After the traditional foods of the Festive Season I tend to crave Asian flavours.

An obvious one, with most Asian cuisines being my favourite! We invited a few friends for supper and I created a rather multicultural Asian meal. I hope this inspires you to also think out of the box and do something similar.

My Asian inspired menu consisted of Chinese Duck Wraps to start. This was any easy ‘cheat’ course, as my local Woolies sells grilled duck and a good quality Hoisin Sauce. Another supermarket sells small cocktail size wraps and so all I had to do was prepare the lettuce, cucumber and spring onion strips and serve!

I did “Asianise” the duck slightly. I placed the fully cooked duck in a roasting pan and coated it with a thin layer of Hoisin Sauce to which I had added 10ml of Chinese 5 Spice powder and 25ml Shaoxing Wine (This is a Chinese rice wine, but you can use sherry). I placed it in a 200°C oven for 15 minutes then, carefully deboned the duck. Don’t expect lots of meat. Remove the breast and thigh meat neatly and then slice it about 5mm thick and arrange slices onto a serving dish. I was nervous that there would not be enough meat, but one duck served 8 guests 2-3 wraps each.

We once went to a restaurant specialising in Chinese Peking Duck in Hong Kong. I was amazed that they wheeled trolleys with grilled duck to the tables, removed only the breast and the rest of the duck went back to the kitchen, probably to the stock pot, as there is very little meat on the remaining duck. In Hong Kong you also pass hundreds of shops selling grilled duck to take home for this purpose.

What you do is prepare the following:

  • strips of finely sliced spring onion and cucumber
  • crisp bean sprouts for interest
  • As one of my guests was gluten intolerant and others ‘carb-phobic’ I added leaves of baby gem lettuce to use instead of the flour based wrap.
  • serve Hoisin Sauce as a dipping sauce or it can be spread on the pancake or lettuce leaf before you fill it. And of course I also served a chilli sauce, but this is not traditional

Guests help themselves to a lettuce leaf or wrap, add a few strips of duck, spring onion, cucumber and sprouts, roll up the wrap and dip in the sauce.

This starter was a hit, everyone enjoyed it!

The main course was Cob cooked to the Vietnamese recipe.

I first ate fish and pork dishes cooked in this unique sauce in a restaurant in the old city of Hanoi. It was about 8 years ago, but I clearly remembered the fascinating flavours.

Caramelized Pork in Hanoi

I researched a couple of recipes and eventually concocted my own, which was very successful. Caramel with savoury food? The art is in cooking the sugar syrup to a dark-treacle-like caramel, but not burning it. The caramel is flavoured with grated fresh ginger, finely chopped chilli, fish sauce and lime juice.  In most recipes the seasonings are added to the caramel and the fish is ‘stewed’ in the caramel but I prefer a shorter cooking time for the fish, so it was baked for 20 minutes. The baked fish is topped with a mixture of crisply fried shallot or white onion, garlic, fresh chilli and spring onions. Recipe: Crisp Onion and Garlic

Fish cooked in caramel, topped with crisply friend garlic and onions

I served the main course with Flat rice noodles and steamed Pak Choy

Recipe: Cob in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce

Recipe: Crisp onions and garlic

Asian desserts are often tricky as they do not usually appeal to the Western Palate. For example, we loved eating mango with sticky rice in Thailand, but the concept simply does not appeal here. A few weeks ago we had dinner at Waterkloof Restaurant just outside Somerset West. One of the several desert treats was a litchi and elderflower ice cream lolly that was enrobed with white chocolate.

The Litchi Lolly at Waterkloof restaurant

It was so amazing the following day I found Mark making it. (He is the ice cream master in our kitchen!), so I had the ice cream base, melted some white chocolate, lined my silicone moulds and created half-spheres. I had also made a batch of coconut ice cream the previous week. Our dessert consisted of

  • Litchi and Elderflower ice cream in white chocolate
  • Coconut ice cream
  • Fresh mango
  • Coconut flakes
  • Cubes of frozen Dragon Fruit (we bought this from Euroberry, it looks great but the flavour is insipid, but it added colour. We are using the rest in our breakfast smoothies!)

It was a lovely light dessert on a hot summer evening.

Recipe: Litchi and Elderflower Sorbet

Recipe: Coconut Ice Cream