Fast, punchy flavours from Korea, Turkey and China
These cheap and cheerful street-food dishes provide instant satisfaction
Crispy fried beef salad
Sampling the cuisines of other cultures is one of the highlights of travel for a true food lover. Alongside the allure of high-end restaurants, I am often drawn to the food of roadside vendors and bustling food markets, served by experts in their craft with skills honed by repeatedly creating the same dish, day in, day out, over many years. This week’s recipes are a nod to some of my favourite street-food dishes that, while cheap and cheerful, pack a serious punch in the flavour stakes and provide instant satisfaction.
Anyone who has been to a Korean restaurant will know all about kimchi-fried rice. Often, cold, cooked rice is fried right in front of you on an open grill at your table, deglazing it and taking on all the flavours of the meat and vegetables that have cooked over the heat. The secret ingredient is kimchi, a fermented Asian cabbage in gochujang (a Korean chilli paste) that gives a spicy, tangy twist to the fried rice. It’s a real treat garnished with toasted sesame seeds and strips of nori seaweed. Like many rice dishes, this is one only improved by the addition of a fried egg plopped on top.
The genius behind Chinese-style crispy fried beef is twofold; the addition of corn flour and dark soy to add a savoury and crispy coating, while a dark sauce consisting of aromatics such as ginger and garlic envelops the strips, resulting in an altogether satisfying bite. It’s a simple method that makes the perfect salty topping to a crisp salad of carrot, cucumber and baby gem lettuce. Perhaps it’s not a specifically traditional Asian recipe, but it evokes all the best elements of the Asian pantry.
The kebab gets a bad rap, but done right it’s a traditional method of cooking meat that should never be sniffed at. When I visited Istanbul a couple of years ago, one of the highlight meals was from a kebab shop where they baked their own breads to serve up tender pieces of flame-licked meat. I am sure I am not alone in enjoying this late-night feast, so here is a slightly lighter version with tender chicken, served family style.
Simple street foods easily re-created in the home kitchen.
CRISPY FRIED BEEF SALAD
This method of cooking crispy beef is one to add to your Asian culinary repertoire. The sauce recipe works well as a glaze for beef or chicken. Serve with a fresh salad – as detailed below – or with fried rice.
400g striploin steak, finely sliced in thin strips
2tsp dark soy sauce
1tbs sesame seeds, toasted
Sunflower oil, to fry
For the sauce
1 large clove garlic, finely grated
1 large thumb-sized piece ginger, finely grated
2tbs rice wine vinegar
2tbs dark soy sauce
2tbs sriracha sauce
1tsp sesame oil
For the salad
2 heads baby gem, leaves separated
1 large carrot, julienne peeled
½ cucumber, shaved in thin ribbons
A handful of coriander and mint leaves
1 red chilli, finely sliced
3 spring onions, finely sliced
In a bowl, mix together the steak, cornflour and soy sauce until completely combined.
Add one inch of oil to a high sided frying pan and place over a medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add a piece of beef; if it produces a steady stream of bubbles, it should be hot enough. Fry the remaining beef in batches, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer the beef to a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Place all the ingredients for the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a steady simmer over a medium-high heat.
Place the beef in a mixing bowl and add the sauce (hold back a little to dress the salad) and sesame seeds. Toss to coat completely.
Arrange the baby gem, carrot and cucumber on a serving platter. Top with the crispy beef and garnish with herbs, chilli and spring onions.
Serve while still warm.
KIMCHI FRIED RICE
The real joy of this recipe is just how few ingredients are required and particularly how quickly it cooks. Kimchi in the jar – a spicy, fermented Korean cabbage – can be found in most supermarkets these days, but if you can’t find some, an Asian food store will have it.
1 small onion, chopped
75g kimchi, roughly chopped
150g leftover cooked rice, cold
1 large free-range egg, lightly whisked
1tbs sesame seeds, toasted
1tbs sunflower oil
1tbs dark soy sauce
1tsp sesame oil
Nori to garnish (optional)
Heat a large pan over a high heat and add the oil. Add the onions to the pan and sauté until they go slightly golden – about three minutes.
Add in the kimchi and a glug of the liquid it comes in and stir fry for one to two minutes or until it’s hot all the way through.
Add the rice to the pan and gently break up while also tossing through the contents of the pan. Season with dark soy sauce and sesame oil and stir through until completely incorporated.
Reduce the heat and in another pan fry the eggs in a little more oil until the whites are no longer translucent and the yolk is still slightly runny.
Serve the kimchi rice in a deep bowl topped with a fried egg, toasted sesame seeds and some strips of nori seaweed.
CHICKEN SHAWARMA PLATE WITH RED PEPPER HUMMUS
Serve this platter-style as detailed below or with the various components stuffed into a warm pitta bread, for a more traditional take. It’s worth making double this recipe for red pepper hummus – spread on toast, it makes a delicious snack or in a sandwich.
2tbs rapeseed oil
Lemon wedges to serve
For the chicken
500g chicken thighs, boneless & skinless, cut in bite-size pieces
100g Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp sea salt
For the salad
2tbs extra virgin olive oil
1tbs white wine vinegar
200g lentils, cooked and cooled
½ red onion, finely sliced
1 romaine lettuce, shredded
½ cucumber, finely sliced
3tbs pine nuts, toasted
A small handful mint, roughly chopped
For the red pepper hummus
2 roasted red peppers, from a jar, seeds removed
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1tsp cayenne pepper
Blitz all the ingredients for the red pepper hummus in a food processor until completely smooth. Season with sea salt to taste and loosen with a few tablespoons of water if required. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Place all the ingredients for the chicken in a mixing bowl and toss to combine completely. Leave to marinade covered for 30 minutes or overnight in the fridge.
Remove the chicken from the fridge 15 minutes before cooking.
Place a large griddle pan over a medium-high heat, add a little oil and fry the chicken in batches for three to four minutes either side or until cooked all the way through. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
Place all the ingredients for the salad in a mixing bowl and toss to combine. Season to taste.
Spread serving plates with red pepper hummus, top with the salad and chicken, and serve with lemon wedges.