From China with love
Chinese New Year falls on Valentine's Day this year, so it's the perfect excuse to whip up some tasty dishes for your loved one -- and I'm not talking about calling the local takeaway!
Chinese cuisine has so much more to offer than what's on the local takeaway menu: it's packed with delicious sauces, aromatic spices and unusual textures.
If you haven't tried cooking any Chinese dishes, I have put together some fairly easy ones which don't take too much time and yet leave you with some incredibly tasty results. All these dishes are perfect for entertaining and will leave your guests more than impressed.
If you want to try your hand at this cuisine, it's important to pick up some store cupboard essentials. People laugh at me when I drag them around the Asian market pointing out all the exciting ingredients, but it is so much fun and a visit to your local market is well worth it. You can pick up ingredients for much less, and in larger quantities than you'll find in regular supermarkets.
The one big purchase I suggest if you want to really experience true Chinese cooking at home is a good wok. It's important to find one you are comfortable using, but carbon steel woks come well recommended.
Once you have your kitchen brimming with exciting ingredients, there will be no stopping you from getting in there and experimenting. It also means that you have all you need at hand, so you don't have to go the end of the earth to pick up that one missing item.
Another great thing to pick up is a really extensive cookbook. There are so many fantastic Chinese cookbooks out there: growing up, I read books by Ken Hom and, more recently, Kylie Kwong.
If you are just starting out though, I would recommend The Essential Wok Cookbook, published by Murdoch books -- just work your way through as many dishes as possible.