Thursday, 29 September 2011

My first ever trip to the Chinese Supermarket - Fish Fragrant Beef and Aubergine

I have been spending an awful lot of time with my mother recently. It's driving me insane. But has also been quite nice (or at least interesting) sometimes. We've 'bonded'. She's been using me as her source of knowledge about the youth of today. I get asked questions such as 'what do boys look like these days?' and 'are they usually attractive?' So I showed her a picture of someone who I thought she'd think was attractive. This is a big step because it reveals to her that I a) use Facebook and b) know some males. Her reaction was to immediately ask what his parents do and suggest that I ditch my current whatever to marry this person who I barely know. She's biased though, she was always destined to hate current whatever from the day she encountered him sneaking out of my house during study leave. She was SO ANGRY. But then later changed her opinion to 'I feel so sorry for him, he looks like an orphan, perhaps he'd like to come over for dinner?' No, mother, the person you chased down the driveway this morning would not like to come over for dinner. Ever. I hope the various pieces of irrelevant information in this paragraph have illustrated to you how much of a mentalist my mother is.

Anyway, the most recent episode of the mother-daughter mini-series had us visiting the chinese supermarket. I needed ingredients to make spicy beef and aubergine. The first time I had spicy beef and aubergine was at Sojo in Oxford. It was so so good. All of the food there was so, so good. When I go back there (it will be soon) I will write about how good it was properly. Anyway, what with my recent constant craving for food that spicy, I thought it's about time that I actually make it for myself. That meant MY FIRST EVER TRIP TO THE CHINESE SUPERMARKET. Actually, that's not quite true. I once went with an ex-friend on the way to the slightly suspicious off-licence which does dubiously good deals on spirits. The off-licence man also gives you free plastic cups! Even if you're not buying anything from his shop and just need plastic cups to drink champagne (and eat cookies) in a field.

Anyway, this was the first time I went to a Chinese supermarket and bought something.  More specifically, I went to Wing Yip in Nechells of Birmingham. I love the fake canopy thing at the entrance of the car park. I do not love the awful smell on the inside of the supermarket. Vomit inducing smell aside, this place is great. Every variety of chinese (and japanese) anything you could want. I left there with soy sauce, black rice vinegar, chilli bean paste, sichuan peppercorns and chinese cooking wine. I'm particularly impressed with how I managed to convince my mother that chinese cooking wine isn't actually alcoholic. 

I couldn't find a recipe that seemed right for what I wanted. I ended up combining two Sunflower recipes. So I suppose what I ended up with is most accurately termed as fish fragrant beef and aubergine. I will remember to get a recipe for Sojo's beef and aubergine on my next visit: this was good but not quite right. Hopefully, by the end of this year, I will be down with the Sichuan cooking. 
Fish Fragrant Beef and Aubergine
500g rump steak, cut into strips
2 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp dark soy
1.5 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 medium to small egg white (beaten)
1 heap tbsp cornflour

4 small aubergines, cut into thick fingers.

5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 thumb sized piece ginger, grated
1 medium onion
5 spring onions, chopped with white and stalks separated.
2 fresh green chillis
3 red chilis, toasted then ground
1 tbsp sichuan peppercorns, lightly rinsed
4 tsp chilli bean paste
2 tsp light soy

2 tbsp chinese cooking wine

2 tbsp chinese black rice vinegar

2 tsp of sugar


Marinade beef in ingredients listed just below it for at least an hour. Once marinaded, heat some oil in a wok until it is SMOKING. Tip the beef in and fry until coloured, about a minute, keeping it moving to stop it sticking together. Remove from wok. Let the oil get REALLY hot again. Add the beef again and this time fry for around two minutes. Set aside.
Fry the aubergines in the wok until browned. Set aside.
Wipe wok clean. Heat oil until very hot then add sichuan peppercorns and chilli for a couple of seconds. Add garlic, ginger, 1 chilli and onion and fry for a few seconds. 
Add the chilli bean sauce and fry 'til fragrant. Add the wine, vinegar and sugar. Add aubergine, coat. Add enough water to cover and cook on a medium heat until the aubergine is soft. 
When just turned soft, add the spring onion stalks and beef for a minute. To finish, sprinkle with chilli and spring onion whites.
A daddy long legs was killed in the making of this blog post.

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