Yotam Ottolenghi’s Taiwanese recipes (2024)

Iwould love to feast the night away at one of Taipei’s many food markets. Freshly made dumplings, bowls of hot noodles, fried chicken, sticky rice, Chinese tea eggs, oyster omelette, fermented tofu, mochi balls… I’d be the one arriving very early and leaving very late. But I recently experienced the next best thing when my friend Garry Bar-Chang (whose mum is Taiwanese) cooked a bunch of chilli-, ginger- and garlic-heavy Taiwanese dishes for the Ottolenghi team. We were all expecting steamed buns, but instead we got a beef soup with an unbelievably deep flavour and three lip-smacking (and burning) stir-fries. He shared his kitchen secrets with me; get frying.

Quick sea bass with ginger and garlic

Have everything prepped before you start cooking, because it all happens very quickly once you do. Serves four with some steamed rice.

2 tsp rice-wine vinegar
6cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin julienne strips, plus 1 tsp finely grated ginger
8 garlic cloves, peeled: 6 finely sliced, 2 finely grated
2 tbsp sunflower oil
4 skin-on sea bass fillets
1½ red chillies, cut in half lengthways, deseeded and cut into julienne strips
4 spring onions, trimmed and cut on an angle into 3mm-thick slices
2½ tbsp light soy sauce (Kikkoman is my go-to brand for this)

Mix the vinegar, grated ginger and grated garlic, and set aside.

Put the oil in a large saute pan on a high heat. Once hot, lay in two fish fillets skin side down, cook for a minute, then flip and cook for 30 seconds more. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining fish (you should have enough oil left in the pan). Once cooked, transfer to the plate and leave the pan on the heat. Fry the julienned ginger for 30 seconds, stirring continuously, then add the sliced garlic and chilli, and stir-fry for another minute, until golden. Add the spring onion, stir-fry for a minute, then stir in the rice vinegar mixture, soy sauce and 75ml cold water. Return the fish to the pan, just to warm through, and serve.

Beef noodle soup

Beef noodle soup is ubiquitous in Taiwan. Everyone has their own version and everyone thinks theirs in the best; Garry’s is based on the recipe he learned from his mum, Mei-Hui Li. A pressure cooker will cut the cooking time dramatically: add the spring onion before you close the lid, then, once the cooker is hissing, steam for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes, until the pressure drops and it’s safe to open. Serves six.

8 star anise
5g dried liquorice sticks (if you can’t get hold of any, up the star anise to 12)
2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
½ tsp fennel seeds
50ml sunflower oil
1.2kg beef shin, boned, cut into 5cm chunks and patted dry
6cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 2mm slices
10 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly crushed with the flat of a knife
2 red chillies, cut in half lengthways and deseeded
200ml Chinese rice wine
60ml premium dark soy sauce
150ml light soy sauce (again, Kikkoman for preference)
3 tbsp demerara sugar
2.8 litres boiling water
6 spring onions, trimmed and cut in half widthways
250g dry udon noodles

Put the first four ingredients in muslin and tie into a bundle.

In a 30cm-wide and very deep pot for which you have a lid, heat the oil on a high flame. Once it’s very hot, add the beef (take care, because the oil will spit) and saute for about three minutes, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned (depending on the size of your pan, it may be better to do this in two batches). Add the ginger and stir-fry for three minutes, then add the garlic, chilli and muslin bundle, and stir-fry for six minutes more. Don’t worry if things start sticking to the base of the pan, because it will be deglazed later by the liquids.

Add the rice wine, both soy sauces, the sugar and boiling water, and stir to combine. (If your pan struggles to accommodate all that in one go, hold back some of the water and add it later, once some of the liquid in the pan has evaporated.) Bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat to medium and leave to cook for 90 minutes. After this time, add the spring onions, cover and cook for another hour.

When the soup is nearly ready, cook the noodles as per the packet instructions, then divide between six bowls, top with the soup (discard the muslin bundle) and serve.

Stir-fried cabbage with garlic and chilli

You can buy Japanese-style flat cabbages in Chinese and Middle Eastern supermarkets. They are much sweeter than normal white cabbage and cook far more quickly, too. You could use regular cabbage here, but you’ll need to cook it for a bit longer and it won’t go quite as crisp. This is a lovely accompaniment to stir-fried pork and sticky rice. Serves four as a side dish.

3 tbsp sunflower oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly sliced
2 red chillies, deseeded, and cut widthways into 2cm pieces
5 spring onions, trimmed and cut on an angle into 3cm pieces
½ Japanese-style flat white cabbage (see introduction), leaves separated and roughly torn in half)
¾ tsp salt

Heat the oil in a large saute pan on a high flame. Once hot, stir-fry the garlic and chilli for a minute, until golden, then add the spring onions and stir-fry for two minutes. Add the cabbage in stages (it will wilt and shrink down as it cooks), and the salt and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, until the cabbage is cooked and soft, but still retains some bite. Leave to rest for five minutes before serving.

Pork and preserved vegetable stir-fry

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Taiwanese recipes (1)

The inspiration for this dish came from Garry’s love of the savoury, crunchy preserved vegetable topping that’s sprinkled on top of noodle soup. He’s essentially converted that topping into the star turn of a main course dish. These preserved vegetables are not the easiest ingredient to find, granted, but that’s a perfect excuse for a trip to Chinatown (or for an online shop). I used the Fish Well brand’s preserved mustard greens; feel free to experiment with other preserved vegetables. You can buy sprouted mung beans from healthfood shops and some supermarkets, but they’re also very easy to sprout at home: soak about 100g mung beans in water overnight, drain, then leave for two days in a bowl covered with a clean tea towel. Rinse them once or twice a day, adding a little water, and they’ll sprout before too long. Make more than you need for this, because they’re lovely sprinkled over all kinds of salads. Serves four with some sticky rice.

20g cornflour
2 tsp premium dark soy sauce
40ml light soy sauce (Kikkoman, ideally)
500g pork loin fillet, cut into 3-4mm-thick slices
320g Chinese preserved mustard greens or other preserved vegetables (see introduction)
75ml sunflower oil
2 red chillies, deseeded, cut in half lengthways and then into 2cm pieces
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
6 spring onions, cut into 2cm pieces
200g sprouting mung beans

In a medium bowl, combine the cornflour, dark soy sauce and two teaspoons of the light soy sauce, to make a thin paste. Toss the pork in the paste, making sure it’s covered all over, then leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes. (After marinating, separate the pork slices, because they may have clumped together.)

Wash the preserved vegetables in cold water, drain and set aside.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a wok or large frying pan on a high flame. Once the oil is very hot, add the pork, spreading out the pieces so they don’t overlap, and leave to fry for 30 seconds. Turn over the pork, again making sure the slices don’t overlap, and fry for another 30 seconds, until golden-brown. Transfer the pork to a plate, wipe clean the pan and return to a high heat.

Heat another three tablespoons of oil in the pan and, once very hot, stir-fry the chilli and garlic for 30 seconds. Add the spring onions, stir-fry for a minute, then add the preserved vegetables and stir-fry for another two minutes. Return the pork to the pan, add the final two tablespoons of light soy sauce, and stir-fry for three minutes. Take off the heat, stir in the sprouting beans and serve at once.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Taiwanese recipes (2024)
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