Chinese New Year 2017 started Saturday, and is the Year of the Rooster. The 15-day celebration, beginning on the first day of the new moon, ends on the full moon (Thursday) with a celebration called the Chinese Lantern Festival.
Roughly one sixth of the world celebrates Chinese New Year and it is the most important day and the longest celebration of the year for people of Chinese heritage. I remember being in Vancouver’s Chinatown one year during the first day of Chinese New Year. Amazing colourful dragons were winding in and out and down the narrow streets; firecrackers were going off everywhere, the drumming was so loud, insistent, and strong it travelled through the pavement and up into my heart, forcing it to along with its beat. It was a remarkable experience!
Food is a powerful medium of this festival, wherein each symbolism is communicated and cemented in the collective consciousness of the people. Noodles are traditionally eaten, as they symbolize longevity — the longer the noodle, the longer the life. Whole fish, dumplings and spring rolls denote wealth; oranges and tangerines denote good luck, and so it goes. Today’s recipes include an easy sesame chicken, a nice pork entrée, a healthy garlic snow pea stir-fry with a crispy and fresh taste, and a delicious chow mein where you can always substitute pork for the chicken if you wish.
Chinese Sesame Chicken
1 Tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 pound boneless chicken
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
2 cups cooked rice
Cut boneless chicken into 1-inch strips.
Heat a wok, adding peanut or vegetable oil. Add chicken and cook for 8-10 minutes, until cooked.
In a bowl, mix together well all remaining ingredients, except sesame seeds and rice. Pour sauce over the chicken. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens. Sprinkle in sesame seeds. Cover wok, and continue to cook, while chicken soaks up most of the sauce.
Serve over a bed of cooked rice.
Chinese BBQ Char Siu
2 pounds boneless pork loin
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. grated garlic
1/2 tsp. five spice powder
Optional: 10 drops red food colouring
Cut the pork along the grain, into 2 strips about 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Transfer pork to a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Pour half of the marinade onto the pork and save the rest in an airtight container in the fridge (for later use). Seal the bag and press as much as air out as possible. Rub the bag so that the pork is covered well with the marinade. Let marinate at room temperature for 3 hours, or in the fridge overnight. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. After the oven is preheated, turn on broiler. Place oven rack in the lower third of the oven, about 10 inches from the broiler element.
Add the red food colouring into the remaining marinade. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and add 1/4-inch of water. Place a baking rack on top. Drain pork loin and discard the marinating liquid. Transfer pork onto baking rack. Bake 20 to 25 minutes in total, until internal temperature registers 140 to 150 degrees F. Flip pork every 4 to 5 minutes, 3 times, until surface is cooked. In the last 5 to 6 minutes, flip pork every 1 to 2 minutes, and generously brush marinade onto pork using remaining marinade we saved earlier. When it’s finishing up, the pork should be covered with a thick coat of marinade, slightly charred/caramelized, with the inside still a bit pink (or just cooked through). Remove the pan from the oven. Tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Slice and serve warm or cold. You can serve the char siu by itself over steamed rice, atop noodles, or in other dishes.
Garlic Snow Peas Stir-fry
2 cups snow peas, trimmed
1/2 Tbsp. cooking oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. sesame oil
Pinch of salt
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
Bring water to boil in a medium pot, add several drops of oil and a really small pinch of salt. Place the snow peas to cook for around 1 minute. Transfer out and drain. Heat up oil in wok over medium fire and then fry the minced garlic until it releasese aroma. Add snow peas, followed with salt and sesame oil. Give a quick stir-fry to mix everything together. Transfer out immediately. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and enjoy.
Chicken Chow Mein
6 oz. chicken thigh fillets (or breast), cut into bite-sized pieces
1½ Tbsp. peanut oil (or other cooking oil)
6 oz. fresh chow mein noodles
3 – 4 cups green or savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1 carrot, julienned
1 cup bean sprouts
3 shallot/scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
¼ cup (4 Tbsp.) water
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp. Real Chinese All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce OR Chow Mein Sauce (recipe below)
Pour 1 tbsp of Chow Mein Sauce over the chicken and set aside to marinate for 10 minutes. Prepare noodles according to packet instructions.
Heat oil in wok or large fry pan over high heat. Add garlic and stir-fry 30 seconds until garlic is golden brown and you can smell the garlic in the oil. Remove garlic from wok. Add chicken and stir-fry until skin is white but inside is still raw, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Add the cabbage, carrot and the white pieces of shallots/scallions (i.e. from the base of the stalk). Stir fry 1 – 1½ minutes until the cabbage is just starting to wilt and the chicken is cooked through.
Add the noodles, Chinese All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce/Chow Mein Sauce and water. Stir fry 1 minute, tossing to coat the noodles in the sauce. Add bean sprouts and remaining shallots/scallions. Stir-through quickly, then remove from heat. Serve immediately.
Chow Mein Sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
1½ Tbsp. soy sauce
1½ Tbsp. oyster sauce
1½ Tbsp. Chinese cooking wine (or sherry)
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. sesame oil
Chow Mein Sauce (if using): Mix together cornstarch and soy sauce, then mix in remaining ingredients.