When I was counting down my favourite meals of last year, I wrote that one of them was had at Neil Perry’s very sexy Chinese restaurant, Spice Temple. While I had originally gone in slightly skeptical, I left a believer. And while the food may not have been the most authentic, it certainly had flavour, and a lot of heart.
Since then, and because of that visit, my hot and hungry spouse S and I have been cooking more and more from Perry’s Chinese cookbook, Balance and Harmony: Asian Food. It was a book that we had originally purchased (before our meal at Spice Temple) because it was, well, pretty. As cookbook collectors, we occasionally buy texts not because we want to cook from them but because of the pictures, or the layout and design, or because we have all of the chef’s other books, or for any number of reasons. Neil’s recent books are beautiful. They’re a joy to look at, with clean design and gorgeous photos. And so, while we had poured over Balance and Harmony: Asian Food several times, we had never intended to actually use it as a real reference. When we wanted to cook Chinese, we usually turned to authorities like Barbara Tropp, Fuchsia Dunlop or Grace Young. But after that meal at Spice Temple, we decided to give Perry’s book a try. And we’ve been really happy we did.
Our favourite recipe from Balance and Harmony: Asian Food (so far) is also one of the simplest. It’s marinated then grilled (or roasted) beef, sliced thin and served with an amazingly delicious, piquant, Asian dipping sauce. I love this sauce. It’s sharp and slightly sour and spicy and utterly delicious. And super easy to prepare.
Perry serves his beef straight from the oven. But S prefers to serve it slightly chilled. She likes how the beef has a really pronouced “beefy” flavour when cooled. With the sauce, it makes for a lovely starter and pairs perfectly with cold sake or beer.
For the beef, we like to pick up a big, beautiful hunk of Wagyu striploin from Huber’s, our favourite local butcher. We then marinate the beef with kecap manis, salt, sesame oil and coarsely ground black pepper. I like to let it marinate for at least 6 hours. When it comes time to cook it up, preheat your oven to 140 degrees Celsius. Using a hot, slightly oiled cast iron pan, sear the beef on all sides until just a tad charred. You want a nice light crust. Then pop the beef into the oven and cook until the core temperature is 45 degrees Celsius (if your oven does not come with a temperature probe, you should invest in a meat thermometer). Take the meat out and let it rest for 15 minutes. Then pop it into your fridge, taking it on about 20-30 minutes before you want to serve it. Slice it very thinly and serve with Perry’s awesome Asian dip.
Perry’s Awesome Asian Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons chilli powder
6 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 red shallots, finely sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped coriander leaves
The easiest way to prepare the sauce is to mix all the ingredients in a jar and shake.