Joyce Wing’s Curried Potatoes

This is a true Westernized Chinese dish, combining basic ingredients – potatoes and curry – that are unusual in traditional Chinese cuisine. But, in a typical Chinese way, Joyce Wing would put together foods and seasonings that were at hand and create a substantial and inexpensive dish to be enjoyed by the whole family.

My friend Gordon Wing tells me that his mother did not add carrots or any other vegetables because she wanted the basic curry-potato blend to shine through. And she usually made the dish with beef or chicken, stir-fried separately and mixed in just before serving. In fact, the curry powder, potatoes and onions are all prepared sequentially, the point being to preserve their individuality and thus to enhance the varied tastes of the final ensemble.

Joyce Wing prefers to cook the potatoes until they begin to dissolve, so as to thicken the dish. And if the curry has lost some of its zest, her trick is to add some diced fresh chilli, a step she sometimes has to take.

Gordon and I argue about whether his hometown, Boston, has colder winters than my Chicago. But we do agree that this dish is perfect for a cold winter’s evening in any place.

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Ingredients

  • 675 g ( lb) russet potatoes
  • 450 g (1 lb) yellow onions
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons Madras curry powder
  • 480 ml (16 fl oz) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 225 g (8 oz) minced beef
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour

Method

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2.5 cm (1 in) pieces. Cut the onions into slices.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the garlic and half of the curry powder and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Then chuck in the potatoes and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove them and set aside. Reheat the wok over a high heat and, when it is hot, add another tablespoon of oil. Toss in the onions and the rest of the curry powder and stir-fry until the onions are caramelized, about 3 minutes. Return the potatoes to the wok, pour in the chicken stock and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and sprinkle in the salt and sugar. Transfer the mixture to a heavy casserole. Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 1½ hours, or until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked and have begun to dissolve.

Meanwhile, mix the beef with the remaining 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, the rice wine, sesame oil and cornflour. Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon of groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the minced beef and stir-fry for 5 minutes, breaking it up.

When the potatoes are cooked, stir in the beef and serve at once.

Variation

Substitute 225 g (8 oz) of chopped boneless, skinless chicken thighs or minced turkey or pork for the beef.

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