in cold water. Peel eggs and soak in mixture for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in your wok over a high heat until smoking hot. Swirl the oil around the wok a little and then add the marinated beef and sear for 1 minute on each side. Next add the sliced red onion to the wok and start to fold through. Add the spring onion and garlic and continue to stir-fry for 1-2 minutes, giving the wok a good shake every 20-30 seconds. Place watercress over noodles and flash fry beansprouts for 30 seconds with some salt, pepper and a dash of Lee Kum Kee Pure Sesame Oil. Pour beansprouts over the noodles. Garnish with spring onions.Following the success of his mobile kitchen, School of Wok opened its first permanent professional kitchen in May 2012 in Covent Garden, near London’s Chinatown. Since then, the School has gone from strength to strength, winning The British Cookery School Awards in 2014, and teaching over 60,000 students the secrets of Asian cuisines. Place the steak in a mixing bowl and massage the marinade ingredients into the meat, saving the cornflour until last. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a separate bowl.

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