Stir-fried broccoli with chilli and Sichuan pepper

by Fuchsia Dunlop

The familiar Italian broccoli or calabrese known in China as xi nan hua cai, ‘flower vegetable from the south west’) is a relatively recent import to China, but the Chinese have taken to it with gusto. It is often used as a bright garnish for banquet dishes, and for appetisers or vegetable side dishes. In this Sichuanese recipe, scorched chillies and Sichuan pepper give an everyday vegetable an exciting zing, and the green florets look lovely, too, with their scattering of deep red chilli and pepper. For more formal occasions only the florets are used, but the flesh inside the thick stalks has a wonderful flavour, so for home cooking I recommend peeling them, slicing the jade-like flesh and adding it to the stir-fry. The same dish can also be served cold, as an appetiser, in which case it is usually offered in a much smaller portion.

The same method of stir-frying with chilli and Sichuan pepper, which is known in Sichuan as qiang, can be used for many different vegetables, including beansprouts, water spinach, Chinese cabbage, slivered potatoes, and even Brussels sprouts (less fleshy vegetables, or those that are finely cut, do not have to be blanched).

Take care not to blanch the broccoli for too long, or the florets will disintegrate when you stir-fry them.


300g broccoli
5-6 dried chillies, to taste
4 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon whole sichuan pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil


  1. Cut the broccoli into florets, and cut larger florets lengthways into smaller pieces. Peel the stalk and slice thickly. Snip the chillies into halves or sections and discard the seeds as far as possible.
  2. Bring 2.5 litres of water to a boil, add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon oil. Add the broccoli and blanch for two to three minutes; it should remain bright and crisp. Drain in a colander.
  3. Add the remaining oil with the chillies and Sichuan pepper to a seasoned wok over a high flame, and stir-fry briefly until the chillies are just beginning to brown (take care not to burn them). Tip in the broccoli and stir-fry for 30 seconds or so until the florets are coated in the fragrant oil, seasoning with salt to taste. Turn off the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve.


  • Stir-fried broccoli with garlic: Simply substitute two or three garlic cloves, peeled and sliced or finely chopped, for the chillies and pepper, and omit the sesame oil. Fry the garlic very briefly before adding the broccoli: you just want to smell its fragrance, not to brown it.

Concrete Flux 流泥

Created by Beijing-based freelance designer Solveig Seuss, Concrete Flux is “a multi-media, multi-disciplinary online journal which takes as its subject matter China’s hyper-fast emerging urban spaces, their meaning and one’s everyday experiences of them.” With the release of the first issue, Concrete Flux hopes to act as a facilitator for promoting creative concepts in Beijing.

Steamed Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

Chinese Steamed Pork Buns.jpg

Steamed Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao) from Saveur


For the dough

12 tsp. active dry yeast
2 14 cups all-purpose flour (12 oz.)
34 cup cornstarch (4 oz.)
14 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. lard (1 34 oz.), well chilled
Three 12-inch thick slices fresh ginger (about 1 oz.)
1 lemongrass stalk, tied into a knot if desired

For the filling

1 tbsp. canola oil
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
8 oz. boneless cooked pork (such as Chinese boneless barbecue spareribs or roast pork belly), diced (1 12 cups)
3 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch


1. Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast and 1 cup lukewarm water (about 90°F). Set aside until small bubbles begin to form, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and baking powder.
3. Add the flour mixture and lard to the yeast mixture and mix on low speed until a shaggy dough forms, about 6 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes). (Dough will be quite firm and gummy.) Let rest at least 10 minutes.
4. Cut a sheet of parchment paper into twelve 2-inch squares. Set aside.
Make the filling: In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 3 tablespoons of cold water. Set the slurry aside.
5. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the scallions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the pork, soy and oyster sauces, and sugar, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauces are combined and the pork is heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the prepared slurry and cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
6. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces (about 2 ounces each), then round and smooth each piece slightly on one side. Place one ball on a clean workstation and drape the remaining balls with plastic wrap. Starting with the smooth, rounded side facing down, roll the dough gently with a rolling-pin into a 3-inch circle. Use the edge of your hand to pound the outer edge of the circle slightly thinner than its center. Place 2 generous tablespoons of filling into the center, then fold the edges around the filling to cover and form a sphere. Pinch the edges closed tightly and evenly, being careful to avoid getting any sauce on the seam. Transfer the bao to a square of parchment paper, seam side up, and cover with more plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining buns, filling, and parchment squares. Let the buns rest for 1 hour at room temperature before cooking (they will puff up a bit, but not double in size).
7. When ready to steam, place 3 cups of water, ginger, and the lemongrass into a flat-bottomed wok or large, high-sided skillet. Place an 11-inch bamboo steamer into the wok (the water should not touch the bottom rack of the bamboo steamer) and bring the water to a rapid boil over high heat.
8. Meanwhile, uncover half of the bao. Using kitchen shears, make 3 cuts in the knotted crown of the bao, each going out from the center (like a peace sign). Mist the buns lightly with a spray bottle of cold water, and transfer them to the steamer basket, leaving space between each. Quickly replace the lid and steam, adding more water to the wok as needed, until the buns are puffed up and no longer tacky, about 12 minutes.
9. Remove to a platter or serving tray, and cover with a towel. Repeat with the remaining bao, adding more water to the wok as needed. Serve warm.

Lu Chao’s Paintings Convey the Overwhelming Nature of Crowds


People packed on train platforms and congregated in public spaces – these images that are so familiar to the city dweller are the inspiration behind Lu Chao’s surreal oil paintings. The artist references the detailed, expressive brushstrokes of classical Chinese painting, applied to a contemporary subject matter, to provide an honest reflection of his personal experiences with living in some of the world’s most populated cities.

Found on Hi-Fructose

Sky Ladder: The Fireworks Art of Cai Guo-Qiang


On June 15, 2015, at the break of dawn, artist Cai Guo-Qiang set off a giant white balloon filled with 6,200 cubic meters of helium. As the orb ascended above Huiyu Island Harbour in Quanzhou, China, it carried with it a 500-meter-long ladder coated in quick-burning fuses and gold fireworks. Guo-Qiang then ignited the structure, setting off his awe-inspiring creation called Sky Ladder.