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2017-07-24    来源:FT    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

 Hot spice, cold comfort: Sichuan starters

In many parts of China, people like to start a meal with cool, salady appetisers rather than the deep-fried snacks typically offered in Chinese restaurants abroad.
In Beijing, you might be offered a bracing salad of Chinese cabbage in a mustardy sauce or some cold, spiced beef. The Shanghainese adore their drunken chicken and lotus root stuffed with sticky rice, while in Hangzhou a local favourite is Buddhist vegetarian “roast goose”, a clever trompe l’oeil made from thin, layered sheets of tofu.
In Sichuan, as you’d expect, a spread of starters usually features the twin hallmarks of the local cuisine: chilli and Sichuan pepper. You might be served cold spiced meats with a dip of ground spices, chewy semi-dried beef in a slick of chilli oil or broad beans tossed in a spicy dressing.
The following two recipes are easy to make and show unexpected sides of familiar ingredients. Aubergines are so often deep-fried that we forget that steaming can bring out a surprising gentleness of character: here, they are torn into strips and then tossed with a quintessentially Sichuanese dressing, in which spicy, tingly, sweet, sour, salty and aromatic notes are blended to delicious effect.


The second recipe is for chicken with one of the lesser-known sauces in the Sichuanese canon: a jiao ma (“pepper-numbing”) salsa that is not hot and fiery but cool and green, with a hint of the fruity tingle of Sichuan pepper. The pepper appears here not with chilli, its usual partner in crime, but with the fresh pungency of spring onions and the fragrance of sesame oil. The sauce is rarely seen on Sichuan restaurant menus these days, but it’s one of the classic combinations of flavours, and a reminder that Sichuanese cuisine is about variety more than simply red-hot chilli heat. Typically served with cold chicken or pork offal, it would also go beautifully with warm new potatoes.
While such dishes are normally served in Sichuan as the prelude to a hot meal, they also work perfectly as part of a salady lunch or a buffet. Each dish serves four to six alongside other dishes, as part of a Chinese meal.
Cover the Sichuan pepper in cold water and let it soak as you prepare the other ingredients. Cut or tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a serving dish. Wash the spring onions and finely slice the green parts only. Place them on a chopping board with the drained Sichuan pepper and a pinch of salt. Use a sharp knife or a mezzaluna to chop them extremely finely. Place 4 tbs of the spring onion mixture in a small mixing bowl. Add the soy sauce, chicken stock and sesame oil and mix well. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Mix well before eating.
To cook a chicken for Sichuanese cold dishes: Take a 15g piece of unpeeled ginger and one spring onion, white part only, and smack them gently with the flat of a cleaver blade or a rolling pin to loosen. Place the whole chicken in a saucepan large enough to hold it but without much room around the sides. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over a high flame, add the ginger and spring onion, then turn the heat down so low that the surface of the water barely murmurs. Leave for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through (lift it out on to a plate and insert a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh: when the juices run clear, it’s done). Remove from the liquid (which can serve as stock in a sauce like the one above, or as a soup base). Set aside to cool.
Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and pile them into a bowl that will fit into your steamer. Place the bowl in the steamer and steam over high heat for 20 minutes. Then tip the aubergines into a colander and let any excess water drain away as they cool.
When the aubergines are cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skins and any clumps of seeds (it’s easiest to do this with your hands). Tear the aubergines lengthways into strips 1cm-2cm thick, and then use a knife to cut these crossways into bite-sized lengths. Place in a serving dish.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Mix well and then pour over the aubergines. Stir gently to mix in the sauce. Before serving, scatter with the spring onion greens. Any leftovers will also be delicious the following day.

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