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The Amazing Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School

October 7, 2015


Have you ever found find yourself trying to create an Asian dish at home by chucking in as many ‘Asian’ ingredients as you can lay your hands on? But not achieving the desired result? If so, Adam Liaw’s new book, Asian Cookery School, is the cookbook for you. Sometimes, achieving the authenticity you’re after is simply about how to chop the carrot for the desired texture.

Adam Liaw takes it back to basics in his latest book, offering new insight into Asian cooking by helping us understand the various origins of recipes so we’re not simply trying to replicate what we’ve had in a restaurant – but instead re-creating the whole experience.

Recently Better Reading was lucky enough to attend an inspirational Adam Liaw cooking lesson at Williams-Sonoma Cookery School in Sydney. We’d go as far as calling it a life changing experience! From learning simple techniques, such as how to peel ginger effectively, to realising that Asian food doesn’t have to be that hard, we now know that it can be exceptionally easy. You just have to learn some of the basic techniques and that’s where Adam’s book comes in – with valuable information passed down through generations.

In his Asian Cookery School Adam Liaw takes us on a journey through Asian cooking revealing his heartfelt passion for the various cuisines of a vast continent. He talks about styles of eating and sharing, basic cooking implements to achieve the best results, menu design, textures, flavours and technique.

With each of the chapters a cookery lesson in its own right – ‘Understanding Flavour’; ‘Understanding Texture’; ‘The Wok’; ‘Poultry’; ‘Seafood’ – learning from the Asian Cookery School will open up a whole new world of cooking skills.

Try the follow dishes from the book for yourself or purchase Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School here.

Spinach in Sesame Dressing

This Japanese side dish is one of the most popular accompaniments to a home-style meal and it’s also a great way to get started using a mortar and pestle. You can grind the sesame as coarsely or as finely as you like.







3 tbsp sesame seeds

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp sake

1 tsp soy sauce, plus extra for drizzling

1 bunch (about 250g) spinach



1 Toast the sesame seeds in a dry saucepan over

medium heat and transfer to a large mortar and pestle

with the sugar. Grind to a rough paste then add the sake

and soy sauce and continue to grind until quite smooth.

2 Wash the spinach well, keeping the roots intact. Bring

a saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Place the spinach

in the pot roots first and hold the roots and stems in the

liquid for about 10 seconds, then lower the leaves into

the water and cook for 30 seconds. Remove the spinach

from the pot, drop it into a bowl of cold water to stop the

cooking, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible (use

a sushi mat if you like, or your hands).

3 Place the spinach on a large plate and drizzle with a

little soy sauce, then cut it into 5cm lengths and discard

the roots. Transfer to the mortar. Mix with the sesame

dressing but do not pound the spinach. Remove from

the mortar and serve at room temperature.



A Japanese mortar (suribachi) has ridges inside the bowl and is used for

grinding rather than pounding, but any mortar and pestle will work fi ne.

I prefer toasting sesame seeds in a small saucepan rather than a frypan

because it allows you to swirl the seeds rather than trying to toss them in

a frypan. The swirling motion will toast the seeds more evenly.

Toasting sesame seeds brings out a strong nutty flavour, but also makes

them more brittle. The seeds will grind more easily when well toasted.


Adam Liaw’s Popcorn Chicken

Taiwanese food is a great mix of local dishes with influences from China, Japan and Southeast Asia. Popcorn chicken is a popular street food in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, and once you try it you’ll see why. The crunchy texture of the sweet potato flour coating is incredible.








600g boneless chicken thigh fillets,

preferably skin-on, cut into 3cm pieces

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

2 tsp sugar

½ tsp Chinese five spice powder

1 cup sweet potato flour

2 litres oil, for deep-frying

1 cup loosely packed Thai basil leaves

Spice salt

1 tbsp salt

¼ tsp Chinese five spice powder

¼ tsp white pepper

A pinch chilli powder



1 Combine the chicken with the garlic, ginger, soy sauce,

Shaoxing wine, sugar and five spice powder and set aside

to marinate for at least 10 minutes.

2 Coat the chicken pieces in the sweet potato flour and

shake off any excess.

3 Heat the oil in a wok or saucepan. When the oil reaches

150°C scatter the basil leaves into the wok and stir for

about 20 seconds, or until the basil turns translucent.

Remove the basil from the wok and drain on absorbent


4 Increase the heat of the oil to 170°C and fry the chicken

in batches for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown and

cooked through, regularly skimming any floating flour bits

from the oil.

5 For the spiced salt, mix the ingredients together and

toast in a dry frypan over low–medium heat for 2 minutes,

or until fragrant. Toss the chicken with the fried basil

leaves and season with a good pinch of the spice salt.

Serve immediately.




Sweet potato flour is sometimes sold as ‘tapioca flour’. It’s available from

Asian grocers. The Taiwanese variety is a coarse-textured but light flour that

gives the characteristic crumbly texture to this dish. You could substitute

cornflour or rice flour but it won’t quite be the same.

When deep-frying, skimming oil is a really important step that many people

overlook. It preserves the oil by keeping it clear, and stops burnt flavours

creeping in to later batches.


To purchase a copy of Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School click here

Cookery School Image: La Tessa Photography




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