It’s that time of year when we want a bit of comfort and a bit of warmth. Often those things come in the form of some warming winter dishes, but as the days get more crisp we don’t necessarily want to be reduced to casseroles or slow-cooking for hours when we’re in need of a comforting meal. In fact there’s no reason at all why a winter meal to warm the heart can’t be fresh, quick and refreshingly vibrant.[fold]
Happily, the woman behind the Misschu empire , Nahji Chu, has given us the key to a quick, exciting and warming spread that will spice up any winter table without weighing you down. She even stepped into the kitchen at the Bondi tuckshop to show us how it’s done.
Crispy quail is a signature dish at Misschu Bondi and its pungent spices will fill the kitchen with fragrances to lighten even the darkest day. Her fish parcels, meanwhile, are designed to make the most of whatever you have in the fridge, so the ingredient list is really just a suggestion.
“The most important things are fresh ginger and dill,” says Chu, with the ginger’s heat and the freshness of the dill making for the perfect combination to keep winter at bay.
Misschu’s Crispy Quail with Sticky Rice and Steamed Barramundi Parcels
Special Equipment and notes:
You’ll need a good steamer set-up. For the best results and an authentic style, Chu recommends a conical basket steamer and its pot, which you can get for around $20 (depending on size) from Lucky Thai Frozen Foods in Haymarket, or pick them up from Misschu Bondi. But any kind of steamer will do, including metal or bamboo.
You can find banana leaf from many greengrocers, but you may need to ask for it as it’s often stored in the cool room rather than on display.
Glutinous rice (or sticky rice) and Shaoxing cooking wine are available from most Asian grocers and markets, and glutinous rice is in fact gluten-free. For best results soak the rice overnight before use and definitely for a minimum of an hour.
For the sticky rice:
• 2 cups glutinous/sticky rice • 4 cups water for soaking • water for cooking • banana leaf
For the Quail:
• 1 tbsp brown sugar or grated palm sugar • 6 star anis • 2 cinnamon sticks • 1 tbsp Maldon sea salt • 1 cup hot water • 1 tsp white pepper
• 4 quail (or one per person, washed inside and out and patted dry) • vegetable oil for deep frying
For the fish parcels:
• 2 large pieces barramundi with the skin on (cut into roughly 3cm cubes and divide into 4 portions) • enough banana leaf to wrap 4 individual parcels • mixed diced mushroom • diced fresh ginger • diced spring onion • fresh dill (you can use coriander, but dill is best) • Shaoxing cooking wine (or any white wine mixed with a pinch of sugar and salt) • fish sauce • light soy sauce • white pepper • Maldon sea salt • lemon or lime
Soak the rice overnight (or for a minimum of 1 hour) in cold water before you begin. Then wash and rinse it in 3 changes of cold water to remove some of the starch. Set aside.
Dry roast the cinnamon and star anis until fragrant. Place all the marinade ingredients into a pot, bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 mins (or until the marinade broth is fragrant) and then allow to cool. Place the quail in the broth to marinate for a minimum of 1 hour (or overnight if you have time), turning to make sure flavour gets into all sides. Set aside.
Clean the banana leaf with a damp cloth and then soften it by running it quickly through a hot stove flame (if you don’t have an open flame, microwave it for roughly 20 seconds, or soak it briefly in boiling water).
Tear the banana leaf into 4 pieces and sit each one on a piece of baking paper. Place roughly 4 pieces of barramundi onto each banana leaf and then top the fish with a little of the minced ginger, mushrooms, spring onion and dill. Add a splash of Shaoxing wine, 1 tsp each of fish sauce and light soy, and a pinch of salt and pepper to each parcel and finish with a squeeze of lemon or lime, adding the piece of citrus to the fish.
Wrap each parcel up with the baking paper on the outside of the banana leaf.
Rice & fish steaming:
Fill the steamer base roughly 1/4 full with boiling water. Put the washed rice into the basket of the steamer and place the fish parcels on top of the rice. Cover the top with more banana leaf and a saucepan lid. Place the steamer basket over the boiling water and steam the whole lot for 15–20 mins, or until the fish is opaque and no longer glassy.
While the fish and rice are steaming, fry the quail:
Place the vegetable oil in a deep pot and heat it to boiling. Drop the quail in 2 at a time and deep fry for 2 mins on each side until crisp and golden. Remove from the pot, drain on a paper towel and keep warm.
Serve the quail with bowls of sticky rice, a small dish of white pepper, salt, lime juice,chilli sauce for dipping and a fish parcel on the side. The whole lot is best eaten with your fingers and no apologies – even the crunchy little quail bones.