I was going to write about something completely different today, but last night I decided to cook a dish that I haven’t tried in a very long time and in doing so, I had a flash on inspiration. The dish was Singapore Noodles (or my own version which a serious Singapore Noodle-aficionado would probably pore scorn on) and the flash of inspiration was takeaways. Or non-takeaways to be more accurate. Or to be even more accurate, how can we recreate our favourite takeaways at home at the fraction of the cost? Yes, we got there in the end…
So let’s start with Chinese. This is a tricky one. In my opinion it’s definitely one of the hardest to get right. That’s not to say it’s impossible to make delicious Asian dishes at home, but there’s something about the smell and flavour of a proper Chinese takeaway that I’ve never managed to emulate. However, last night was the closest I’ve been in a long time. I just finely sliced 4-5 spring onions and chopped up 2 cloves of garlic, then fried them in some sesame oil for a minute or two with some curry paste. I deglazed the pan with a bit of water and added about a third of tin of coconut milk, a packet of prawns (the value sort, obviously), some chopped ham, frozen peas and a few glugs each of soy sauce and Thai fish sauce. Next, I boiled this down for about 5 minutes and then tossed in the cooked noodles. Ok, so it’s not exactly authentic, but it is cheap and easy and it managed to smell a bit like a takeaway, so I think I should get a few brownie points for that.
Next up, curry. I’m not going to even pretend I can make a curry that could pass for something authentic. The closet I can get with my basic rag bag of ingredients involves frying up some onion and garlic with curry paste or powder, then frying the chicken , adding the lot together before pouring over a tin each of chopped tomatoes and coconut milk. Obviously, there are plenty more authentic ingredients that you can use, but this is a good, cheap, simple mid-week meal to consider. Because I have be known to order a mid-week takeaway on occasion, when I’m feeling particularly tired and/or flush.
The humble kebab. Now, in this instance, I think it’s possible to improve on the original. Stuck with a load of left over pork? Not a problem – thinly slice it, then re-fry or heat in the oven. I think you can guess the rest –shove it all in a large pitta bread or flatbread and finish of with all your kebab favourites – tomato, lettuce, jalapenos (if you have them to hand), and your favourite sauce. Yummo.
Another use for those flatbreads coming up now. You might have already attempted homemade pizza with your very own handcrafted dough, but now I normally just go with the easier option of piling a load of stuff and cheese on top of a Lebanese flatbread (I’m lucky enough to live in an area which has plenty of Lebanese and Middle Eastern supermarkets, but if you’re not then a bog standard pitta bread will do nicely), and cook for 5-10 minutes. Again, not authentic, but very delicious.
You might want to point out that the whole point of getting a takeaway is that you’re treating yourself to something that you really don’t have a chance in hell of creating at home. And yes, I would agree with you on that, but I will also point out that takeaways are just that – a treat. They’re something that only the most foolish and rich would want to enjoy every day, and if you’re going to make a cheap, delicious meal at home, where better to look for inspiration?