300 gmminced chicken1 tbsplight soy sauce2 tspwhite sugar2 tspcornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water2 tbspvegetable oil½ cupthinly sliced leeks or green onions3 tbsppreserved vegetable (see note)60 ml(¼ cup) chicken stockSesame seed pocket bread 125 ml(½ cup) vegetable oil, plus 1 tsp extra410 gmplain flour1egg, lightly beaten for eggwash150 gm(1 cup) sesame seeds, spread on a plate
For sesame seed pocket bread, preheat oven to 230C. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, gradually add 110gm flour and ½ tsp fine salt. Stir continuously until golden brown and nutty in flavour with a consistency of soft butter (4-5 minutes). If mixture is too dry, add a little more oil. Set aside. Combine remaining flour and 1 tsp fine salt in a large bowl. Mix well and make a well in the centre. Pour in 185ml boiling water and 80ml cold water and mix quickly to combine. Add extra oil and mix well until just cool to touch (30-60 seconds). Turn hot water dough onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands until smooth (1-2 minutes). Lightly dust with flour, cover with a tea towel and rest for 10 minutes. Roll into a 12cm x 45cm rectangle and, with shortest side facing you, spread half the reserved oil dough evenly down the middle third of the hot water dough. Fold one third of the hot water dough lengthways to cover oil dough. On the folded layer, spread remaining oil dough and fold remaining third of hot water dough to enclose completely. You’ll have a long rectangular piece of dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and rest for 10 minutes. Cut dough widthways into 20 even pieces at approximately 2cm-intervals, then pinch edges to seal cut sides. Working with one piece of dough at a time and with longer side facing you, roll each piece into a 15cm x 10cm rectangle. Fold into thirds lengthways and roll again to the same dimensions. Roll into a cylinder, then roll into a 7cm x 15cm rectangle. Make sure the edges are sealed when rolling so no air escapes when baking. Working with one piece at a time, brush dough with eggwash, place onto plated sesame seeds, turn to coat thickly, then place on an oven tray. Bake bread until puffed and golden (8-10 minutes). Keep warm. Uncooked dough can be refrigerated, covered in plastic for 1 day before baking.
Meanwhile, combine chicken, soy sauce, sugar and cornflour mixture in a bowl and marinate in refrigerator (15-20 minutes).
Heat a wok over medium heat. Add oil and when it begins to shimmer, add leek and stirfry for 20 seconds. Add preserved vegetable and stirfry for a minute. Add chicken mixture, stirfry until chicken is cooked (1-2 minutes), add stock, season to taste and cook until liquid evaporates. Serve immediately spooned into warm sesame seed pocket bread.
Note Preserved vegetable is also known as ya cai or sumiyacai. It is sold in sealed foiled packets at Chinese grocers. Look out for the Green Food brand. If unavailable, substitute with Tianjin preserved vegetable.
This is one of those stunning northern dishes that is rarely encountered in a Cantonese restaurant. Shaobing, a layered bread that looks like pita bread, is traditionally baked in barrel-shaped ovens similar to tandoors. Said to be originally from western China, shaobing is made with two doughs; the first dough is made with a mixture of hot oil and flour that resembles a roux, and the second is made with hot water. The recipe may appear daunting, but once you consider it’s similar to making a rough puff pastry, it’s actually quite easy. The shaobing is then covered with sesame seeds and eaten with a chicken filling. Substitute lamb or pork if you like. This recipe has been adapted from one by chef Sze Kwok Keung of Dumpling King restaurant in Melbourne’s Box Hill. — Tony Tan