East-West Chips

The wok is perfect for making potato chips, or fries as they are known in other parts of the world. Its round, concave shape makes it ideal for deep-frying without wasting any oil. The secret to making good chips lies in the cooking technique. First, chill the cut potatoes for several hours. This allows the natural starch to set so that when the chips hit the hot oil, they do not act like sponges and become greasy. They must then be dried thoroughly so they are without a trace of moisture. Then use the double-frying technique. The first quick-fry cooks them, then, after letting the chips drain and allowing the oil in the wok to regain the frying point, put the chips in for the second quick-fry. They cook to a crisp and golden perfection. I then toss the chips in a tasty mix of salt, cayenne, five-spice powder and crushed Szechuan peppercorns. These chips are marvellous with grilled foods and as a snack they are unbeatable. They are a perfect vegetarian dish.

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Ingredients

  • 750 g ( lb) potatoes
  • 900 ml ( pints) groundnut oil

For the Seasoning Mixture

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon five-spice powder
  • ½ teaspoon whole Szechuan peppercorns, roasted and finely ground
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

Peel and cut the potatoes into strips about 7.5 cm x 5 mm (3 in x ½ in). Put the strips into a large bowl, cover with cold water and chill for 2 hours or overnight.

Combine the ingredients for the seasoning mixture in a small bowl and set aside. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then spin them dry in a salad spinner or pat them dry with kitchen paper. The potatoes should be as dry as possible for the best results.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, fry half of the potatoes for 8 minutes. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander; then fry the second batch.

When you are ready to serve them, re-heat the oil until it is very hot. Fry half of the potatoes until they are crispy and golden brown. Remove and drain well on kitchen paper. Re-heat the oil until it is very hot, fry the other half and drain. Transfer the potatoes to a warm platter, toss with the seasoning mix and serve at once.

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