Main Plates (Page 2)

The Main Plate recipes listed here include Western-style entrées, standalone meals, and substantial dishes of the sort served at the banquet table

Spicy Dragon Balls
Spicy Dragon Balls

Spicy Dragon Balls

I would first assure anyone reading this that absolutely NO dragons were harmed, or even painlessly neutered, in order to make this dish. The balls are actually made with ground pork, mixed with Conpoy and minced green chili, and then served with sweet bell peppers in a slightly sweet sauce containing red chili paste.

Also, although this dish may sound like one of those classic Chinese dishes with a hopelessly romantic and poetic story behind the name, it is a creation of my own kitchen and I came up with the name for the simple reason that I couldn’t think of anything better other than a clunky, cumbersome one identifying the ingredients. The fresh green chili in the balls, and the red-paste in the sauce, do, I suppose, suggest the sort of fiery-heat associated with dragons, so… there’s that, at least, I guess….


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Steamed Chicken with Mushrooms
Steamed Chicken with Mushrooms

Steamed Chicken with Mushrooms

This dish is similar in some ways to my recipe for Imperial Concubine Chicken. Indeed, that Chinese Classic has so many versions that you could very easily serve this dish as ‘Imperial Concubine Chicken’ without straying too far from culinary tradition. In any event, the dish requires only a little preparation and steams quickly for a delectable result.


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Vietnamese Coconut Water Pork
Vietnamese Coconut Water Pork

Vietnamese Coconut Water Pork

Vietnamese cuisine has two very popular pork dishes which are very similar. One is known as ‘Thịt kho tàu’, or ‘Caramelized Pork’ in English, and the other is just simply referred to as ‘Pork braised in Coconut Water’.

In both of these dishes,  Fish sauce and caramelized sugar syrup are essential to the basic flavor, but Thit Kho To is generally sweeter, may include hard-boiled eggs, and often doesn’t use Coconut Water at all. Naturally, that particular ingredient is an absolute requirement for today’s recipe…


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Cardamom-Lemon Chicken
Cardamom-Lemon Chicken

Cardamom-Lemon Chicken

This little dish very is Indian in spirit, although I don’t think I have ever actually seen cardamom paired with lemon zest in any of my Indian cookery books. The two flavorings do, however, work very nicely together with chicken and the result, using the spice blend and cooking method used here, makes for a novel twist on the ever-popular Indian restaurant favorite, Tandoori Chicken.


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Thai-Style Pork with Pineapple
Thai-Style Pork with Pineapple

Thai-Style Pork with Pineapple

A while ago, I reviewed the commercially prepared Jack Hua Brand Sour Shrimp Paste from Thailand. The culinary paste is primarily intended for making the perennial Thai restaurant favorite Tom Yum Soup, but I rarely use it that way and instead find it useful as a base for curries, or stir-fried dishes. Here, I have used the paste along with Pork and Pineapple in order to make a dish that is both sweet, sour, and pungent with the flavorings associated with a Thai Yellow Curry.


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Pork Rendang Thai-Style
Pork Rendang Thai-Style

Pork Rendang Thai-Style

A ‘Rendang’ is an Indonesian dish in which the main ingredient, usually a meat, is cooked slowly in spiced Coconut Milk until the milk has almost disappeared and the meat is supremely tender and infused with the flavors of the braising liquid.

Indonesian cuisine has its own range of preferred spices and my Rendang here departs from the traditional to give the dish a very Thai character. I have actually employed a spice blend that is typically used for the Thai specialty Tom Yum Soup, and, more particularly, I tried out a commercial product, the previously reviewed Jack Hua Brand Sour Shrimp Paste.


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Mushroom Fettucine with Truffle Oil
Mushroom Fettucine with Truffle Oil

Mushroom Fettucine with Truffle Oil

I always have a few cans of sliced or whole button mushrooms in my pantry. They are handy for adding to the sort of dish you throw together in a hurry at the last minute but, in all honesty, they do not have the depth or richness of flavor of fresh mushrooms. They are, it must be said, pretty much an ingredient of last resort rather than a first choice in most cases.

Truffle Oil is also one of those ingredients that pales in comparison to the ‘real deal’. It does have the advantage of convenience, and is SO much cheaper than fresh truffle, but it needs to be employed prudently. One use where it is very effective is in boosting the limited flavor of canned mushrooms in order to make a cheap, but special tasting pasta dish.


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Red-Cooked Pork with Dried Octopus
Red-Cooked Pork with Dried Octopus

This dish of Red-Cooked Pork with Dried Octopus illustrates a classic Chinese cookery technique known as ‘red-cooking’, in which the main ingredients are braised in a good Basic Chinese Chicken Stock enhanced with Soy Sauce and various aromatics. These ‘Red-Cooked’ or 紅燒 dishes derive their collective name from the dark, often reddish appearance that the Soy Sauce imparts.

Often, and especially in Cantonese cuisine, the aromatics include Star Anise, and sometimes cinnamon and orange peel, all of which add a very sweet background taste to the finished dish. Personally, I am not very fond of using the sweeter aromatics in dishes of this type so I am omitting them here and have instead added just a little Dried Chili and Galanga, both of which you might find in Sichuanese interpretations.


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