22 months ago I moved to Hong Kong with my boyfriend Dan. Hong Kong is a city full of restaurants and a lot of the time it can be just as cheap to eat out as it is to cook. Not to say that it’s cheap to eat out, but it is expensive to buy food and it’s taken me a while to work out where to buy everything. I have always been really picky about meat and like to eat free range at a minimum and preferably organic. However, in Hong Kong a free range pack of two chicken breasts can cost well over ten pounds! Hong Kong living is also rather small! Space is at a premium and in our small 18th floor apartment the kitchen is about as small as they come. You can touch all four walls when you stretch your arms out and we have a small 2 hob gas stove and a tabletop oven. This has meant that for the past year and a half, we have eaten out a lot!
However, just like Charlie, I really enjoy my cooking. I am not really a baker, but I love cooking big hearty meals but lately this has become a bit of a rarity. Since the start of 2014 we have been making it our target to eat in much more often and this week was our first full week of eating at home and I have loved it! Roast chicken and sweet potato mash, a chorizo, chicken and vegetable pasta dish, homemade pizzas, chicken fajitas and Thai green curry have been the meals devoured over the week which has been lovely… even if I do have to prepare it all on the dining room table!
We are very lucky to have some awesome friends out here in Hong Kong who have become our Hong Kong family. Most Sundays we try and have dinner together before the week begins. Usually we try and find a new restaurant that we have not tried but this week, in keeping with our new year’s resolution I decided to try a new Asian dish for our Sunday evening meal.
I love all the vibrant flavours of Asian food, and in particular Thai and Vietnamese. I like how often they are meals where you put all the different dishes in the middle and pick and choose what you want. We decided to go with a Vietnamese beef dish, fragrant Chinese chicken in lettuce wraps and Jamie Oliver’s fiery noodles. All of them include some of my favourite flavours – ginger, garlic, lemon grass, chilli and lime… delicious!
Vietnamese beef and lettuce wraps (taken from the BBC Food website)
For the marinade
- 2 rump steaks or flank steaks, around 200g each, trimmed of any fat
- 1 red chilli, sliced
- 2 sticks lemongrass, bruised and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1-1½ tsp toasted sesame oil, to taste
For the dipping sauce
- 50-75ml/2-2½fl oz rice vinegar, to taste
- 25g-50g/1-2oz caster sugar, to taste
- 1 stick lemongrass, trimmed and very finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 lime, juice only
For the wraps
- 1 carrot, cut into fine julienne strips
- 150g/5½oz beansprouts
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
- 50ml/2fl oz rice vinegar
- flavourless oil (such as groundnut or sunflower oil)
- 3 sprigs mint, leaves picked and chopped
- ½ small bunch coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped
- 2 heads Little Gem lettuce, leaves separated
- lime wedges, to serve
- For the marinade, put the steak into a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix until coated evenly. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight if possible.
- When you’re ready to prepare the meal, add the dipping sauce ingredients to a small pan over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Taste and adjust the flavours as necessary – adding a little more sugar if it’s too sour, or more rice vinegar or lime juice if too sweet. Set aside.
- For the wraps, mix the carrots, beansprouts and chilli in a bowl. Pour over the rice vinegar, mix well and set aside while you cook the steaks.
- In a large heavy-based frying pan, heat a dash of oil. Shake off any excess marinade from the steaks and cook for 2-3 minutes on either side – depending on their thickness and how rare you like your steak. Remove and rest on a plate for five minutes.
- Add the mint and coriander to the carrot mixture and mix to combine.
- To serve, arrange the Little Gem leaves on a serving plate. Slice the rested steak, tipping any resting juices over the carrot mixture. Fill the lettuce leaves with spoonfuls of the carrot mixture. Top each leaf with a slice of steak and serve with the dipping sauce and lime wedges on the side.