- Lifestyle

Playing with fire: three extra-spicy recipes from Billy Law

From Sichuan-style eggplant to gong bao chicken, these extra-hot recipes from a MasterChef alumnus will raise your pulse

Billy Law

Thu 9 Jul 2020 18.30 BST

Fire dumplings in chilli oil
Some like it hot: fire dumplings in chilli oil. Photograph: Georgia Gold
Fire dumplings in chilli 0il
(Pictured above)

Have you ever hosted a dumpling party? I like to invite my friends over and gather around the dinner table, where we banter and fold dumplings together. Then we all share our reward of silky smooth dumplings doused in red-hot chilli oil, washed down with a cold beer. It’s absolutely my favourite pastime.

Makes 40–50

To make the dumplings
40–50 square gyoza wrappers
Spring onions, thinly sliced, to garnish

For the filling
500g fatty minced pork
1 bunch garlic chives, finely chopped
1 free-range egg
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 tsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp cornflour

For the sauce
1 tbsp chilli oil, plus extra to serve
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese black rice vinegar
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp pork lard (optional)

To make the dumpling filling, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and use a fork or chopsticks to mix vigorously for two to three minutes, until the mixture is homogenous and sticky.

Set up a workstation with a small bowl of water, the dumpling filling, gyoza wrappers and a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Place a wrapper in your palm, then place a teaspoon of filling in the centre. Fold the wrapper in half (into a triangle), dab some water on the two longest points, then fold both points round to meet each other and pinch together to seal. The dumpling should look like a mini boat, similar to a tortellini. Place the dumpling on the prepared tray and repeat to make 40–50 dumplings.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil over medium–high heat. Working in batches of 10 dumplings at a time, carefully lower the dumplings into the pan and give the water a quick stir. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the dumplings, stirring occasionally, for three to five minutes, until they float to the surface.

To make the spicy dumpling sauce, place all the ingredients in a serving bowl. Ladle 60ml of the boiling dumpling water into the bowl and stir to combine. Repeat this process to make portions of dumpling sauce for each of your guests.

Once the dumplings are ready, scoop them out using a wire-mesh strainer or slotted spoon and transfer to the bowls with the spicy dumpling sauce. Drizzle extra chilli oil over the dumplings and garnish with spring onion.

Sichuan-style eggplant
“Yuxiang” is a famous seasoning in Sichuan cuisine. Despite the term literally meaning “fish fragrance” in Chinese, this popular eggplant dish actually contains no seafood. The harmonious balance of salty, sweet, sour and spicy in the sauce really makes the eggplant sing, making it so much more than just a naughty emoji.

Serves 4 as a side dish

For the eggplant
3 long Chinese eggplants (about 600g)
Sea salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely crushed
2 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
2 tbsp doubanjiang (see note)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5cm knob of ginger, grated
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve

For the yuxiang sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
2 tsp cornflour (corn starch)
1 tbsp sugar

Cut the eggplants in half, then cut each half into quarters. Place the eggplant on a baking tray, skin side down, and lightly sprinkle salt over the top. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the eggplant to sweat out some of its juices, then rinse and pat dry with paper towel.

Meanwhile, combine the yuxiang sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat until smoking. Add the eggplant and stir-fry for two to three minutes, until the eggplant is soft and starting to brown on all sides. Add the Sichuan peppercorns, chilli, doubanjiang, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for one minute or until fragrant.

Give the yuxiang sauce a quick stir and pour over the eggplant. Reduce the heat to medium and gently stir until the eggplant is nicely coated in the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Simmer for one minute or until the sauce thickens and becomes glossy.

Transfer the eggplant to a serving dish, sprinkle over the spring onion and coriander leaves (if using) and serve with steamed jasmine rice on the side.

Note: Doubanjiang is a fermented spicy broad bean paste widely used in Sichuan cuisine. Usually there are two types: spicy and non-spicy. Obviously, we opted for the spicy version.

Gong bao chicken
I always thought gong bao chicken was relatively mild; that is, until I had the real deal in Sichuan province in China. That’s when I first truly experienced the numbing effect from the insane amount of Sichuan peppercorns used in this dish. If you are allergic to peanuts, just leave them out.

Serves 2

For the marinade
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp cornflour (corn starch)
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the chicken
300g boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2cm pieces
Vegetable oil, for frying
5 dried chillies, cut into 2 cm lengths
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2.5cm knob of ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
30g unsalted roasted peanuts
3 spring onions, cut into 1cm lengths

For the gong bao sauce
1½ tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese black rice vinegar
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour

To marinate the chicken, combine the marinade ingredients, except for the vegetable oil, in a large bowl. Add the chicken and mix well to completely coat the chicken. Stir in the vegetable oil and set aside for at least five minutes.

To make the gong bao sauce, combine the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Heat 500ml of vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Once smoking, turn off the heat and add the chicken. Flash-fry the chicken for one minute or until seared all over. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a heatproof bowl lined with paper towel. Drain all but two tablespoons of the oil.

Heat the remaining oil in the wok or pan over medium–high heat. Add the chilli and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for one minute or until fragrant. Return the chicken to the wok or pan and stir-fry for one minute to infuse in the oil. Pour in the gong bao sauce, increase the heat to high and stir-fry for one to two minutes or until the sauce thickens and the chicken is cooked through. Add the peanuts and spring onion, give everything a quick stir, then transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately.

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