Level33's Executive Chef ArChan Chan Shares 3 Iconic Recipes From Her Debut Cookbook
Born in Hong Kong and now working in Singapore's LeveL33 restaurant, chef ArChan Chan is bringing the flavours of her upbringing to a wider audience via her debut cookbook, Hong Kong Local. Filled with dozens of recipes that spotlight the city's characterful food culture, the book is an essential addition to your cookbook shelf if you want to learn how to recreate dishes that define Hong Kong. Below, we run three iconic recipes to try—find the rest in Hong Kong Local, published September 1 by Smith Street Books.
Steamed rice with prawn and lotus leaf
What’s the best part of this dish? I would have to say the rice. It absorbs the flavour of the garlic, the prawn juices and the fragrance of the lotus leaf. The perfect simple yet tasty dish! Even simpler if you have chilled leftover rice from the day before.
200g (7 oz/1 cup) jasmine rice
100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) canola oil (or other cooking oil)
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 dried lotus leaf
4 fresh tiger prawns, peeled and deveined, halved lengthways
4 spring (green) onions, white parts thinly sliced into rounds, green parts julienned
2 cm (1 1/2 in) piece ginger, sliced
1 tablespoon roughly chopped red shallots
1/2 tablespoon roughly chopped coriander root
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1. Cook the rice using a rice cooker. Set aside to cool.
2. Heat a large wok or frying pan over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and as soon as it is hot add the egg white and stir for 5 seconds. Add the cooled rice and stir-fry until the rice is coated with the egg white. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a plate.
3. Wipe out the wok or frying pan, add another 2 tablespoons of the oil and heat over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoon chopped garlic and fry for 1 minute or until lightly golden. Scoop the garlic and oil into a small bowl and mix with the remaining chopped garlic.
4. Grab a large wok or frying pan with a lid that will fit a 25.5 cm (10 in) bamboo steamer basket. Add 2 litres (2 quarts) water and bring to the boil. Quickly blanch the lotus leaf so it turns soft, then remove.
5. Line the bamboo basket with the lotus leaf, then spoon in the rice and top with the eight prawn halves, meat side up. Spoon over the garlic mixture. Fold the lotus leaf over so it covers the prawns and rice. Bring the water in the wok or pan to the boil again, then steam the prawns for 10 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat, add the sliced spring onion whites and the ginger, shallot and coriander root and saute for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the Shaoxing wine, sugar and 2½ tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the soy sauce and oyster sauce.
7. Open up the lotus leaf, pour over the sweetened soy sauce and garnish with the spring onion greens. Serve immediately.
Sai Do Si (Hong Kong-style French Toast)
Hong Kong-style French toast is often made with savoury fillings, such as peanut butter, cheese or satay beef (I use kaya jam here, but feel free to use any flavour jam or other filling you might like). The bread is coated in egg and deep-fried (rather than pan-fried) and served with a generous amount of butter, maple syrup or condensed milk. My recipe here gives instructions for pan-frying, as it's easier to do at home, but do deep-fry if you wish. Paired with a cup of tea, this French toast is perfect for breakfast or at tea time.
4 slices soft white bread, crusts removed
1 tablespoon kaya jam
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
20g (3/4 oz) butter, plus extra to serve
Maple syrup, to serve
1. Spread two slices of the bread with the kaya jam. Sandwich with the remaining bread and gently press to seal.
2. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Dip the sandwiches into the mixture to coat evenly.
3. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coated sandwiches and fry for 1 minute each side or until golden brown, then stand the sandwich up and fry the edges for about 30 seconds each. Serve hot with extra butter and some maple syrup.
Daan Taat (Egg Tarts)
Egg tarts are a western-influenced Cantonese dessert, which was first introduced into Hong Kong in the 1940s by chefs from Guangzhou in southern China. Unlike the English or Portuguese custard tarts, this Cantonese pastry is traditionally made with lard rather than butter. The tart is filled with a soft, rich egg custard and can be made with two types of crust: a flaky puff pastry crust or shortcrust pastry. The shortcrust is a little easier to make, so that’s what I’ve done here, but each version has its own group of fans.
75g (2 3/4 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
250ml (8 1/2 fl oz/1 cup) hot water
3 large eggs (and by this I mean 70g / 2 1/2 oz eggs), at room temperature
125ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
60g (2 oz) icing (confectioners’) sugar
135g (5 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
15g (1/2 oz) beaten egg
200g (7 oz/1 1/3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 1/2 tablespoons milk powder
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Lightly grease 16 5 cm (2 in) round tart tins.
2. To make the pastry, place the icing sugar and butter in a mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the sugar into the butter. Work in the egg, followed by the flour and milk powder until the mixture is just combined (try not to overwork the dough). Wrap in plastic wrap and rest for 5 minutes in the fridge.
3. Roll out the dough into a cylinder shape on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 pieces (about 25 g/1 oz per piece), roll each piece into a ball and gently press out into 7 cm (2¾ in) rounds. Press the rounds into the prepared tins, pushing the dough slightly higher than the top edge. Place the tins on a tray, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Place the sugar in a heatproof bowl, add the hot water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool completely. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, evaporated milk and vanilla—you just want to loosen the egg here so don’t whisk too vigorously. Pour in the cooled sugar mixture and stir to combine, then gently strain through a fine sieve to get rid of any air bubbles.
5. Pour the custard into the tart shells until they are four-fifths full. Immediately place the tarts in the lower part of the oven (to help the pastry and custard cook at the same time) and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 180°C (350°F) and cook for another 5–10 minutes until the filling is just set. Serve warm. The tarts are best eaten on the day they’re made, but can be stored in an airtight container and eaten the next day.
Recipes reprinted with permission from Hong Kong Local: Cult Recipes From The Streets That Make The City by ArChan Chan, which features more than 70 recipes accompanied by photos by Alana Dimou and is being published by Smith Street Books on September 1. It will be available online and in all good bookshops.