Two weeks ago, we invited a group of close friends to our house for dinner and a card game. Since I was supposed to cook for our guests, I quickly flipped through my recipe books and was thinking of cooking a signature chinese dish such as curry chicken or braised pork to impress the guests. However one of our guests has a food allergy. She can only eat fresh food which does not contain any preservatives. That literally means no frozen meat, the meat has to be fresh from the butcher, vegetables must be absolutely fresh and no vacuum-packed salads. Even the herbs have to be fresh and cannot come out of a bottle. At first I thought it shouldn't be a problem since we could get fresh meat and fresh vegetables easily and we could gather some fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme from our garden. But when I looked through my recipes, it occurred to me that I was so ingrained in using traditional chinese cooking sauces such as soya sauce, sesami oil, rice wine etc that none of my recipes were in fact free of preservatives. I didn't realise how unhealthy I had been cooking for my family. It came as a shock to me that we, or rather I, consume so many preservatives in my daily life. Even for my favourite vegetables soups such as cream of tomato soup or flemish carrot soup which I thought were very healthy, they were usually made of a bouillon soup base and the bouillon cubes are of course a no-no to my dear guest. So eventually I settled for "Pan Grilled Rosemary Chicken Chop". We discussed the dish with our guest on the phone and got her in-principle approval. The only thing was I had to wait for the special soya sauce and honey which my guest had to bring along. In the end, everything was a success and all of the guests enjoyed the dish, and I learnt something valuable about cooking, cooking with natural ingredients.
This brings me to the dish that I cooked this evening. It is similar to the rosemary chicken in the sense that almost all the ingredients are natural. You can replace the honey and soya sauce with the healthier, organic version from organic stores. This dish is dedicated to our dear friend, I hope she is able to prepare this dish and enjoy it without having any worries about food allergies.
Recipe adapted from The Chinese Pregnancy & Confinement Cookbook by Ng Siong Mui
2 slices old ginger, shredded finely
1 red chilli, deseeded and shredded finely
1 tbsp oil
some spring onion, shredded finely - for garnishing
some coriander leaves, shredded finely - for garnishing
Marinade for Salmon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp light soya sauce
juice extraced from 1/2 a lemon (about 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp honey
50 ml (1/4 cup) water
2 tbsp light soya sauce
1 tbsp honey
1. Scale salmon, wash and pat dry with kitchen towel. Marinade with seasoning for 10 min.
2. Heat a wok til smoky. Add 1 tbsp oil and when wok is smoking, add ginger and fry til fragrant.
3. Add marinated salmon, retaining the seasoning for the sauce, and pan-fry over medium-low flame for 5 min on each side or until golden brown. Dish up the salmon and set aside.
4. In the wok, bring sauce ingredients to a boil. Add chilli and stir briskly for 1 min.
5. Pour sauce over cooked salmon. (Optional) Garnish with spring onions and coriander leaves. Serve immediately.