Yangtzeshire hotpot – or Lancashire Hotpot made in a Chinese furnace

Yangtzeshire hotpot – or Lancashire Hotpot made in a Chinese furnace

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Friday 6, January, 2017

AWAY FROM politics my other real love is authentic cooking, especially from central China. If you fancy a twist on an old favourite then try this yourself.

My family is very much of two worlds, one side grounded in South Lancashire. Irish, Welsh and Northern English created an amazingly rich and deep culture. The first place on Earth to industrialise, social movements based on worker solidarity blend seamlessly into Irish Catholicism and Nordic maritime tradition. Home was where the hearth was but working life was't th'mill. Irish stew and Lapskaus from Norwegian sailors became Scouse if you lived in Liverpool. For the rest of us the cheap dairy beef of Connacht was replaced by lamb and mutton from Lancashire to make it Lancashire Hotpot, sweetened with oysters from Morecambe Bay before the hipsters made them fashionable.

The other side of my world is where my wife's family are from, Wuhan on the Yangtze river. A small town of eight million people it is called the furnace of China not just for it's steel mills and cokeries but for the extremes of temperature through the year. From 40 degrees in summer, and no wind, to minus 20 in winter it's cuisine is based around preserved foods and dry spices for flavour. Pickled vegetables, fermented bean pastes, star anise and of course masses of red hot Chilli. Sichuan is just next door and the influences are strong.

The open secret of this cuisine is Pixian Doubanjiang (Pees-Shan  Dow-Ban-Chan) which steeps broad beans and raw chilli in stone jars to ferment for months to a marroon paste that smells at once of Chili, Soy Sauce and Oloroso sherry. Few things are so full of umami taste as Doubanjiang.

So here it is, the ultimate winter warmer, Yangtzeshire Hotpot best served with a nip of alcohol. Nothing heats you up faster in the depth of winter. All the fat used is solid animal fat, none of that olive oil nonsense please!

Ingredients:

454g lamb leg, lean

454g white potatoes, peeled

227g carrots, peeled

All diced one inch square.

1 Tbsp white sugar

6 oz beef dripping or lamb fat 

2 medium white onions, one chopped coarse an' t'other chopped very fine.

As much garlic as you can stomach, finely chopped

28g Pixian Doubanjiang, see picture. Any Chinese supermarket, after some bemusement, will find this for you.

1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce

1 Tbsp Light soy Sauce

1 Tbsp malt vinegar or 1 tsp dark Chinkiang Rice Vinegar (this will blow your head off hence smaller volume)

1-2 Tbsp Oyster Sauce 

1 whole Star Anise.

2 tsp Sichuan pepper or 1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper

8 oz Dry Spaghetti

8 oz Sauerkraut, squeezed of juice an' chopped very fine.

1 tsp mustard seed, optional.

2 dry shiitake mushroom, soaked and finely chopped, optional.

Method:

Rub the vinegar into the meat and leave for at least an hour. Soak whole Sichuan in boiling water 


Add the sugar and 4 oz of dripping to a deep frying pan and heat until the sugar melts and just starts to caramel.

Whack the heat up to the max, throw in the meat, cover with a lid and toss to mix. Sugar fried meat will turn a very dark brown due to the Maillard reaction; this is key to good Sichuan meat. This deep flavour is needed to take on the spices that follow.

Add coarsely chopped onion, turn heat down, add the garlic (if any) on a low heat, and sweat for a few minutes. 

Add diced carrot and potato and a cup of water to quench the heat.

Add to a casserole dish and wipe the frying pan.

Add Pixian Doubanjiang, star anise, both soy sauces and the liquid from the Sichuan pepper, or the powdered Sichuan pepper.

Cover with more hot water and simmer for at least 40 minutes, 1 hour on the lowest heat is better. Do not stir if possible, certainly not after 20 minutes. 90 minutes covered in a medium hot oven also works well.

In the meantime bring a stock/sauce pan of water to boil.

Add the spaghetti and cook until soft.

Melt the last 2oz of dripping and fry the finely diced onion without any garlic until it starts to turn golden. Mustard seeds can be added. Add the finely chopped sauerkraut, and any diced shiitake and finally add drained spaghetti to the pan, toss liberally. If you find the sour taste still too strong the sauerkraut can also be sweated with the onion. A little English mustard can be added instead.
 

Add Oyster sauce to the hotpot to taste. Season to taste.

That's Yangtzeshire Hotpot served with pickled vegetable noodle.

Serve with a double measure of white rum or baij and enjoy!

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