Buddha’s bowl

Buddha’s bowl

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From
Have You Eaten
Serves
4
Photographer
Billy Law

This dish is so called because of its resemblance to the bowl used by Buddhist monks to collect alms from their community. Here the ‘bowl’ is a ring of deep-fried taro, which is filled with stir-fried chicken and vegetables. My favourite part is definitely the taro ring: the inside is soft and fluffy like potato mash, and the outside is golden and crispy. Due to getting ‘lost in translation’ many recipes refer to this as a yam ring. Although these two root vegetables are similar, the ring is made from taro, not yam. Taro usually has a white flesh with some purplish fibrous specks throughout – make sure you get the right ingredient or it won’t work.

Chicken and marinade

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2 cm cubes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon cornflour

Taro ring

Quantity Ingredient
300g taro, peeled and cut into 2 cm cubes
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch ground white pepper
60g wheat starch, (see note)
1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
100g dried rice vermicelli noodles

Filling

Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 carrot, diced
1/2 celery stalk, diced
2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 1 hour, stalks discarded, thinly sliced
1/2 green capsicum, diced
6 fresh baby corn, cut into 2 cm pieces
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch salt
small handful cashew nuts, toasted

Method

  1. Put the chicken in a mixing bowl. Combine the marinade ingredients and pour over the chicken. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. To prepare the taro ring, set a steamer over boiling water and steam the taro cubes for 25–30 minutes until soft. Mash the taro through a sieve into a bowl, then mix in the sesame oil, vegetable oil, sugar, five-spice, salt and white pepper. Combine the wheat starch and hot water in another bowl, then knead into a small ball of dough. Add the dough to the mashed taro and knead until it becomes elastic and pliable.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and roll the dough out into a long thick strip, about 40 cm in length. Lightly oil the inside of a round cake tin or a medium saucepan to use as a guide, then carefully wrap the strip of dough inside the tin to form a hollow ring, about 2 cm thick, 6–8 cm high and about 15 cm in diameter. Gently remove the taro ring and set aside on a tray.
  4. Pour the vegetable oil into a wok until about one-third full (the taro ring needs to be at least half submerged in oil), then heat the oil to 180°C over medium–high heat. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dipping a wooden chopstick into the hot oil — if the oil starts steadily bubbling around the chopstick, it’s ready. Working in two batches, drop a handful of vermicelli into the hot oil — the noodles will puff up within seconds. Remove and drain on paper towel.
  5. Using 2 spatulas, carefully lift the taro ring and lower it into the hot oil. Deep-fry for 5 minutes, or until golden brown, then carefully turn it over and cook for a further 5 minutes. To make sure the taro ring is cooking evenly, use a metal spoon to ladle hot oil over the ring while it is deep-frying. Remove and drain on paper towel.
  6. To make the filling, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 3 minutes until cooked, then remove and set aside. Wipe the wok with paper towel. Reheat the wok with the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, then add the onion, carrot and celery and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until the onion is translucent and fragrant. Add the mushroom, capsicum and baby corn and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine. Season with sugar and salt, give it a quick stir, then toss the chicken back into the wok and mix well. Remove from the heat.
  7. Spread the puffed crispy noodles on a large serving plate. Place the taro ring on top and fill the centre with the chicken and vegetables. Sprinkle sparingly with cashews.

Note

  • Wheat starch, or tung meen fun in Chinese, must not be mistaken with wheat flour. Wheat starch is a non-glutinous flour and is usually used to make dim sum, resulting in a translucent skin and chewy texture. Wheat starch can be found in Asian grocers, or can be substituted with cornflour (cornstarch), but the texture won’t be exactly the same.
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