Australia is an incredible country for lovers of food. Our immigrant-rich past (and present) has exposed to us to almost every cuisine in the world, while our variety of climates and proximity to Asia gives us access to ingredients many in the northern hemisphere could only dream of.
And yet, despite our adventurous palettes and the endeavours of our creative chefs, native ingredients have, until recently, enjoyed only minimal celebration in Australian kitchens.
With the increasing availability of native foods, and the work of chefs like Ben Shewry (Attica), Jock Zonfrillo (Orana) and Kylie Kwong (formerly of Billy Kwong), native Australian ingredients are finally getting the exposure they deserve.
This recipe celebrates both our incredible indigenous ingredients, and the foreign cuisines that have shaped our food scene. By replacing the black pepper in this Singaporean classic with native mountain pepperberry, and spiking the traditional steamed buns with wattleseed, a seafood favourite is given a uniquely Australian (and utterly delicious) makeover.
To prepare the pepperberry crab:
Remove the top shell of the crabs by lifting the abdominal flap from underneath and pulling upwards. Remove the gills with your hands and, using a cleaver or a solid kitchen knife, divide the crabs in half. Cut each half in half again leaving the front claw and one leg on the front half, and the three remaining legs on the back half.
In a large bowl, toss the crab with enough cornflour to cover any exposed fleshy areas.
Heat deep frying oil in your wok until it reaches 180 degrees Celsius. Fry crab in batches until flour is crispy and shells are uniformly red (around 2-3 minutes). Drain crab on a tray covered with paper towel until needed.
Carefully discard all but 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil, reduce heat to medium-high and add the butter, garlic, onion, chilli, curry leaves. Stir-fry until softened, then add the pepperberry, soy sauce, abalone sea sauce (or oyster sauce) and sugar. Cook, stirring continuously, for another 2 minutes.
Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the fried crabs, tossing to cover them with pepper and the other aromats, then cover wok with a large lid (or baking tray, and cook for 5 minutes. Liquid will thicken and stick to the crabs.
Transfer to a serving plate, and garnish with curry leaves, coriander sliced chilli, spring onion and an extra sprinkle of ground pepperberry.
To prepare the wattleseed buns:
Combine yeast, sugar, 1.5 tablespoons flour and 80mL warm (but not hot) water in a small bowl. Stir to combine, and leave for 15 minutes or until frothy.
Add salt, oil and remaining flour, stir well, then transfer to a flour-dusted bench top and knead for 5 – 10 minutes. Dough should be smooth (add more flour or water if required).
Place dough into a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 1.5 hours or until dough has doubled in size.
Transfer dough back to dusted bench top, flatten slightly and sprinkle with wattleseed, lemon myrtle and baking powder. Knead dough for 5 minutes, until additional ingredients have been thoroughly incorporated.
Divide dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll each into a tight ball and place on a small square of baking paper. Arrange dough balls in a steamer basket, leaving enough room for each to double in size, cover with steamer lid and leave somewhere warm for another hour.
Once doubled in size, place steamer on a wok or saucepan filled with rapidly boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Serve warm.