Tag Archives: chinese cuisine

A Legacy of Chicken


 My mother discovered Chinatown when I was about 10.  We hadn’t been in Sydney very long at that point, and Chinatown was the most amazing place to a little girl from Bloomington Indiana.  I loved going there.  My mom and I would wander around the stores jam packed full of food and dishes and clothes and toys – all of it completely different from anything we’d even seen before.  The supermarkets were the best: small and cramped, but stacked high with all sorts of new and interesting foods to try.   Sometimes as we would gaze wonderingly at some unknown ingredient, a shopkeeper would come up to us and give us an on-the-spot lesson in how to cook with whatever we were looking at. Thus began a long tradition of Chinese-inspired and wok cooked meals. I still have the first wok that she bought back then.

This was around the same time that she gave up eating red meat; the first stage in a series of dietary shifts that I refer to as the little ‘b’ bohemian phase of our family food tradition.  The main meat that we ate then was chicken.  Most meals were vegetarian, and sometimes we would have fish, but chicken featured often. We had quite a repertoire of chicken meals, but much of the time we would just stir fry chicken and vegetables.

This recipe was my Mom’s favourite way to cook chicken because it is delicious and so easy.  Everyone who knew her has had this chicken – she made it a lot.  I haven’t cooked this recipe in many years.  I couldn’t – who would have thought the memories brought by a recipe could evoke such strong emotions?  I must admit that I shed a tear when I made it.  I cooked it in the matching pot that she gave me, as she did, and served it with a huge green salad.

A real walk down memory lane and an important reminder that there are far more imporant legacies than houses and money!


  • 1 chicken (1.8 – 2.0 kg) I used a Coles Brand RSPCA chicken
  • 5 T water
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 6 T light soy sauce
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 t grated fresh ginger
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t 5 spice powder

Pour water into a large roasting pot and place chicken in breast side down. Spread all other ingredients over the chicken.

Place uncovered in oven at 100C.  Cook for 3 hours, basting every30-40 minutes. Turn heat up to 170C and cook until chicken is cooked. Baste frequently.  Cooked slowly and breast side down, the white meat will be tender and juicy, and won’t overcook.

Serve with stir fried vegetables or lots of fresh green salad.

Cooking class with Kylie Kwong


Yesterday was a day for cooking inspiration. A small group of lucky foodies were treated to a cooking lesson from Kylie Kwong, courtesy of the Harris Farm Market at Boronia Park.  Kylie Kwong is one of Australia’s most successful and most loved chefs.  For those not familiar with Kylie Kwong, she has a restaurant called Billy Kwong in Sydney, a cooking show on TV, and many cookbooks to her name. Kylie is of Cantonese heritage, and bases her recipes on traditional Cantonese food, as well as asian twists on foods from elsewhere around the world.

As a chef, Kylie is very appealing.  Her focus is on fresh quality ingredients, with an emphasis on organic and fair trade products.  She is a strong advocate of sustainable food and ethical eating. At Billy Kwong she uses locally grown organic and biodynamic produce. She has been an Australian ambassador for Fair Trade for six years.

Kylie does eat meat, but not a great deal.  She identifies with a vegetarian diet and has many gorgeous recipes in her repertoire for vegetarians. Her mastery of tofu is amazing! She has a very light touch in her cooking – her food isn’t heavy or gluggy, and it never has that “same dish, different meat” thing that average Chinese restaurants so often offer.  She demonstrates how very broad real Chinese cuisine is.

Kylie is also very appealing as a person.  Her cooking shows are fabulous, partly due to her great food, but also because of who she is.   She exudes warmth, and friendliness.  She tells many stories about her life and her family.  Her mum makes frequent appearances on the show.  You just feel good listening to her chat about life in general while she cooks up a storm!

Yesterday was part of a promotional tour for Kylie’s latest cookbook – which of course I HAD to buy (it is gorgeous!).  Kylie  cooked 4 dishes. As she cooked she talked – about all sorts of things: the benefits of freshness and quality in the ingredients, stories about dishes she has enjoyed in China, the role and importance of family in her life, the passing on of cooking traditions through the generations, and of course, things to think about when cooking each dish. She talked a lot about Chinese food being easy to cook, as long as you focus on the balance between sweet, sour, salt and acidity. She also talked about the importance of tasting as you cook. Clearly a sensitive palate is a big part of knowing when you have a dish just right!

Wal wanted a barbecue last night, so I marinated pork chops in sweet soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, shallots and ginger, and made the salad that Kylie made,  The two surprise ingredients for me in this salad were the raw bok choy (I am pretty sure I have only ever seen recipes for it cooked) and tomatoes (which I just never associate with Chinese cuisine).  This salad is as delicious and refreshing as it is healthy.


  • 270 g Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 spring onions, cut into fine julienne strips
  • 1 bok choy, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 1 small bulb fennel
  • 1/2 bunch of mint
  • 1/2 red capsicum,  cut into fine julienne strips
  • 1 lebanese cucumber, seeded,  cut into fine julienne strips
  • pinch salt and pepper (Kylie uses Sichuan Pepper)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Toss with dressing immediately before serving.

Tomato Dressing

  • 2 T light soy sauce
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 grapeseed oil
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, finely diced

Combine soy sauce, brown sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved.  Continue whisking as you slowly drizzle in the oil until it is all incorporated.  Add tomatoes and stir to combine.

Recipe adapted from Kylie Kwong / Simple Chinese Cooking Class. Sydney : Lantern, 2012.