Jeremy Pang Talks Oriental Express

Jeremy Pang

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Love Chinese cuisine? Jeremy Pang explains how to stock your store cupboard so that a tasty meal is never far away 

People often assume that when it comes to cooking Asian cuisines, it’s all about the fresh ingredients. Can’t find that specialist ingredient fresh? Then it must mean the dish can’t be cooked. But that’s simply not the case. Over my years of teaching at School of Wok, I’ve come to discover that keeping a few base ingredients in the freezer and pantry can make all the difference to what you can achieve in the kitchen.

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It’s amazing what you can do with frozen herbs or chopped up spices and a well-stocked cupboard. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s the best pastry that really provides that unmistakeable punch of flavour in an Asian kitchen, no matter what fresh food’s around or how bare the refrigerator may be.

Chinese cuisine relies on wonderful balances of sweet, sour, spicy and savoury. Beyond the usual ginger, garlic and spring onion, key store cupboard items include unrefined brown sugars, Sichuan peppercorns, dried red chillies, pickled cabbage and tofu. Then there’s ‘sacred soy beans’; fermented and made into pastes, soy sauces, and brined and dried as the famous preserved ‘black’ bean.

All these alchemical ingredients can transform something that would be nothing more than an ordinary midweek dish into something that goes above and beyond scratching that Saturday night itch for a cheeky takeaway.

Staples & Swaps
In my first book, Chinese Unchopped, I talked through some of the key ingredients found in a Chinese pantry. These not only elevate whatever you’re cooking, but can also be easily swapped for more common ingredients with similar flavour profiles.

Sichuan Peppercorns
This citrusy-flavoured husk of a berry derived from the prickly ash bush in northwest China leaves a numbing feeling on the tip of the tongue. It is one of the main forms of heat in Sichuan cooking and is a feature in many five- spice blends.

The swap
Replace each teaspoon with a crushed mixture of a teaspoon of juniper berries and a teaspoon of chilli flakes.

Chinese Preserved Black Beans
Providing a strong, assertive flavour, Chinese black beans are actually salted, dried soybeans as opposed to pulses. The salt is extremely prominent, as is the deeply savoury flavour.

The swap
None. This ingredient is worth seeking out, as the beans’ distinct flavour is one that’s quite hard to replicate.

Black Rice Vinegar
Made from fermented glutinous rice husks (which are black by nature), this vinegar has a unique, deep flavour that’s sweet, sour and savoury.

The swap
Mix 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce with 2 tablespoons of thin  balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar.

Dried Mandarin Peel
Adding dried mandarin peel to stocks, sauces or rubs lends a unique, complex, bittersweet flavour to a dish.

The swap
Peel a tangerine or mandarin and heat in a dry pan for 10-15 minutes to bring out the essence of citrus peel, then use as directed in your recipe.

Plus: Win A Tsingtao-Inspired Cookery Class
Fancy winning a cooking class for two at the School of Wok in Covent Garden? You’ll learn to make a host of recipes that go perfectly with a cold Tsingtao beer. If you win, you’ll also receive a case of Tsingtao. To enter, click here before 31 May 2017. page1image17040.png

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