Life

Chinese New Year: Happy Year Of The Rabbit!

Well, it is now the year of the rabbit 🙂 I hope everyone who celebrated the Lunar New Year (be it through Chinese New Year, Imbolc, or any other celebration) had a really enjoyable time!

My Mom made a Chinese dragon as a paper sculpture 🙂

She couldn’t get the photocopies of the pattern that she wanted so she did it by eye, and we both think the face should be longer, but it’s still really great and was a nice surprise to find it in the hallway that morning! 🙂

We had a lot of dim sum and decided to make some sesame prawn toasts too…they were really delicious! I’ll put the recipe up tomorrow (although we did kind of wing-it a bit).

I stuck to fairly low-key decorations for the table, keeping things simple because I knew how much colour and texture the different dim sum would add 🙂 (sorry the picture is a bit dark – the lighting in the dining room isn’t very bright)

Then after we added all of the food…

Even Spike joined us for a little while 🙂 Although he soon left when he realised it was “human only” feeling time!

We made a bit of a discovery this year too. Marks and Spencer were selling a few things for Chinese New Year and one of them caught my eye, this rather tasty looking Mango & Sweet Chilli dipping sauce.

To top it all off, they were selling them at half price! So, I was eager to try it out and wow this stuff is great! The lovely sweet fruitiness from the mango works so well with the slight heat from the sweet chilli.

We had planned to have dim sum and then do a main dish of ho fun noodles and some beef in black bean sauce for me and Quorn in black bean sauce for Mom. But we were so full after the dim sum that we decided to do the main dish the next day! …although we did make room for some sesame gelatinous balls later for desert (they’re far more tasty than they sound lol!).

Recipes

Chinese New Year: Char Siu Bao (pork buns)

I love char siu bao! In fact, I’m sitting here eating some while I type out this recipe 🙂 The soft fluffy dough and sweet pork filling make these buns one of my favourites and something I always come home with from Chinese supermarkets!

With that in mind, I decided to make some from scratch for Chinese New Year. I have to admit, when I went to get the ingredients I did buy a packet of dough mixture (so I only had to add water and oil) instead of doing that from scratch. But I’ve been cooking pretty much non-stop so decided it wasn’t cheating…too much! I’ve put the full dough recipe here though and will use it the next time I make some…which will probably be next week knowing me hehe.

Makes: 12
Preparation time: 25 minutes (plus 3 hours proving time for the dough)

Dough
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
310 g (11 oz / 1 1/2 cups) plain flour (all-purpose flour)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Filling
Ingredients:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
250 g (9 oz) Chinese barbecued pork, finely chopped
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce

1. To make the dough, pour 250 ml (9 fl oz / 1 cup) of warm water into a small bowl and add the sugar. Stir for a few seconds to dissolve the sugar then add the yeast. Cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes.

2. Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture and vegetable oil into the well. Quickly stir the ingredients together and turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Brush a large bowl with the sesame oil and put the dough in the bowl, turning the dough around to coat it all with the oil. Cover the bowl and set aside to rise for at least 3 hours.

3. Lift the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Punch the dough down and flatten into a large round. Sprinkle the baking powder in the center of the circle, bringing the edges up towards the center. Firmly press the edges together, then knead the dough for a further 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll into balls. Cover with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.

4. To make the filling, heat a wok over high heat, add the oil and swirl to coat. Add the pork and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the oyster sauce, sugar, rice wine, sesame oil and soy sauce and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool.

5. Take each ball of dough and press it onto a lightly floured surface to form a circle 12 cm (4 1/2 inches) in diameter. Place a heaped tablespoon of the filling in the center of each dough circle, then bring the edges up to the center. Press the edges firmly together. Sit each bun on a 5 cm (2 inch) square of baking paper.

6. Place six pork buns on each layer of a double steamer (our steamer is smaller so we only had 3 on each layer) and cover with a lid. Sit the steamer over a wok or saucepan of boiling water (the steamer shouldn’t touch the water) and steam for 15 minutes.

Serve warm and enjoy! 🙂

Recipes

Chinese New Year: Mushroom And Water Chestnut Steamed Buns

This is a recipe I’ve wanted to try for a while but have been saving it for Chinese New Year. Mushrooms and I have a very shaky relationship – I love them but they don’t love me. Or rather, they used to love me until I turned about 17 and then suddenly gained an allergy to them :/

So, why am I making a mushroom recipe? I like to live dangerously! Lol no, not really, I’m making it because certain mushrooms, such as shiitake and oyster mushrooms, don’t affect me. It’s weird, I know. So I’ve altered the recipe to use double the shiitake mushrooms for me, but am giving you guys the proper recipe and will then look at you enviously when you get to eat the little button joys that I dare not! You can really use any mushrooms you want in this though, so if you have trouble finding one of them, substitute a different kind that you like 🙂

Makes 24
Preparation time: 25 minutes (1 hour rest time for the dough preparation)
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Dough
Ingredients:
600 g (1 lb 5 oz / 4 3/4 cups) plain flour (all-purpose flour)
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
3 tablespoons oil

Filling
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 small red chilli, seeded and finely sliced
8 Swiss brown mushrooms, finely chopped
8 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
225 g (8 oz) tin water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 1 tablespoon water
2 spring onions (scallions), chopped
1 tablespoon chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves

1.
To make the dough, sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt into a bowl. Gradually stir in the oil and 375 ml (13 fl oz / 1 1/2 cups) of water and mix to a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for 1 minute, or until softened. Stir in all the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender. Add the water chestnuts, oyster sauce, soy sauce and combined cornflour and water and simmer, stirring, for about 1 minute, or until the mixture has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the spring onions and coriander. Set aside to cool.

3. Divide the dough into 24 pieces. Shape each piece into a 6 cm (2 1/2 inch) flat round. Put 1 teaspoon of mushroom mixture in the center of each and gather the edges together, pinching to enclose the filling.

4. Line a steamer with baking paper and punch with holes. Place the buns on top, 2 cm (3/4 inch) apart, and cover with a lid (you may need to do this in batches).

5. Sit the steamer over a wok of saucepan of boiling water (the steamer shouldn’t touch the water) and steam for about 15-20 minutes, or until the buns are firm. Serve immediately.

My Mom is vegetarian so this is a recipe we can both enjoy 🙂 The thing to remember with these buns is even if they don’t look perfectly round (I know mine didn’t!), they’ll still taste just as good!

Recipes

Chinese New Year: Pea Shoot And Prawn Dumplings

This is another great dim sum recipe in the lead up to Chinese New Year, which is on February 3rd this year 🙂

One of my favouite dim sum is ha gow, which are prawn dumplings with a slightly sticky texture to the dough. I didn’t have a recipe for ha gow, but this seemed similar enough to make me want to try it! The recipe is from Dim Sum by Fiona Smith, which is packed with lots of great recipes.

Pea shoots are leaf shoots of the mangetout, snowpea or garden pea. They are sold in Chinese supermarkets and some grocers, and taste like the essence of peas! If you can’t find any though, don’t worry! Just use mangetout 🙂

The recipe says to serve these dumplings without any dip, so that the subtle flavours aren’t overpowered. But a simple dip of soy sauce, or even sweet chilli, would work to complement the flavours in my opinion.

Makes: 32
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 7 minutes

Ingredients:
250 g fresh pea shoots or mangetout (snowpeas), chopped
500 g uncooked prawns (shrimp), shelled, deveined and coarsely chopped (about 250 g prepared)
4 cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaohsing (Chinese rice wine) or dry sherry (this is optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 egg white, beaten
extra pea shoots or Chinese chives, to serve

Rice Flour Dough
Ingredients:
175 g plain flour
125 g rice flour
2 tablespoons oil
250 ml boiling water

1. To make the dough, mix the two flours in a bowl, then stir in 250 ml boiling water and the oil. Stir until cool enough to handle, then knead to form a smooth mass. Put in a plastic bag ans chill for 30 minutes.

2. Put the pea shoots or mangetout in a colander and pour over boiling water, then quickly refresh under cold running water and set aside.

3. Put the prawns in a bowl and mix in the ginger, soy sauce, Shaohsing or sherry (if you’re using any), sesame oil and egg white. Set aside for 15 minutes to develop the flavours. Add the chopped pea shoots or mangetout.

4. Divide the dough into 32 pieces, roll into balls and cover with a damp cloth. Dust a dry surface with flour and, using a rolling pin, roll out a ball of dough to a circle, 8 cm in diameter. Put one heaped teaspoon of filling in the center, brush the edges with water, then bring them together to enclose the filling. Twist to seal and break off any excess dough. Repeat until all are made, keeping the dumplings covered as you make them.

5. Put the dumplings, sealed edge down, in a steamer and steam over boiling water for 7 minutes. Serve with extra pea shoots or chives.

They sound absolutely delicious! No picture yet because we aren’t making them until New Year (tomorrow), so I’ll update the post with pictures then 🙂

Recipes

Chinese New Year: Siu Mai (pork and prawn dumplings)

Even though I’m not Chinese, and don’t have any Chinese heritage as far as I’m aware, we’ve celebrated Chinese New Year for as far back as I can remember 🙂 I pretty much grew up on dim sum – every week when families would go out for a traditional English Sunday roast lunch, mine would go out for traditional Cantonese cooking. I adore dim sum.

In a way, it kind of gave my family more of a sense of community. The restaurant we went to, Chung Ying Garden, always had such a welcoming and inviting atmosphere. Everyone was enjoying themselves with good food and good company. Today I think that a lot of families don’t spend that kind of quality time together; they don’t all come together over enjoyable and healthy food, which is quite sad.

I still go to the Chung Ying Garden, with family but also with friends 🙂 I’ve had the majority of celebrations in my life taking place at that restaurant!

When I was younger, we used to go there every year for Chinese New Year. We’d have great food and then venture out to where the Chinese dragons and lions dance. I find that the December 31st/January 1st New Year seems less about celebration of the year ahead, less about community and joy between friends and family, so I’ve always enjoyed the colours and energy at Chinese New Year 🙂 There is a serious element too, because the dragon has a challenge of knocking down a cabbage that is strung up high. If he misses or doesn’t knock it down then that means bad luck for the coming year.

So, with thought of family in mind my Mom and I are doing things a bit different this year due to me moving country soon. We decided to get out all of our recipe books and make the Cantonese food we love 🙂 I’ll be putting several recipes up so be sure to check back for more great (and easy!) New Year recipes!

This recipe is for one of my all time favourite dim sum, siu mai (pork and prawn dumplings). I’m getting hungry just thinking about them! Oh, for all you American’s out there, prawns = shrimp 🙂

Siu Mai (pork and prawn dumplings)

Makes: 24
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
300 g (10 1/2 oz) minced (ground) pork
300 g (10 1/2 oz) minced (ground) prawns (shrimp)
3 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
60 g (2 1/4 oz / 1/3 cup) chopped water chestnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon light soy sauce, plus extra to serve
1 teaspoon caster (superfine) sugar
24 won ton wrappers

You can make these without the prawns, just double the amount of pork! Or, vice versa 🙂

1. To make the filling, put the pork and prawn meat, spring onion, water chestnuts, ginger, soy sauce and sugar in a large non-metallic bowl and combine well.

2. Working with one wrapper at a time, place a heaped tablespoon of filling in the centre of the wrapper. Bring the sides up around the outside, forming pleats to firmly encase the filling – the top of the dumpling should be exposed. Pinch together to enclose the bottom of the filling, then cover with a damp cloth. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling to make 24 in total.

3. Line a large steamer with baking paper and punch with holes. Place the dumplings on top in a single layer, making sure they don’t tough each other. Cover with a lid. Sit the steamer over a wok or saucepan of boiling water and steam for 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through. The water should not touch the steamer.

4. Serve the dumplings, while still hot, with whatever sauce you prefer! Soy sauce, chilli sauce, or sweet chilli all work very well.

Enjoy with friends and family 🙂

This will be my post for this week’s Hearth and Soul Blog Hop 🙂 Be sure to check out the other recipes on there and to follow my blog for more tasty treats! More Chinese New Year recipes to come tomorrow 🙂