Just like the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3, I’m about to be back, back, back, back, back again on a remote(ish) island in Fiji to cook-up some culinary commiserations for the 19 soon to be losers and 39 days, one sole survivor, of Survivor: Ghost Island. As has now become traditional, I am counting down to the premiere by spending time with past victors. And we’re kicking things off with one of my favourites – Vecepia Towery.
Now hold up – did I desperately want Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien to take out Marquesas? Without a doubt. But does that take away from the low-key brilliance that was Vecepia’s win, the likes of which we had never seen up until that point? No.
I mean, not even the kite flying challenge could diminish my love of the underrated Marquesas.
Not only did Vecepia land on the worst tribe in Survivor history at that point, but she overcame a three-seven disadvantage at the merge to lead (with Sean and Kathy, yes) the first ever shake-up in Survivor, rallying the minority to turn on the majority and overthrow the game. For that alone, you can’t count out Vecepia. Particularly when you take into account the journal she kept, that helped her snatch victory in the fallen comrades challenge.
Anyway, as you should probably have guessed by now, V is one of my dearest friends and I will defend her to the end of the earth. Knowing that, she was thrilled to answer my call and drop-by to honour the 36th season of the show … which Marquesas kind of set up to become what it is.
We laughed, we cried, we strategised about ways to get more people from early seasons brought back for returning player seasons and most importantly, we absolutely annihilated some four-weeks-to-go Vecepia Baowery.
I love me some bao buns. So, so, much. And these spicy little numbers do nothing to reduce said love. Spicy, sweet and a bun slathered in white creamy goodness? Perfection.
5 garlic cloves, crushed
3cm piece ginger, sliced
3 star anise
1 cinnamon quill
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 long red chillies, chopped
½ cup Chinese rice wine
⅓ cup dark soy sauce
1L chicken stock
4 chicken thighs
½ cup rice flour
2 tsp Chinese five-spice
8 buns and the cucumber from Bret LaBao Buns
½ red capsicum, thinly sliced
small handful of coriander leaves, to taste
kewpie mayo, to taste
Prep your buns and cucumber as per Bretty’s recipe.
Place the garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, chillies, rice wine, soy and stock in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil, reducing heat to low when rollicking. Add the chicken and simmer for twenty minutes or so. Remove and allow to cool before cutting across the thigh into short 1 inch wide strips.
Combine the rice flour and five spice in a bowl and toss through the cooled pieces of chicken to coat. Place enough vegetable oil to fill a pot up to 1cm and place over a high heat. When shimmery and starting to get that weird dancing appearance, reduce heat to medium and add half the chicken, cooking for a couple of minutes – flipping once – until they’re gloriously crisp. Remove to a paper towel and repeat the process.
To assemble, spread open your buns, slather with some kewpie, top with cucumber, capsicum, chicken, more kewpie and some coriander. Devour immediately.