SEA­SONAL CHANGE

In­spired by the ar­rival of spring, these recipes from Tony Tan speak to a lighter style of cook­ing with a twist on clas­sic dishes from China, Tai­wan and Viet­nam.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Colour My World - Recipes TONY TAN Pho­tog­ra­phy BEN DEARNLEY Styling GER­ALDINE MUÑOZ Food prepa­ra­tion NICK BANBURY Drink sug­ges­tions MAX ALLEN

As a Malaysian-born Chi­nese per­son, I didn’t re­ally grasp the whole four sea­sons thing un­til I came to Aus­tralia; grow­ing up, we had hot and wet and hot and wet­ter. But over the years of liv­ing here, I have ac­cli­ma­tised, and my un­der­stand­ing has deep­ened greatly since I moved to closer to the bush. Now the songs of the mag­pies and cur­ra­wongs say to me that spring is upon us.

When the broad beans, as­para­gus and peas in my veg­gie patch are ready for pick­ing, I can’t help but be ex­cited by the pos­si­bil­i­ties they cre­ate. Shall I stir-fry the broad beans with lup yuk, the cured belly pork flavoured with soy sauce? Or mash them like the cooks do in Shang­hai? Or toss them with steamed egg­plant? And the as­para­gus – be­lieved to be in­tro­duced by the French to Indo-China and now beloved across Asia – shall I cook it with morels, as I had it in Yun­nan prov­ince years ago, stir-fried with lard and spring onion? It was fan­tas­tic – I’ve adapted that dish to make it with shi­itake mush­rooms and it’s just as de­lec­ta­ble.

On days when the sun only just peeps through the clouds and a cool southerly blast is a re­minder that win­ter is not quite over, I draw in­spi­ra­tion from our lo­cal seafood. A trip to the fish­mon­ger yields crab, cala­mari and mus­sels from our South­ern Ocean, and my mind turns to three-cup cala­mari, a take on the famed three-cup chicken from Tai­wan. Or shall I tap on a dish I’ve in­her­ited from my mother, the rus­tic and full-flavoured crab soup? Sim­ple to pre­pare, it com­prises pick­led Chi­nese mus­tard greens, with chill­ies, tomato, gin­ger and a hand­ful of co­rian­der.

Then there’s my all-time favourite – slow-cooked beef brisket. Soul­ful and earthy, this much-loved dish is made with star anise, cin­na­mon, bay leaves, Sichuan pep­per and some dried tan­ger­ine peel I’ve made when tan­ger­ines are in sea­son.

It is usu­ally en­joyed on its own but with some chilli sauce, it goes per­fectly with rice, noo­dles or even pasta.

On the days when spring feels like sum­mer, noo­dles served chilled or at room tem­per­a­ture are great op­tions. I still thrill to the mem­ory of tuck­ing into a bowl of thin wheat noo­dles on a ter­race in the French Con­ces­sion in Shang­hai. Sim­ple and im­mensely de­li­cious with soft and crunchy tex­tures, this re­fresh­ing noo­dle salad com­bined cu­cum­ber, spring onion and gin­ger with a tangy dress­ing made with Chinkiang vine­gar, roasted sesame paste and soy sauce.

This modest col­lec­tion of dishes are some favourites I love eat­ing in spring. Some of them are more in­volved, and some are a snap. But all of them, I hope, cap­ture the scents and sen­sa­tions of the flavours of Asia and the plea­sure of sea­sonal cook­ing.

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