Sichuan Suan La Huang Gua (pickled cucumber)

300g small cucumbers
1/2 tbls salt
1/4 cup shredded ginger
1 red chilli, shredded
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, lightly crushed
3 dried red chillies, shredded
1.5 tbls rice vinegar
1 tbls sugar

Halve and de-seed cucumbers, slice into 5cm strips,
mix with salt and set aside 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and dry.
Combine cucumber with ginger and fresh chilli.
Heat sesame oil and 1 tbls vegetable oil, add peppercorns,
garlic and dried chillies, fry 30 seconds, pour over cucumbers and allow to cool.
Add vinegar and sugar. Allow to stand 6 hours in fridge before serving.

Inspired by Zhong Ye Gong, small eatery near Forbidden City – Beijing

Rou Si Xiao Qie Zi (eggplant with pork)

350g long Chinese eggplants
2 spring onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 thin slices ginger, shredded
2 tsp chilli bean paste
1 small green capsicum, diced
150g pork chop, shredded
2 tbls soy sauce
2 tsp sugar

Roll cut eggplant diagonally into long pieces, then
fry in 3tbls oil until soft and golden – set aside.
Heat 1 tbls oil and fry spring onion, garlic, ginger,
chilli bean paste, capsicum and pork – stir 5 minutes.
Add eggplant, soy sauce and sugar – stir 5 minutes.

Inspired by small eatery near Red Square, Beijing.


Chao Qing Cai (stir fried spinach)

1 bunch spinach leaves
3 cloves garlic, pounded
3 dried red chillies, halved lengthwise
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Heat 1 tbls oil and add garlic and chillies
– stir 20 seconds.
Add spinach and soy sauce – stir until wilted.
Finish with sesame oil and serve immediately.

Inspired by Puzhou Changuan eatery, Songpan – Sichuan.

Tu dou si (shredded potato stir-fry)

350g waxy potatoes, shredded
2 tbls ginger, shredded
4 long dried red chillies, shredded
2 cloves garlic, bruised
2 spring onions, shredded
1 tbls sugar
1 tbls soy sauce
1 tbls black rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil

Soak, rinse and drain potato shreds.
Heat 2 tbls oil and fry ginger, chilli and garlic 30 seconds.
Add potato and spring onion – stir 30 seconds.
Add sugar, soy sauce and vinegar – stir 2 minutes.
Add sesame oil and serve immediately.

Recipe from Li Qiao Ling, Xian

Baigan Bharta (mashed eggplant)

2 eggplants (800g total)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2cm ginger, chopped
4 long green chillies, chopped
1 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tbls coriander leaves, chopped

Char whole eggplants over flame or under grill until black.
Cool, peel and mash – set aside.
Heat 3 tbls ghee and sizzle cumin seeds.
Add onion and garlic – stir until soft.
Add ginger and chilli – stir.
Add chilli powder, turmeric and eggplant – stir until oil separates.
Add tomatoes and salt to taste – cook 5 minutes.
Garnish with coriander.

Inspired by Sammaan Restaurant, Dehra Doon – Uttarakhand.

Yum Talay (Seafood salad)

6 mussels, cleaned
6 large prawns
150g squid, cleaned
1 clove garlic
2 bird’s eye chillies
2 tsp palm sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 tbls fish sauce
2 shallots, sliced
1 tomato, sliced
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 handful mint leaves
1 cucumber, sliced

Pound together garlic and chillies.
Add sugar, lime juice and fish sauce – set aside.
Barbecue squid, prawns and mussels until just cooked.
Slice squid into bite sized pieces.
Combine shallots, tomato and herbs – mix with dressing and seafood.
Serve immediately, garnished with cucumber.

Inspired by Jai Poon Lap seaside eatery, Pratchuap Kiri Khan.

Matar Paneer (Peas and cheese)

1 cup dried peas, soaked in water
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tej patta (bay leaves)
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
2cm ginger
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbls coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tbls tomato paste
1.5 tsp garam masala
300g paneer, diced
3 tbls mint leaves, chopped

Boil peas until tender – set aside.
Puree together onion, garlic and ginger.
Heat 3 tbls oil and sizzle cumin seeds and tej patta.
Add onion paste and fry until golden.
Add turmeric, coriander and chilli powder – stir.
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, garam masala and salt – cook until pulpy.
Add peas, paneer and 1 cup of pea water – simmer 10 minutes.
Add mint.

Inspired by Sharma Bhojna Bandar – Pathankot, Punjab