Perennial Chinese restaurant favourite: Lemon chicken. Photo: William Meppem
Chinese food is one of the world's most popular cuisines. From Malaysia and Singapore's Hainanese chicken rice to Peru's Chifa cuisine, Chinese food far from home is evolving in new and creative directions.
Yes, it's true; the perennial Chinese restaurant favourite in the West isn't really from China at all. Most sources attribute it to Cantonese chef Lee Lum at New York's famous Chinese restaurant Pearl's, back in the 1960s. Don't let the fact it's not from China distract you; it's a fantastic dish all the same.
Adam Liaw's tallarin saltado: China via Peru. Photo: William Meppem
2 chicken breast fillets, skin removed
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp shao hsing wine
2 egg whites
4 tbsp cornflour
about 1 litre vegetable oil, for shallow frying
shredded iceberg lettuce, to serve
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup white vinegar
1 lemon, juiced and grated rind
¼ tsp salt
½ cup light chicken stock or water
1 small carrot, very finely sliced
2 spring onions, very finely sliced
2 tsp cornflour mixed into 2 tbsp of cold water
1. Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally into two large, flat pieces. Toss with the soy sauce and shao hsing wine and set aside for a few minutes. Lightly whip the egg whites until just frothy then whisk through the cornflour to make a loose batter.
2. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or wok to 170C. Dip the chicken into the batter and shake off any excess. Fry the chicken pieces for around six minutes, turning after three minutes, until lightly browned all over. Remove from the oil and drain well.
3. For the lemon sauce, bring the sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and rind, salt and stock to the boil in a small saucepan or clean wok. Add the carrot and spring onion and toss until the vegetables are softened. Drizzle in the cornflour mixture while stirring and cook for about one minute until thickened.
4. Slice the chicken and arrange it on top of the shredded lettuce. Pour the sauce over that to serve.
In Peru, Chifa restaurants can be found everywhere. It's a style of eating developed by Chinese migrants in the 1920s using locally available ingredients, and the result is a unique South American-influenced cuisine that is very different from its Chinese beginnings. Tallarin saltado is a popular Chifa fried noodles dish using cooked pasta in place of Chinese egg noodles.
400g dried linguine or spaghetti
400g sirloin steak, thinly sliced
1 tsp cornflour
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
½ red capsicum, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup coriander, finely chopped, to serve
1 tbsp fresh jalapeno chillies, finely chopped (optional)
1. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain well and chill in cold running water. Drain again and set aside.
2. Toss the sliced steak in the cornflour and one tablespoon of soy sauce. Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large frypan over a high heat and cook the beef until it's well browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Heat the remaining oil in the same pan and add the red onion and fry until softened.
4. Add the capsicum and tomatoes and toss until the capsicum is softened. Add the drained noodles, salt, remaining soy sauce, vinegar and sugar and toss until well combined. Return the meat to the pan and toss for a further two to three minutes.
5. Toss through the spring onions and serve scattered with coriander and jalapeno chillies.