By Christine Salins.
To deal with the early days of the pandemic, Melbourne chef Rosheen Kaul created The Isol(Asian) Cookbook with her friend Joanna Hu. Both women have a mixed bag of Asian heritage. Rosheen kept busy documenting all the inauthentic Asian recipes she loves to eat, and she asked Jo to illustrate them.
Chinese-ish, published by Murdoch Books (rrp $39.99), is based on this pandemic project. Clearly a dynamic duo, they’ve produced a colorful and quirky book full of “not quite authentic but 100% delicious” Chinese-influenced dishes, illustrated with Jo’s stunning drawings.
Spending their formative years living between two or more cultures and wondering where they fit in, food was an important part of the journey for Rosheen and Jo. Much to her parents’ horror, Rosheen pursued a career in food, ending up as head chef at Etta’s restaurant in Melbourne.
Jo traded a career in law for a whirlwind few years in the hospitality industry, mostly spent outside the house. Born from all those nights in professional kitchens, Chinese-ish contains many tips, tricks and shortcuts to create delicious dishes.
The book is filled with recipes that have come into their lives over the years: Southeast Asian dishes with Chinese influences, Yum Cha Saturday family recipes, Shanghainese recipes from when Rosheen lived there in the adolescence, recipes from Jo’s childhood in Hunan, and the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese comfort food they enjoyed here in Australia.
The Ginger Braised Chicken recipe here is deeply personal to Rosheen. It’s the recipe his mother always cooks whenever someone shows signs of illness. “If any dish tasted like home to me, this would be it,” she says. “Served simply with steamed rice, it literally tastes like a warm hug from my mom.”
Mom’s Ginger Braised Chicken
For 4 people
¼ cup sesame oil
6 cm old ginger (see note), skin on, sliced
6 to 8 chicken thighs, halved
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine
Steamed rice, for serving
Heat the sesame oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat, add the ginger and sauté until fragrant. Add chicken pieces and sauté until beginning to brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add salt, sugar, 2½ tablespoons water and soy sauce and stir. Cover and simmer 7 to 8 minutes. Pour the Shaoxing wine over the top and simmer briefly, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot with steamed rice.
Note: Old ginger is spicier than regular young ginger and has a fibrous, dry texture. Find it in most Asian grocery stores. If you can’t get it, use regular ginger instead.
Recipe and image of Chinese-ish by Rosheen Kaul and Joanna Hu, photography by Armelle Habib. Published by Murdoch Books, rrp $39.99.