新年好 (Happy New Year – Chinese style)!

Happy Chinese New Year! I know, it was last week; it seems I run late in Chinese as well as English.

2014, the year of the horse; I love horses, let’s hope that translates into life in general this year. I am a rooster, or a dog, depending on which calendar you look at, because it turns out my birthday is on the cusp of that year’s Chinese New Year. This makes me giggle, because my sister was born on the cusp of Taurus and Gemini star signs, or “on the crust” as she mistakenly used to call it. Harry (my little boy) is a rabbit, which may explain why I had so many urges to buy toy rabbits for him when I was pregnant.

Why the picture of spring onions? Well, it seems you can’t make many Chinese dishes without them so it seems fitting. They’re ok, but I can live without having quite as many as some of the recipes I have seen suggest are required, so I have left them out

Cooking Chinese around Chinese New Year wasn’t planned, I had green beans that needed using up and it just so happened that the first recipe I found that I fancied was a Chinese one; the idea of cooking up a not-very-traditional Chinese New Year feast sort of snowballed from there. I’m glad it did though; it was yummy, and much nicer, and healthier, than a takeout.

Appetiser

Prawn crackers

Main course

Meltingly soft pork belly glazed with blackbean sauce with Hoi Sin dipping sauce

Gok Wan’s Aromatic Wok-Fried Beans

Egg fried rice

Dessert

Vanilla Ice Cream with Passion Fruit

Chinese feast

I admit that when you read this menu it doesn’t tantalise that many tastebuds. Had this meal not been as on a whim as it was I expect I would have opted for something far more traditional (read fancy and complicated); as it was though I decided on the meal at 2, went to do my weekly shop at 3 and needed to be eating by 5.30 so that Harry could join us. So I was pretty limited on what I could do. Anyway, despite many a short cut and dull sounding menu, it was very, very nice; think about all the times you have sat with a takeout menu and haven’t been able to decide whether to stick to your your trusty now dull sounding favourites or try something new and exciting.

The prawn crackers: they’re essential; I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like them, kids included.

The pork belly: originally I wanted to do ribs, but there must be a lot of Chinese people in Leicester as Sainsbury’s didn’t have any; I went for pork belly strips instead, and I’m glad I did because they really were meltingly soft. No recipe here I’m afraid, it was literally a jar of black bean sauce over the pork, and in the oven (bottom shelf) on a moderate heat for about an hour and a half. Dipping them in the Hoi Sin feels very naughty, but is really yummy.

The beans: a little bowl of virtue on the side to make up for the naughtiness of dipping the pork in sauce.

Egg fried rice: one of those things that, when done well, you just can’t get enough of.

Dessert: I don’t really know what Chinese people have for dessert. Takeout menus offer battered bananas and pineapple rings, but they’re not fooling me, I don’t believe this is what China’s sweet toothed dessert addicts really have. At all the Chinese all-you-can eat buffets I’ve ever been to there has been a random selection of fruit, cakes and the apparently obligatory chocolate fountain. So I plumped for a halfway house: ice cream, but smothered in a suitably exotic type of fruit, which was light and refreshing after quite a sticky-so-it-cant-be-good-for-you type meal.

I love the sound of many of the recipes in the Gok Wan book my friend bought me, so I expect I will be making a bit more Chinese now. I’ll have to try something more extravagant next time though. I thoroughly recommend the book (Gok Cooks Chinese), it gives Chinese food a freshness that, if you’ve only ever had takeout type Chinese food, will pleasantly surprise you. Enjoy!

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