This recipe was inspired by a dish we had at Kitima in Hout Bay. Kitima was given the award for the best Asian restaurant in the South African Eat Out Awards this year. I can see why.
Behind its traditional Cape Dutch facade hides a series of beautiful lounges, secluded private dining rooms, bars and terraces. All opulently decorated with gold and brocade. It has that real “East Meets West” feel that many fail to acheive.
The large menu and extensive wine list is accompanied by knowledgeable staff and excellent service. The food is more reasonably priced than you would expect from this level of service and surroundings.
We ordered the Veggie Gau, steamed rice paper dumplings filled with carrot,water chestnut, pickled Chinese radish, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots. They came with a dipping sauce and some lovely crispy fried garlic to sprinkle over the soft dumplings.
And some Vegetable California, “Inside out” sushi rice rolls filled with cucumber, carrot, pickled radish, avocado & Japanese mayonnaise. They came with the usual wasabi, soy and sushi ginger.
We also ordred a Thai Green Vegetable Curry, Pad Thai Noodles and my favourite dish of the night, Kitima’s Mushroom Basket. This had fresh mushrooms wok-fried with cashew nuts, onion, carrots and water chestnut nestled in a crispy potato basket. Everything was full of flavour and authenticly spiced. By which I mean it was hot. Which is a good thing.
So, you will have probably noticed from the title (and the pictures) that I did not make a crispy potato basket. Well, I tried! They very kindly let me have the recipe and I gave it a go unfortunately without success. My excuse is that you need an industrial sized fryer (and an experienced chef) to make it work.
You finely julienne the potatoes, toss them in corn flour and line them on the inside of a stainless steel bowl. Then you submerge the bowl in the hot oil using a metal ladle to hold the bowl under and keep the basket shape. I didn’t have a metal bowl small enough to be able to submerge it in the oil (I used a wok as a fryer) so The Washer Up suggested that I line the potatoes in a sieve so that the oil could get in and cook them. Genius, I thought, it cooked the potatoes and held the shape.
But then I couldn’t get it out of the sieve, it was stuck! Fail number one…
Fail number two involved lining the potato matchsticks around the inside of my stainless steel hand juicer bowl. It was small enough, I thought to submerge it in the oil in the wok. But no still no go. So then he suggested that I should put the oil in a smaller pan so that the oil would be deeper. You see this is why we are together, I would never have thought of that. My mind doesn’t work like that.
It worked, the potatoes fried and it (kind of) held its shape. The problem came when we tried to turn it out of the bowl. They all fell out in a pile and they were soggy, not crispy at all.
By this time I was totally losing the will to live and starving hungry. Not a good combination.
The Washer Up to the rescue again, looks at the left over cooked soba noodles from last nights dinner and chucks them in the hot oil. They bubble and splutter a bit but they stick together and cook. Lifting the whole lacey noodle disc onto some kitchen paper to drain he moulds it, while still warm, into a basket shape. Success at last. We have a crispy basket. And soba noodles are so much better for you than potatoes anyway. Even if they are deep-fried.
I adjusted the mushroom recipe slightly too by adding some dried chinese mushrooms and using pak choy instead of water chestnuts because I didn’t have any. The poached egg and watercress were inspired by the gorgeous breakfast we had at Ile de Pain in Knysna. So this is really a hybrid of two of the best dishes we ate while away. It makes the perfect brunch or lunch dish and you don’t have to worry about the potato basket because I’ve already been there…
Asian Mushrooms & Pak Choy in Crispy Noodle Basket with a Poached Egg (optional)
Serves 2, vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from the Kitima recipe
Prep time: 20 mins Cooking time: 10 mins
- 50 gr dried soba noodles, cooked according to packet instrustions, drained, rinsed under cold water
- oil for deep frying
- 200 gr mushrooms, wiped & finely sliced
- 25 gr dried chinese mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 20 mins or more (reserve the soaking liquid)
- 1 carrot, julienned
- 1 large spanish spring onion (or 4 scallions) green & white parts
- 2 heads of pak choy, rinsed, leaves whole, white parts chopped
- 50 gr cashew nuts
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 tsp chilli bean paste
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp shaoxing rice wine
- 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
- white pepper
- a handful of fresh coriander, stalks & leaves chopped seperately
- sesame seeds to garnish
- raw carrot & red pepper julienne to garnish (optional)
- 2 eggs (optional)
Remove the dried mushrooms from their soaking liquid (keep the mushroomy stock for later) and slice.
Heat the oil to about 180 C. Take a handful of the cooked, drained noodles (they should be dry) and drop them carefully into the hot oil. It will bubble up. After a minute or so, using a metal slotted spoon, check that the noodles are crispy and browned. Remove with the slotted spoon to drain on kitchen paper and, while still warm, gently mould into a basket shape. Repeat to make a second basket. Set aside.
Heat a tbsp oil in a frying pan or wok over a medium high heat. Add in the garlic, ginger, coriander stalks & chilli paste and cook fro about a minute. Then add the carrots and the white parts of the spring onions. Stri fry for 30 seconds then add both types of mushrooms, the white parts of the pak choy and the cashew nuts (save some for topping).
Stir fry until barely cooked then add a splash of the mushroom soaking liquid. Season with the soy sauce, sugar, white pepper, sesame oil, rice wine & rice vinegar. Throw in the green parts of the spring onions, pak choy leaves, most of the coriander and cook for another minute.
Taste and adjust sugar and soy sauce as required.
For the poached eggs. Bring a medium pan of water to a boil and squirt in a little vinegar. Crack the eggs into separate teacups. When boiling turn off the heat, stir the water to create a little whirlpool and carefully slide the eggs into the water. Put the lid on and leave them for 3-4 minutes.
Remove them with a slotted spoon to drain on kitchen paper.
Put a handful of watercress on each plate and top it with the noodle baskets. Fill the baskets with the mushroom stir fry, topping with a few carrot & pepper juliennes. Carefully place the poached eggs on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds and a few coriander leaves.
For more information about Kitima visit their website here.