In her new cookbook Vegan Chinese Food, Yang Liu celebrates traditional Chinese recipes and their history while paying tribute to the recipes of her mother, aunt and grandmother – and proves that plant-based Chinese dishes can pack in as much flavour as their meaty counterparts. Her recipes span the country’s regions and cooking traditions, turning classics vegan and shining a light on those dishes that are already completely plant-based. The book is an offshoot of Little Rice Noodle, an Instagram account Liu and partner Katharina Pinczolits (the book’s photographer) founded in 2019 to showcase the Chinese dishes Liu turns vegan.

This bombastic potato dish works hard as a side dish, but can also be the main event for a night at home when potatoes are in abundant supply and require a little jazzing up.

“These potato slices are first pan-fried until they are slightly brown and crispy, then stir-fried again with garlic, chilli oil and cumin seeds,” writes Liu. “The cumin adds a very unique aroma to the dish and makes it extra flavourful.”

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The recipe also incorporates a homemade chilli sauce that can be made in advance and used as needed – not just for the potatoes, but to enliven any other dishes that need a chilli hit.

“This is a typical chilli oil recipe from Sichuan,” writes Liu. “The oil is first heated with many different spices in it and then poured over the chilli flakes. You can use canola oil or corn oil for this, but avoid using oils with a low smoking point, like olive oil.

“The finished oil is very aromatic and rich in taste, and it makes the perfect base seasoning for many recipes, especially cold dishes like noodles and salads.”

Yang Liu’s sliced potato with cumin
Serves 2
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients
500g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 5mm slices
90ml canola oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp chilli oil (as below)
2 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vegan oyster sauce
1 spring onion, sliced

Chilli oil (makes 500ml; 1 tbsp required for potato recipe)
100g chilli flakes
30g toasted white sesame seeds
50g piece of fresh ginger, peeled
50g leek stem, cut into large chunks
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
1 tsaoko pod
5g sand ginger
5 dried bay leaves
1 tbsp cloves
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
500ml (2 cups) vegetable oil
½ tsp 13 spice

Method
To make the chilli oil, in a large bowl combine the chilli flakes and sesame and set aside.

Smack the ginger a bit with the flat edge of a knife to crush it a little, then slice it. Rinse all the dried whole spices – leaving out the 13 spice – quickly under water so they don’t burn when cooked.

Add the oil to a saucepan set over a medium–low heat. Add the ginger and leek, cinnamon stick, star anise, tsaoko and sand ginger, and fry for about 10 minutes. Add the bay leaves and fry for 2 minutes before adding the cloves and Sichuan peppercorns, stirring for another 3 minutes. When the oil reaches 160–170°C (you can tell it’s hot enough when lots of tiny bubbles immediately form around a wooden chopstick placed into the oil) carefully strain the hot oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan or jug. Pour half of the oil slowly over the chilli flakes and sesame. Stir to mix well, then wait 30 seconds before pouring in the rest of the hot oil. Stir again, then add the 13 spice and mix well.

Allow to cool completely before pouring into a clean bottle or similar airtight container. The oil will keep for months stored in a cool, dark place. Use a clean spoon every time to avoid contaminating the oil.

For the potatoes, rinse the potato slices quickly to get rid of any extra starch.

Heat a wok over a medium–high heat and, once hot, add the oil. Add the potato slices and pan-fry for a few minutes until golden and crispy, then remove.

Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add 1 tbsp chilli oil and the cumin seeds and stir for 1 minute until fragrant, then return the potato slices to the wok with the soy sauce and vegan oyster sauce. Mix everything together well, stirring for 1–2 minutes, then add the spring onion.

This is an edited extract from Vegan Chinese Food by Yang Liu. Published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP$45.00, available in stores nationally. Photography by Katharina Pinczolits.