Asian mid­week din­ners by Donal Ske­han

Szechuan pork & green bean stir fry and spicy steak noo­dle bowl with sesame soy dress­ing

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE - DONAL SKE­HAN

This month I have been trav­el­ling across Asia, tak­ing in six coun­tries; Thai­land, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea, Ma­cau and Ja­pan. It’s a whirl­wind jour­ney for a new TV se­ries which will air in Ire­land and the UK next year. It’s been an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the com­plex cuisines of a con­ti­nent that has al­ways in­trigued me. The high sum­mer tem­per­a­tures and hu­mid­ity have only added to the hus­tle and bus­tle of each city and height­ened the ex­pe­ri­ence. My days have been spent fo­cus­ing on spe­cific food sto­ries, like the sweet South Korean LG busi­ness­man who teaches bak­ing to his fel­low male work­mates as a means to help them find part­ners – it cer­tainly beats the guided tours and cat­a­pults you into the worlds of each of the lo­cal peo­ple I have met. My evenings pro­vide more free­dom and an op­por­tu­nity to sam­ple some of each cities’ best food of­fer­ings. A fan­tas­tic chance to in­dulge my love of Asian in­gre­di­ents and sam­ple some of the more in­ter­est­ing dishes these di­verse coun­tries have to of­fer.

I have been out of my kitchen for over a month and I am al­ready look­ing for­ward to get­ting back to cook through some of the bril­liant dishes I have sam­pled. With that in mind, this week it’s all about sim­ple Asian dishes that make per­fect week­night sup­pers.

There are many di­rec­tions to take a pack of minced meat but one way to re­ally make it some­thing spe­cial is in a Szechuan pork & green bean stir fry. By sim­ply fry­ing the pork mince with aro­mat­ics like gin­ger, chilli and Szechuan pep­per­corns and com­bin­ing with green beans and veg­eta­bles of your choos­ing, you have din­ner in min­utes with min­i­mal ef­fort.

Sim­ple Asian flavours can be cre­ated with great ease once a lit­tle time is spent on stock­ing up on pantry ba­sics. Soy sauce, sesame oil and fra­grant spices can be bought in much larger quan­ti­ties and of­ten with much bet­ter qual­ity and more va­ri­ety by seek­ing out Asian spe­cialty stores. Many of these in­gre­di­ents keep ex­tremely well for more than six months, mean­ing a small in­vest­ment al­lows you to make use of them in plenty of dishes. The steak noo­dle bowl I’ve shared here makes great use of these store cup­board in­gre­di­ents; sesame seared steak slices on a bed of udon noo­dles with crunchy Chi­nese cab­bage strips and co­rian- der leaves are tossed to­gether with a sim­ple dress­ing – a hit for a quick bite.

Two rather sim­ple dishes that de­liver an in­stant hit of Asian aro­mat­ics. Both are de­li­cious for a week­night din­ner but rather sat­is­fy­ingly, should you have leftovers, each im­proves in flavour the day af­ter cook­ing.

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