A quest for gastro-liberation, an excuse to buy more cookbooks…

Crouching tofu, mincing pig


Chuc mung nam moi!*

I hope you all took the welcome opportunity to scoff some dim sum this weekend to celebrate the ushering in of the year of the rabbit:

(Yeah. Okay, I just wanted an excuse to post a picture of a ridiculous angora bunny. Look at it!! It’s like a enormous, rotund ball of candyfloss adorableness. I just want to squeeze one until it becomes a puff of smoke!)


Being the massive organised nerd that I am, I decided to combine the opportunity to make my first food resolution from February’s book (Jamie’s America) and to completely go overboard with a Lunar New Year feast.

(top to bottom: sesame and honey glazed ribs; gingered tofu and aubergine stir fry; sher ping pancakes)

For the uninitiated and intrigued, sher ping pancakes are essentially giganticised versions of Chinese fried dumplings that are commonly served as dim sum. Now, I love dim sum as much as the next greedy person (possibly more) but I do have a slight problem with them. They’re not for those who want a sated appetite and for a wanton glutton like me, that inevitably leads to bowling home to make Marmite toast as ballast before bedtime.

Sher ping pancakes present the perfect compromise – all that yummy dim sum goodness but in a format the size of your face. Additional bonus: this is one of those magical recipes which conjures the illusion of a masterchef when indeed, all you’ve done is knock up a simple dough and scrunched a few ingredients together to constitute your filling. You might be mildly dubious as I was (this broke gastro-territory for me – it didn’t involve tinned tomatoes or stock for one thing…) but give it a try and wonder at the alchemy of this recipe.

For a truly celebratory feast though, a stack of (admittedly impressive looking) pancakes wouldn’t be enough. On the similarly impressive-but-easy tip, came my sesame and honey glazed ribs and to temper the richness, a gingered tofu and aubergine stir-fry with steamed rice.

Sher ping pancakes

adapted from Jamie’s America by Jamie Oliver

Another thing I forgot to mention whilst I was extolling the virtues of this recipe – it’s wonderfully versatile. Not a fan of pig in your pancakes? Chopped raw prawn and chives would work just as beautifully. What about minced beef infused with dried chilli and sweetened with honey? Much as I’m not a fan of minced chicken, I imagine that this would be equally marvellous with the grated zest of a lemon and ginger. These pancakes press all the buttons that fast food has the monopoly on. Substantial parcels which are flavoursome and juicy within, hot and crisp without.

for the dough

450g white bread flour

225ml water

4 tablespoons sunflower oil

salt and pepper

for the filling

250g minced pork

thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely grated

two garlic cloves, minced or finely grated

three spring onions, finely chopped

quarter of a large leek, finely shredded (white and green)

packet of coriander, finely chopped (stalks and leaves)

salt and pepper

for the dipping sauce

soy sauce

rice vinegar or sushi vinegar (white wine or cider vinegar will suffice otherwise)

chilli sauce (srirarcha if you can get it, Tobasco otherwise)

juice of half a lime

To start with, prepare the dough for the pancakes by combining all the ingredients together in a large bowl and combining with a fork. Once the dough starts to come together, briefly knead it to fully combine and leave covered with a clean tea towel until needed.

Similarly, combine all the ingredients of the filling together in a large bowl using your hands to ensure that it is all evenly combined. The further you make this mixture in advance, the better this will taste as the ingredients will have had time to get to know one another and really mingle in together. An hour, if you are pressed for time (or just impatient for dinner) should do. Cover your mixture with clingfilm and refrigerate until needed.

Now for the assembling. Jamie recommends making the pancakes in advance and chilling prior to cooking. Having made the pancakes without chilling prior to cooking and with, I can safely reassure you that it makes no difference. In fact, I found it easier to make and cook the pancakes as I went along.

On a floured surface, roll your dough (which should have risen nicely) into a long sausage shape. Divide into eight pieces using a sharp knife. Form your dough into a palm-sized disc and place a heaped tablespoon of the filling into the middle. Wrap your pancake by pulling the sides in together so that they completely cover the filling and meet at the top of the parcel. Give it a twist to seal and then compress into a pancake by pressing down using your palm. You want to make the pancakes fairly flat, perhaps around 2cm in thickness so that they cook all the way through without the dough scorching.

To cook, heat a large non-stick frying pan and add a little oil (I found that cooking spray was perfect for this as you want to avoid greasiness and get these nice and dryly crisp). Place your pancake in the pan, cooking until golden brown on both sides. It should take approximately 4 minutes per side to cook your pancakes all the way through. Of course, if you’re not sure, take a hit for the team and crack one open to check. As it’s already open, you might as well test it out. Chef privileges and all.

Soy sauce on its own would make an excellent accompaniment to the pancakes but a dipping sauce infused with the garlicky heat and spice of srirarcha chilli sauce; the sweetness of sushi vinegar; and the bright zing of lime juice lift these pancakes into the sublime.

Sesame and honey glazed ribs

I appropriated this glaze from Nigella Lawson’s recipe for cocktail sausages – the combination of sesame oil, soy sauce and honey combines to make a stickily delectable glaze for sausages and ribs alike. It benefits from additions which you may add on a whim. The fiery intensity of a chopped bird’s-eye chilli or minced ginger would be welcome bedfellows. Substituting maple syrup for the honey would impart a subtle smokiness which would pair well with a big juicy banger (steady on…)

500g pork ribs

2 generous tablespoons of honey

2 tablespoons of sesame oil

6 tablespoons of dark soy sauce

sesame seeds (optional)

Combine your ingredients for the glaze and marinate the ribs for as long as possible. Again, an hour seemed to be sufficient but the more time you have, the better.

Preheat your oven to 200c and bring this down to 170c once you put the ribs into the oven. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until the marinade has coalesced into a bubbling treacly glaze. Scatter with sesame seeds and serve whilst hot.

Gingered tofu and aubergine stir fry

adapted from Ching-He Huang’s recipe for ginger sweet tofu

Tofu is one of those things that people feel very strongly about. The wobbly jelly texture and milky blandness of it are quite often the reason why it’s so maligned (apart from it’s credit-card hippy associations). Marinading the tofu before cooking helps to combat the blandness that it can suffer from. Be fearless with your seasoning and flavour choices, it will take to strong and robust flavours well.

1 pack of firm tofu, diced

1 medium aubergine, diced

thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely grated or minced

2 spring onions, finely sliced

1 bird’s-eye chilli, finely sliced

4 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

cooking spray (or vegetable oil)

Combine the grated ginger, soy sauce and sugar to create the marinade and combine with the cubed tofu and spring onions. Marinade for as long as possible (again, an hour seems to be the minimum to allow the flavours to mingle and deepen).

Once you’re ready to cook, heat a wok and spray with cooking spray. (Aubergines tend to greedily soak up oil, so I find that cooking spray yields enough grease to cook without weighing down the dish). Add in your cubed aubergine and fry until soft and golden (don’t worry if you get charred bits, they’ll be the best bits!) Add in your tofu and marinade, cooking through until everything is piping hot and the marinade has reduced slightly. Serve with steamed jasmine rice and lashings of good fortune for the new year.

*That’s “Happy new year” to those readers who aren’t fluent in Vietnamese. Or in using Google Translate.


Author: Hong-Anh

Climb aboard the Good Ship Gastrobabble as we voyage upon the unchartered waters of my neglected cookbook library (and muddle my metaphors faster than a KitchenAid on full-speed).

4 thoughts on “Crouching tofu, mincing pig

  1. Wow! That really is a feast. Those pancakes and ribs look particularly good (i’m not a fan of tofu really) you amaze me gastrobabble. X

  2. Do you do anything to the tofu re: liquid removing? My attempts at cooking tofu frequently fail – always seems to be too much liquid involved. Bah!

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