European-style winter dishes for Asian food that's lighter but still big on comfort: Adam Liaw. Photo: Supplied
It's an interesting quirk of the way we cook in Australia that we tend to try new things mainly in the warmer months. It may be the additional sunlight giving us more energy, or making us feel like we have more time to cook. It may be that, in the case of Asian food, we associate it with holidays in tropical locations. Or it may simply be that when the weather gets colder, we retreat to the European comfort foods many of us grew up with.
Sadly, if you only cook Asian food when the weather is warm, you're missing out. There are plenty of slow-cooked Asian dishes that are as comforting as a mother's hug and are often a little lighter than European winter classics, which can be heavy with cream, butter and starch.
Korean food is a great example. Soups, grilled meats and punches of chilli make for great cold-weather feasting that won't leave you feeling bloated.
Honey-poached nashi pears with cinnamon Chantilly. Photo: William Meppem
Here are two classic Korean dishes with some extra twists that I'm sure you'll love.
Braised pork and kimchi lettuce wraps
Coconut water braised pork and kimchi lettuce wraps. Photo: William Meppem
Coconut water isn't just for drinking after the gym. Try this recipe for a simple dinner with big impact.
• ¼ cup caster sugar
• 750ml coconut water
• ¼ cup fish sauce
• 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
• 1 tbsp dark rum
• ¼ cup palm sugar
• 1 head garlic
• 1 onion, thickly sliced
• 1.2kg pork belly, skin and bone removed, cut into 5cm strips
• 1/2 cup Japanese mayonnaise
• 1 1/2 cups kimchi
• 1 head butter lettuce
In a large saucepan, heat caster sugar and 2 tbsp of water over medium heat for around 10 minutes, until it forms a dark caramel. Add the coconut water, fish sauce, soy sauce, rum and palm sugar, and stir until the caramel and sugar are dissolved. Add garlic and onion and bring to a simmer. Add the pork belly and enough cold water to cover the pork. Simmer covered for 45 minutes, then uncover, stir and simmer for a further 45 minutes until the pork is tender and the liquid is reduced. Remove pork and slice into 1cm slices. Continue to reduce liquid to a pourable glaze.
Pour the glaze over the sliced pork and bring to the table with the remaining ingredients. To serve, place a piece of pork and a few slices of kimchi in lettuce leaf and top with a little mayonnaise.
Honey-poached nashi pears with cinnamon Chantilly
• 4 small nashi pears, peeled
• 1 cup white wine
• 3 cups water
• ¼ cup honey
• 1¼ cups caster sugar
• juice and rind of 1 lemon
• 4 slices ginger, bruised
• ¼ cup sultanas
• 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts, to serve
• 300ml thickened cream, chilled
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tbsp caster sugar
This twist on a Korean classic can be eaten warm from the pot or chilled from the fridge. Either way, it's delicious. Peel the nashi pears and scoop out the core with a spoon to leave a bowl shape.
Bring the wine, water, honey, caster sugar, lemon juice, lemon rind, ginger and sultanas to a simmer in a medium saucepan and add the pears. Cover with a cartouche of baking paper and put the lid on the pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the pears are tender. Allow to cool in the syrup then chill in the fridge for 1 hour (the pears can also be served warm if you wish).
For the cinnamon chantilly cream, combine all the ingredients in a chilled bowl and whisk to soft peaks.
Place the pears on a plate (you may need to trim them so they sit upright) and put the sultanas and a few tablespoons of syrup into the centre of each pear. Scatter with the pine nuts and serve with lots of the cinnamon chantilly.
When whipping chantilly cream, it's important to keep everything cold. Keep the cream in the fridge and chill the bowl as well.
And don't over-whip it - it should fall from a spoon in soft folds.