Cooking the books

Can you make a Chinese takeaway at home in 10 minutes? We put it to the test

Lisa Salmon, Noreen Barr and Prudence Wade test recipes from Kwoklyn Wan’s new super speedy cookbook

Thursday 20 January 2022 16:20
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<p>Kwoklyn Wan’s new cookbook offers delicious Chinese meals without the cost of ordering in </p>

Kwoklyn Wan’s new cookbook offers delicious Chinese meals without the cost of ordering in

It’s that time of year when New Year’s resolutions start slipping.

Maybe you wanted to eat more healthily or do more home cooking – but as we race through the month of January, ordering takeaways might be looking increasingly enticing.

That’s why Kwoklyn Wan’s latest cookbook, 10-Minute Chinese Takeaway, couldn’t have come at a better time. If you are tempted to order dinner via an app, whipping up one of these meals will only take 10 minutes, and it will most likely be healthier than ordering in.

But do the recipes really only take 10 minutes to make? And can you pack in enough flavour into such a short period of time? We tried three recipes from the new book to find out.

Lisa Salmon tested: Eight treasure tofu

Lisa’s tofu dish vs Wan’s

The problem with this easy, veggie-packed stir-fry was I couldn’t find one of the essential ingredients: the fermented chilli bean paste, or doubanjiang. But, undeterred, I did a little internet searching and tried my best to make my own version. Never having tasted real doubanjiang, I can’t tell you how far my attempt was from the authentic paste, but it contained beans (although not fermented ones), chillies and salt, so it must at least have borne some similarity. I hope.

To be honest, making the paste was the only hard-ish part – the rest was just chopping carrots, mushrooms and onions, opening cans of bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, and packets of peanuts, and throwing them all in the wok with the tofu and sauce (also just a load of thrown-in-and-stirred ingredients).

The end result was tasty, and I loved the peanuts with the tofu. I added more soy sauce, wine vinegar and sugar – and quite a lot more of my paste – but that’s the nice thing about making your own Chinese meal, you can create it according to your own taste, often without even needing any particular culinary skill. I’ll definitely be making a version of this again.

Noreen Barr tested: Beef and onion with mixed peppers

Noreen’s beef dish vs and Wan’s

Kwoklyn Wan is already a firm favourite in our house – his previous Chinese Takeaway Cookbook offers speedy, easy to make dishes that have persuaded even our sceptical nine-year-old daughter that stir-fries can bring joy. The idea of being able to conjure up the same kind of deliciousness in 10 minutes really appealed but, truth be told, I didn’t come close to pulling it off within that time. As I was making a double portion to feed four people rather than two, I expected to go over the four-minute designated prep time, but it took me a good 20 minutes to thinly slice the (expensive) beef fillet, peppers and onions, puree the garlic and ginger and sort the simple sauce. Knowing the recipe better, a sharper blade and much improved knife skills would bring that time down, and the stir-frying part was fast and trouble-free.

My finished dish, served up in a big dish as part of a takeaway-themed spread, looked pretty close to the target, with generous amounts of meat and colourful peppers, but the beef should probably have been more charred. As promised, the sauce was tasty and aromatic, and the background heat from the ground black pepper went down well.  Most importantly, this dish passed the ultimate test – everyone loved it and it was scoffed almost faster than I made it.

Prudence Wade tested: Yellow bean flat rice noodles with green beans

Prudence’s yellow bean noodle dish vs Wan’s

I have trust issues when it comes to speedy meals claiming to take an impossibly short amount of time – but I can’t help trying them, because who doesn’t want a delicious dinner in 10 minutes? Full disclosure: my attempt at Wan’s yellow bean flat rice noodles with green beans didn’t take 10 minutes, but well over 20.

Even if it wasn’t quite as speedy as advertised, that’s still a quick dish – and it was definitely worth it. The salty, umami taste of the sauce with yellow bean paste, Shaoxing wine and dark soy sauce was rich and moreish, with the noodles soaking up flavour like a sponge.

It was incredibly easy to prepare: all you have to do is chop up and fry the veg, add in the cooked noodles and coat it all with the sauce – it’s a recipe even the most nervous cook would be able to successfully pull off, and you’re rewarded with an impressively flavoursome stir-fry. My only note is it could have included something more alongside the crunchy green beans and beansprouts – perhaps crispy tofu, or extra veg. But that would take more time – something that’s often in short supply in the kitchen.

‘10-Minute Chinese Takeaway’ by Kwoklyn Wan (published by Quadrille, £16; photography Sam Folan), available now.

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