Asia’s biggest holiday is Lunar New Year and London has embraced this colourful celebration too. This year, Chinese New Year falls on Saturday 10 February and celebrates the Year of the Dragon.
Food plays an important part in the celebrations, and what better inspiration for your Chinese New Year meal than recipes from celebrity chef Ken Hom‘s books – whether you are planning a quick dinner or a banquet.
Through his pioneering television series Ken Hom CBE demystified the secrets of Chinese cooking and taught the UK how to cook with a wok. This year, he celebrates 40 years since he first appeared on BBC television with his iconic cookery programme Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery. The series was accompanied by a book with the same title, and many of those original, much-loved recipes have lived on, and are ideal for Chinese New Year.
Ken’s recipes are delicious and auspicious, as every course in a Chinese New Year meal is packed with significance: noodles, uncut, for longevity, dumplings for prosperity, whole fish for togetherness and abundance, duck for fidelity, chicken for prosperity and mushrooms with bean curd for cleansing the soul.
With a Ken Hom wok at the ready, here are his classic Spicy Sichuan Noodles and Chicken with Black Bean Sauce recipes, ideal for Chinese New Year.
What’s more, no one should worry about piling on more pounds after the post-Christmas excesses, as Chinese cuisine uses lots of vegetables, lean meat and very little oil, even at Chinese New Year time.
And what to drink with your Chinese New Year meal? Try sake, which is increasingly found in supermarkets at this time of year, as well as from specialist shops and from the Japan Centre in London’s Leicester Square, the hub of Chinese New Year celebrations.
Ken’s recommends Junmai Daiginjo, one of his favourites styles of sake made from the highest quality of rice. A popular one is Gekkeikan Horin Junmai Daiginjo from the Japan Centre, with a fruity nose of honeydew melon and honeysuckle, a smooth palate and a long clean aftertaste with hints of pear. A quality sake best served cold, which perfectly pairs the bold flavours of these two recipes. £38 from www.japancentre.com
Contrary to belief, red wines also pair well with Chinese food, like this Les Marennes Pinot Noir Sancerre at £15 from Waitrose, with its intensely fruity nose combining black cherry, raspberry and blackcurrant. Rich and elegant on the palate and a long, delicately spicy finish, great with those spicy noodles. www.waitrose.com
Toss and wok those noodles, raise a glass, and wish your friends and family Gung Hay Fat Choy!
Spicy Sichuan (Dan Dan) Noodles
2.25 litres (4 pints) water
250g fresh or dried egg noodles
1.5tbsp groundnut oil
3tbsp finely chopped garlic
2tbsp peeled & finely chopped fresh root ginger
4tbsp finely chopped spring onion
375g minced pork
2tbsp smooth peanut butter
2tbsp dark soy sauce
2tbsp chilli oil
2tbsp chilli bean sauce
175ml chicken stock
1tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, roasted and ground
2tsp sesame oil, plus extra for tossing with noodles
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped spring onions to garnish
Put water and salt into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the noodles. Separate noodles whilst they are boiling.
- Drain in a colander, run under cold water and leave until cold to prevent them overcooking. Toss with sesame oil.
- Heat the wok until hot, then add groundnut oil. When the oil is smoking hot, add the garlic, ginger and spring onions and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
- Add the pork, stir well to break up all the pieces and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes or until it loses its pink colour.
- Add the remaining ingredients, except for the sesame oil. Season with black pepper to taste and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
- Return the noodles to the wok and heat for 2 minutes, mixing well. Stir in the sesame oil and mix. Turn onto a platter, garnish with chopped spring onions and serve
Chicken with Black Bean Sauce
(a favourite of many first time diners in Chinese restaurants, easily recreated at home. The fragrance of fermented black bean sauce mixed with garlic and ginger is mouth-watering. It can also be cooked ahead of time and reheated, and is also delicious served cold).
1 tablespoon finely chopped
fresh root ginger
11/2 tablespoons coarsely
2 tablespoons finely chopped
31/2 tablespoons finely chopped
spring onions (scallions)
21/2 tablespoons coarsely
chopped salted black beans
150 ml (5 fl oz) Chicken Stock
1 Cut the chicken into 5 cm (2 inch) chunks and place in a bowl. Mix with the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, salt, sugar, sesame oil and cornflour.
2 Heat a wok over a high heat, then add the groundnut oil. When it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
3 Add the ginger, garlic, shallots, 11/2 tablespoons of the spring onions and the black beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
4 Add the stock, bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Garnish with the remaining spring onions and serve.