The Natural Order Of Things
Balance, is a beautiful thing. A wonderful thing that keeps everything where it needs to be. Enough force from each side to keep something situated and working. Life, in itself, is obviously a product of a world that is in perfect balance, that a body or a plant exists is because of the balance of an organism and its surroundings. The reason a daisy can live is not by chance, it’s because of the situation of its leaves, absorbing sunlight, chlorophyll converts this energy into starch and food for the plant to grow and live and reproduce to make other daisies. Blah blah blah, you get the message. I won’t go on too much and sound like a massive hippy, but it’s incredibly important in everything. Just so you know.
A proper English daisy. Look at it, it’s so damn happy.
This realisation comes from this wonderful time of year, the lunar new year. I’d say Chūnjié, Chinese new year, but it’s not just one singular country that celebrates it on, or around, this day. Bring on Tết, the Vietnamese new year, Seol-nal, the Korean new year and Losar in a few weeks, the Tibetan new year. Even Japan celebrated their new year at the same time up until 1873, when the switched to the dark side and joined the Gregorian calendar on January 1st. I’ve gotta say, the lunar new year sounds like so much more fun. No huge queues for bars, overpriced tickets, overpriced drinks, and an obligation to have a good time…which inevitably leads to quite the opposite.
Most of the customs are based fully around family, and even nicer, food (not an insult to my family)! Especially in Vietnam, they have things called Củ Kiệu, which are small pickled leeks, and bánh dầy, which are tightly wrapped leaves filled with sticky rice and meat or rice, perfect for sharing over a dinner table with family. In China, their food has more of a symbolic nature, along with also being damn tasty of course. They enjoy Jiǎozi dumplings, which are shaped like crimped crescents and filled with meat or vegetables, similar to Japanese gyōzas and Nepali Mo mos. Being shaped like crescents, they represent prosperity from the original gold ingots of old China.
But I digress, one of the key concepts in Chinese, in most Asian cooking in fact, is the attitude of balance. Of having your meal perfectly balanced. Everything can be categorised into a Yin or a Yang ingredient, cooking technique etc. Once you’ve grasped the basics -Yin is boiling and steaming, Yang is roasting and frying – it’s pretty simple. Ingredients are pretty obvious too, chances are, the more bold the flavour, the closer it’ll be to a Yang segregation. Things like garlic, ginger and chilli are Yang, where rice and most vegetables are classed as Yin. The result of something being unbalanced is something that tastes too salty, something too greasy, or something that leaves you feeling bloated or sluggish, or generally quite pants. It applies everywhere throughout cooking though, it’s not just with savoury Asian food. Every baking recipe you follow is a result of some sort of mastery of balance, if you’re cake sinks, it’s unbalanced, if it rises too much, it’s unbalanced, you get the picture. It’s logical if you think about it.
In the spirit of this wonderous occasion I felt the need to get my Soy on all up in here. So I got out my marinade from my Bridge Chow Mein recipe, edited it a little, stuck it on a bunch of steamed chicken wings, and went to town on a bunch of Chinese chicken wings and mango salad.
Chinese Chicken Wings and Mango Salad
Enough for 2 hungry people
For the wings:
6 Chicken wings
1 small red chilli – however hot your liking
3 cloves of garlic – chopped
3 tablespoons (ish) dark soy
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A few turns of black pepper
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
Good squirt of ketchup
1 tablespoon of cornflour
A little salt
For the salad:
1 decent sized ripe mango
Baby leaf salad leaves
Half a cucumber
A small orange
– Put the oven on to heat to about 170C/150C (fan oven)/gas mark 2-3
The marinade/sauce is really simple – chuck everything in a bowl apart from the cornflour, salt and wings and mix it together, easy peasy.
– For the wings, put the cornflour, salt and a few turns of pepper in a bowl and toss the wings lightly in it. At this point you will need a grill pan. Put it in the oven to heat up so it gets nice and toasty. Put the chicken wings you’ve prepared onto the grill and cover mostly with foil, leaving a slight corner turned up, you’ll see why in a minute. Shut the oven door and leave it for ten minutes to cook away nicely under their little house of foil.
– Open the oven door and pour about a quarter of a jug with water into the bottom of the tray, be careful though, it’ll belt out a hell of alot of steam, try to keep the foil as much over your wings so it catches it, and shut the door. Make sure that your wings don’t touch the water by the way, they don’t want to be boiled, they want to be steamed.
– Just leave them now for as long as you need really, an hour is about right. Carefully take them out of the oven and take off the foil, don’t scorch your face off, nobody like a two-face wannabe. Turn the oven up to 170-180C/gas mark 4/5.
– Chuck all your wings in the sauce and toss about like a chef-ey ninja for a little while, or stir them in if you’re worried about getting it all over the place.
– Put them all back on the grill tray and cook away for another 30 minutes or so, keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn though!
– In the mean time time to prepare your salad, make sure all your leaves are washed and dried and whatnot.
– Slice your cucumber length ways so it’s all long and pretty looking and put that on top of the bed of leaves you’ve got going on.
– Chop or grate your mango (it’s a bit of a pain to get it away from the stone but it doesn’t have to be perfect looking), chuck it all on top of your leaves. The next bit helps a great deal with flavour, put a few grinds of black pepper on top of the mango and a good squeeze of a fresh orange to citrus this salad up.
– Serve with some awesome ice water and the lovely, now crispy, chicken wings and eat that bad boy in no time!
Get in mah belleh
For now my dears I shall leave you with the notion that I may be making peppermint cream cupcakes tomorrow, think Viscount biscuits, in cupcake form. Toodle. Oo.