If you’ve ever wondered why some Chinese restaurants call themselves something like “Jade Buddha Seafood Restaurant” when they serve all kinds of meats and vegetables too, it’s because in Chinese culture “seafood restaurant” is code for “fine dining”. Every Asian cuisine prides seafood above nearly any other ingredient, and restaurants that specialise in seafood are considered a cut above the rest. Here are a couple of classic seafood dishes from the East that are a cinch to make at home.
Typhoon shelter salmon
This Hong Kong dish is a garlic lovers’ dream. Usually served with crab or prawns, it works fantastically with salmon, too. Use Asian celery if you can find it. Otherwise, this is a great way to make use of the leaves of the common Western celery. You can use a food processor to finely chop the garlic if you want to save some time.
½ cup vegetable oil
2 heads garlic, cloves peeled and finely chopped
4 salmon cutlets
¼ cup cornflour
sea salt, to season
white pepper, to season
8 spring onions, cut in half
1 tbsp black bean sauce
4 bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
1 cup celery leaves
1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or saucepan over low-medium heat and add the garlic. Cook the garlic for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until it is lightly golden brown and then remove the garlic from the oil with a wire mesh sieve. Reserve both the fried garlic and the garlic oil.
2. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Dredge the salmon cutlets in the cornflour and add three tablespoons of the garlic oil to the pan. Season the salmon with salt and white pepper and fry for about three minutes on each side until just cooked through, then remove to a serving plate.
3. Heat a tablespoon of the garlic oil in the wok (reserve any leftover garlic oil for another purpose) and add the spring onions and black bean sauce. Toss for about a minute, until the spring onions start to soften, then add the chillies and celery leaves and toss for a further minute. Add the reserved fried garlic and turn off the heat, breaking up any clumps of garlic. Pour the mixture over the salmon cutlets and serve immediately.
Adam Liaw’s prawn egg foo yung. Photo: William Meppem
Prawn egg foo yung
There’s a different version of Guangdong’s famous egg foo yung in every country it’s spread to, and that’s a lot. This Japanese “ebitama” version with fluffy, pillowy egg and sweet-sour savoury gravy is easily my favourite.
200g raw, peeled prawns
¼ tsp salt, plus extra to season
a good pinch of white pepper
3 tbsp peanut oil
3 thin spring onions, finely sliced
150ml chicken stock or water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1½ tsp cornflour, mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
1. Butterfly the prawns by cutting backs almost completely through and flattening the bodies with the flat of your knife. In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the salt and white pepper and set aside.
2. To make the sauce, combine the stock, soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the cornflour mixture in a thin stream, stirring vigorously, until the gravy thickens to a silky consistency. Keep the gravy warm while you prepare the eggs.
3. Heat the wok over medium heat and add the oil around the edges. Add the prawns to the wok with a good pinch of salt. Toss the prawns for about two minutes until just cooked through. Pour the beaten egg around the edges of the wok and allow it to run to the centre. Immediately draw your wok tool or spatula a few times through the egg to form soft folds, like scrambled egg. Turn the egg and prawns out from the wok while the egg is still quite runny (it will continue to set off the heat) and pour over the gravy. Scatter with the sliced spring onions and serve immediately.
Serves 2, or more as part of a shared meal