These two dishes are excellent accompaniments to drinks. They take a bit of time to prepare, but both can be cooked at the last minute or fried in advance and reheated in an oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.
Shrimp toast (pictured)
This is a luxurious version of the popular Cantonese snack. I used fresh whole shrimp, but it took a while to behead and shell them, so I’ll look the other way if you buy fresh, peeled shrimp meat instead – just make sure it’s good quality. Instead of the usual white bread, I bought ready-fried yau ja gwai, or Chinese dough sticks, because they’re so deliciously crunchy when refried. Yau ja gwai are sold in pairs – you’ll probably need one and a half pairs with this quantity of shrimp, to make about 24 shrimp toasts.
700 grams fresh shrimp (with bodies about 6cm long), heads and shells removed, or 300 grams of fresh shrimp meat
100 grams fresh water chestnuts, peeled
15 grams spring onions
5 grams fresh ginger, peeled and very thinly sliced
About ½ tsp fine sea salt
A pinch of ground white pepper
10 grams cornstarch
Two pairs of yau ja gwai
Fresh coriander leaves
1 or 2 red banana chillies, finely sliced
Chinese brown vinegar
Cut the shrimp flesh into small pieces, then hand chop until it’s almost a paste. Finely chop the water chestnuts and spring onions, and mince the ginger, and add to the shrimp. Add the salt, pepper and cornstarch and mix thoroughly. Chill for at least an hour.
Pull the yau ja gwai apart lengthways and use a serrated knife to slit each dough stick along its entire length. Use your fingers to gently enlarge the cut and form a cavity, leaving the yau ja gwai intact at the bottom. Fill the cavity with some of the shrimp mixture, packing it in firmly. Use a serrated knife to carefully cut each yau ja gwai into pieces 3cm wide and garnish each with a slice of chilli and one coriander leaf. Refrigerate until you’re ready to fry.
Set a skillet over a medium flame and add oil to the depth of about 2.5cm. Once the oil is hot (about 170 degrees Celsius) add the pieces of shrimp toast, decorated side down. Fry for two minutes, then turn them over and fry for another minute. Adjust the flame to keep the oil at 160 to 170 degrees. Drain the excess oil by placing the shrimp toasts on their sides on paper towels. Serve hot, with small bowls of vinegar for dipping. These can be made in advance and reheated.
Once prepared, the uncooked wontons can be covered with clingfilm and refrigerated until it’s time to fry them, or they can be fried in advance and reheated.
3 medium-sized dried Chinese mushrooms
250 grams fresh shrimp, heads and shells removed, or 100 grams fresh shrimp meat
10 grams spring onions
60 grams peeled fresh water chestnuts
2-3 thin slices fresh ginger
300 grams slightly fatty minced pork
20ml soy sauce
20ml rice wine
10ml sesame oil
½ tsp granulated sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
A pinch of ground white pepper
2 tsp cornstarch
About 60 thin wonton wrappers
Oil, for frying
For the dipping sauce:
Colman’s English mustard powder, mixed with water to form a paste
Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water until soft, then squeeze out any excess liquid. Remove the stems and chop the caps into 5mm dice. Finely chop the shrimp meat, spring onions and water chestnuts, mince the ginger and combine. Add the pork, mushroom, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, salt, pepper and cornstarch and mix thoroughly. Fry a little mixture in a pan and taste to check the seasoning; adjust, if necessary.
Line a tray with clingfilm, and whisk the egg in a bowl.
Hold a wonton wrapper in your left hand (if you’re right handed) so one corner is facing you. Put a spoonful of the filling on the near corner of the wrapper and fold the wrapper over twice to enclose. Brush a little beaten egg on the left corner, then bring the left and right corners together so they’re overlapping slightly and press firmly together. Lay the wonton on the tray.
Continue with the remaining filling and wrappers.
In a skillet over medium heat, add oil to the depth of about 4cm. When the oil is hot (about 170 degrees), fry the wonton in batches until golden, turning as needed to cook evenly. Drain on paper towels.
Make a dipping sauce by mixing the reconstituted mustard powder with soy sauce and serve in small bowls with the wontons.
Styling: Nellie Ming Lee
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