Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Year of the Goat: A Chinese Culinary New Year

Different cultures across the globe have varied traditions and beliefs associated with the start of a new year. While some may celebrate the newly harvested crop, others usher in spring, but for each one of us, it's a time to plan anew and start afresh. This week ushers in the Chinese Lunar New Year with communities across the globe celebrating the Year of the Goat. Lucky food is served during the 16-day festival season, especially on New Year’s Eve, which is believed to bring good luck for the coming year. The auspicious symbolism of these foods is based on their pronunciations or appearance. Not only do the dishes themselves matter, but also the preparation, and ways of serving and eating mean a lot. The most common Chinese New Year foods includes fish, dumplings, spring rolls, and noodles, which unsurprisingly represent longevity and a long life. The biggest day in the Chinese calendar, it's a time for family, festivities, fireworks and most importantly, lots of delicious food — Gong Hey Fat Choy!

Pork & Green Onion Dumplings
Makes 30

1 lb ground pork
2 green onions, thinly chopped
1-inch knob of ginger, chopped
2 tsp Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp white grounded pepper
30 round gyoza wrappers
cilantro leaves for garnish

Ginger Vinaigrette Dip:
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2-inch ginger, minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp black vinegar
pinch of sugar

Purée all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a food processor until well blended, then set aside until needed.

To make the dumplings, place the ground pork in a large bowl then add the green onion, ginger, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sesame oil and fresh ground white pepper, and mix until well combined. Scoop a spoonful of the pork mixture into the middle of each wrapper; wet the edges with water, then fold the dumplings in half like a half moon.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Gently place the dumplings into the boiling water in batches, and when they float to the top, use a strainer to scoop them out. Lay on a warm dish until each of the dumplings are cooked. To serve, arrange on a decorative plate with a small bowl of ginger vinaigrette in the middle as a dip, and garnish with a few cilantro leaves.

Chinese Long Life Noodles with Prawns
Serves 4
Recipe and photo courtesy of Donal Skehan

8 oz Chinese egg noodles
1 tbsp sunflower oil
8 oz large prawns, shelled and deveined
1 head Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 carrots, peeled and finely sliced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, finely sliced
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chilli oil
2 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted
3 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
Small handful coriander leaves

Cook the noodles according to the package instructions, then drain and rinse with a little cold water and set aside. Heat the wok over high heat with a little sunflower oil then add the prawns and cook very briefly for about one minute each side. Remove from the wok and set aside.

Place the wok back over high heat. Add a little sunflower oil and stir-fry the ginger and garlic for about 30 seconds. Then add the carrots, Chinese cabbage, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and chilli oil and stir-fry until the carrots are tender but still have a bit of crunch. Finally, add the noodles and prawns and toss well to combine. Serve immediately with a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds, sliced spring onions and coriander leaves.