Chinese New Year Day fell on February 8 this year and is celebrated by almost 2 billion Chinese around the world. Chinese New Year is the biggest festival in China, but is also celebrated in cities across the globe.
Chinese prepare for the New Year by thoroughly cleaning their houses, symbolising the putting away of old things and bidding farewell to the old year. New Year’s Eve is a time for decorating houses with red lanterns, paintings, paper cutouts and decorations adorned with the year’s zodiac animal. This year is the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese Zodiac.
New Year’s Eve also means – you guessed it – feasting! Family members travel long distances to be together for the traditional family dinner. It has also become a Chinese custom for many families to watch the New Year Gala on TV while having dinner, which carries through from 8pm to midnight and features traditional, folk and pop performances from China’s best singers, dancers and acrobats.
In major cities, and even in rural areas, fireworks and firecrackers ring in the New Year. In some areas people go to large squares or temples to ring a large bell, believed to drive out bad luck and bring good fortune.
The fifteenth day of the New Year is the Lantern Festival. It is the traditional end of the Spring Festival celebrations. People send glowing lanterns into the sky while others let floating lanterns go on the sea, on rivers, or set them adrift on lakes.
Australians have a soft spot for Chinese food, so we’ve included a few popular dishes for you to try at home.
Chinese Barbecued Pork
800g pork neck
1/3 cup char siu sauce
1 tablespoon honey Steamed jasmine rice to serve
Cut pork in half lengthways. Cut each half lengthways into halves. Using a sharp knife, cut slits into both sides of pork in a crisscross pattern. Place char siu sauce in a shallow ceramic dish. Add pork. Turn to coat. Cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight, if time permits.
Preheat grill on high. Place a wire rack in a roasting pan. Pour cold water into roasting pan until 2cm deep. Place pork on rack. Drizzle with half the honey. Place pan under grill 10cm from heat. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until browned. Turn pork. Drizzle with remaining honey. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until just cooked through. Stand for 15 minutes. Thinly slice (see note). Serve with rice.
350g green prawn meat
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
2 egg whites
2 spring onions, chopped
2 teaspoons light soy sauce, plus extra to serve
6 slices white bread, crusts removed
Sesame oil, to brush
Sunflower oil, to shallow-fry
Micro herbs to garnish
Place the prawn meat, garlic, ginger, egg whites, spring onion and soy sauce in a food processor and process to a smooth paste. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then transfer to a bowl, cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Brush one side of each bread slice with a little sesame oil, then spread that side with prawn mixture, making sure it completely covers each piece.
Heat 1-2cm oil in a deep frypan and shallow-fry the toasts for 1-2 minutes each side until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel and slice into triangles.
Sprinkle with micro herbs and serve with extra soy sauce for dipping.
Vegetable Spring Rolls
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cups finely shredded wombok (Chinese cabbage)
1 (about 120g) carrot, peeled, finely chopped
100g green beans, topped, finely chopped
1 x 230g can water chestnuts, drained well, finely chopped
4 green shallots, ends trimmed, finely chopped
3cm-piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
65g (1 cup) bean sprouts, trimmed
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornflour
60ml (1/4 cup) water
20 sheets (20cm x 20cm) spring-roll pastry, just thawed
Rice bran oil, to deep-fry
Plum sauce, to serve
Heat the peanut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the wombok, carrot, beans, water chestnuts, green shallot, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until just tender. Add the bean sprouts and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until just heated through. Add the oyster sauce and soy sauce and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Combine the cornflour and water in a small bowl. Place 1 pastry sheet on a clean work surface and brush with cornflour mixture. Place 1/4 cup of the cabbage mixture diagonally across the centre, leaving a 3cm border at each end. Brush corners and sides with cornflour mixture. Fold in ends and roll up tightly to enclose filling. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining pastry, cabbage mixture and cornflour mixture.
Add enough oil to a large saucepan to reach a depth of 5cm. Heat to 190°C over medium-high heat (when the oil is ready a cube of bread will turn golden brown in 10 seconds).
Add 4 spring rolls to the oil and cook for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a tray lined with paper towel. Repeat, in 4 more batches, with the remaining spring rolls, reheating the oil between batches.
Place the spring rolls on a serving platter and serve immediately with plum sauce, if desired.
Crispy Skinned Lemon Chicken
1 (about 1.8kg) fresh whole chicken, cut into portions
Saxa natural salt grinder
½ cup (125ml) honey
½ cup (125ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon thick soy sauce
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1 lemon, cut into wedges
2 green shallots, cut into matchsticks
Coriander leaves, to serve
Steamed jasmine rice to serve
Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the chicken, skin-side up, in a large roasting pan. Season well with salt. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Meanwhile, combine the honey, lemon, soy sauce and ginger in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sauces boils and thickens. Remove from heat.
Brush the chicken with a little of the honey sauce and bake for a further 10 minutes or until chicken caramelises slightly.
Meanwhile, heat a medium non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the lemon wedges and cook for 2 minutes each side or until golden brown. Remove from heat.
Place the shallots in a bowl of ice water and set aside for 5 minutes to cur. Drain well.
Arrange the chicken on serving plates. Drizzle with remaining honey sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds, green shallots and coriander leaves. Serve with lemon wedges and steamed rice.
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