Mum's sweet & sour chicken.

Mum's sweet & sour chicken. Photo: Supplied

Marion Grasby knows a thing or two about Asian food. And in Asia Express she shows us how to whip up quick, delicious, no-fuss versions of all the Asian classics we know and love without scrimping on flavour. Here's three of her recipes.

Mum's sweet and sour chicken (serves 4)

My mum's sweet and sour chicken was the ham and pineapple pizza of my childhood. Mum says I constantly asked for it and could wolf down half the plate just on my own. I still love it. It's much lighter and fresher than the Chinese restaurant version. Chicken was my childhood favourite but this is also super tasty with prawns or tofu.

Prawn cakes with chilli-lime sauce.

Prawn cakes with chilli-lime sauce. Photo: Supplied

Cucumber might seem an unusual stir-fry vegetable but I love its ability to hold its crunch yet still soak up bags of sauce. Try it in any of your own stir-fry recipes.

4 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp white vinegar

Beef pho.

Beef pho.

3 tbsp white sugar

2 tsp cornflour

2 tbsp vegetable oil


3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 brown onion, halved and cut into thin wedges

500g chicken thighs, thinly sliced

1 tomato, cut into small wedges

1 red capsicum, deseeded and cut into strips

1 small Lebanese cucumber, sliced on the diagonal

150g fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 spring onions, trimmed and cut into 2cm batons

Whisk together the fish sauce, white vinegar and sugar. Set aside for later. In a separate bowl, combine the cornflour with 3 teaspoons of water to make a paste. Set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Add the garlic and onion and stir-fry for about a minute. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes, or until just cooked. Now add the tomato, capsicum, cucumber and pineapple and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Pour over the fish sauce mixture and toss to combine. Pour over the cornflour mixture and stir-fry for another minute to allow the sauce to thicken. Remove from the heat and toss through the spring onions to serve.

Prawn cakes with chilli-lime sauce (makes 25)

I use the ''pinch and fry'' method for my prawn cakes because it seems a whole lot quicker than fiddling around with shaping perfectly round little patties and laying them out on a tray. I quite like the odd-shaped morsels this method produces. If you're making them in advance for a party, by all means shape your prawn cakes early and set them out on a tray lined with plastic wrap. They also freeze well - just place them in the freezer on the tray covered with plastic wrap and, once they're frozen, transfer them to zip-lock bags to save space. You can cook them from frozen.

600g peeled and deveined raw prawns (about 1.2kg if you're buying them unpeeled)

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

¼ cup finely sliced spring onions

¼ cup roughly chopped fresh coriander

¼ cup mint leaves

5 kaffir lime leaves, central stems removed and leaves finely sliced

1 egg white

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

vegetable oil for deep-frying

Chilli-lime sauce

¼ cup sweet chilli sauce

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tsp fish sauce

Preheat the oven to 150C. To make the chilli-lime sauce, mix the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve.

Place the prawns, garlic, spring onions, coriander, mint, kaffir lime leaves, egg white, salt and black pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until you have a smooth paste. Scoop the sticky mixture out into a large bowl.

Fill a wok one-third full with vegetable oil and heat to 180C. If you don't have a cooking thermometer, a cube of bread will turn golden in 30 seconds when the oil is hot enough.

Wet your hands with water and pinch off small bits (about a tablespoon at a time) of the prawn mixture and carefully drop them into the hot oil.

Don't overcrowd your wok - about eight at a time should do. Cook for two to three minutes, then remove the prawn cakes and drain on paper towel.

Keep them warm in the preheated oven. Repeat this process until you have used all the prawn mixture. Serve the prawn cakes with chilli-lime sauce.

Beef pho (serves 4)

I am a noodle soup devotee from way back. I love the humble noodle soup in all its glorious variations. One of my absolute favourites is the Vietnamese pho.

Traditionally, the broth would be left to simmer away for hours. My express version obviously has a lighter flavour but it still delivers a beefy, savoury soup with just a hint of star anise - and all in record time.

400 g dried rice stick noodles

½ brown onion, halved and thinly sliced

250 g beef fillet steak


1 tspn vegetable oil

1 brown onion, roughly chopped

5cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced

5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

3 whole star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

2 litres beef stock

½ cup fish sauce

3 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tsp white sugar

Table condiments: hoisin sauce, sambal oelek, bean shoots, Thai basil leaves, lemon wedges, long red chillies, finely sliced

To make the broth, heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Cook, stirring every so often, for 3-4 minutes, or until the onion has softened.

Add the beef stock, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Bring to the boil then turn down to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.

While your broth is simmering away, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and rinse under running water to cool. Divide between four serving bowls and top with the onion slices.

Now it's time to get all your table condiments in order. Place the hoisin and sambal oelek in little bowls so people can add their own sauces to taste. Place a pile of bean shoots, basil leaves, lemon wedges and chillies on a platter. These, too, are to be picked, squeezed or sprinkled over soup bowls to taste.

Just before your broth is done, slice the beef into ever-so-thin slivers and drape them over the noodles and onion. Carefully strain the broth into a clean saucepan and place back on high heat until it just comes back to a simmer. Ladle the hot broth over the beef so that it just cooks. Serve with the range of table condiments.