You might not know this about me but I am one-sixteenth Chinese. Barely enough to celebrate the impending Chinese New Year or claim Chinese heritage right? This might be true, but my family has an interesting Australian-Chinese history, my Great Great Grandfather was one of the first Chinese settlers during the Gold Rush Era in the 1850’s, he unsuccessfully tried to ‘Anglicise’ his surname from Leu Sen to Lew Shing (“Smith” wasn’t appropriate?), married an Irish woman during the “White Australia” period and assimilated to Australian culture as best as he could, even though he still wore his hair in a plated queue, which is similar to a plaited rats tail so perhaps he was fashion forward waaaaay before his time?
He also had three wishes based on Confucian principles when he arrived in Australia; to repay his village for the fare to Australia, to send money home and to one day return to his Motherland and show allegiance to his family. What a gem! I’m sure he worked ridiculously hard to achieve the first two things, but when he died in 1904, it seemed his last wish was not to come true. Strangely however in 1918 his body was exhumed from the Melbourne General Cemetery and taken back to his village in China. What the!? I don’t know how or why this happened but I’m sure Great Great Grandfather was stoked. I also found out recently that he started a restaurant / lolly shop on Russell Street in the Melbourne CBD, which is where China Town is today, I have no idea what kind of restaurant or lolly shop but I like to think he was celebrating his cultural heritage and cooking up mean Chinese food! And I like to think that somehow the ability to cook mean Chinese food has been passed down in my genes, even if it is only one-sixteenth of them!
Food plays such an important role in culture and heritage, my family and I still celebrate the pioneering spirit of our Chinese ancestors, but mainly through eating Yum Cha and cooking Chinese dishes, especially at this time of year leading up to Chinese New Year on the 31st January. This week I will be celebrating Chinese New Year by sharing some Chinese inspired dishes with you, some of these recipes have been inspired from your average suburban Chinese restaurant, others from more exotic travels to Asia.
This first recipe is perfect for a hot summer night, its refreshing and uses juicy watermelon and fresh fragrant herbs. I would recommend serving with an icy cold lemongrass and kaffir lime cocktail! Enjoy
Duck, Watermelon & Coriander Salad
Serves: 4 as an entree
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
What You Need…
2 peking duck breasts
½ cup mint (about 1/2 a bunch), roughly torn
1 cup coriander leaves, (about 1 bunch) washed
100g / 1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 lebanese cucumber, peeled into ribbons
¼ watermelon, rind removed, sliced 1cm thick and cut into small triangles or dice
2 tablespoons plum sauce
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
½ cup unsalted roasted peanuts, crushed
How You Make It…
- Cook duck breasts according to packet instructions, when cooked, slice breasts thinly
- Combine mint, coriander, bean sprouts, spring onion in a large mixing bowl. Place cucumber and watermelon in separate mixing bowl.
- Mix together plum sauce, hoisin sauce and water, set aside.
- When ready to serve salad, combine herb mix, watermelon and cucumber and duck, dress salad just before serving. Garnish with white sesame seeds and crushed peanuts. Serve immediately.