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Dragon delights; Celebrate the Chinese New Year with a feast to tempt fate. Kit Chan tells Jenny Longhurst how to put lucky foods on the menu.

Byline: Jenny Longhurst

* OOD takes on a whole new meaning when Chinese cooks serve up a new year spread and, on Monday, there will be plenty on the menu to welcome in the Year of the Dragon.

"New year is a big time for families," explained Kit Chan, owner of the Oriental Garden in the Red Dragon Centre, Cardiff Bay.

"There's always a big clean-up beforehand and family members will travel miles to be together for the celebrations.

"Many will have a chicken and it's important to serve it whole because that symbolises a good marriage, the coming together of families and family unity."

Kit, born in Hong Kong, remembers the big gatherings she grew up with and the custom of the lucky red money envelopes.

"The older ones give money to the young and the married give to the single," she said.

"It can be anything from a token pounds 1 or pounds 5 or a lot more if it's a main present for someone close."

Kit's recipes here are typical of the dishes that might be served to encourage love, health and wealth in the year to come.

When spoken in Mandarin, the words for black moss and oyster sound like money, she explained.

So it's believed that eating them as in this Chinese mushroom dish will bring prosperity.

Tofu also sounds like rich when spoken in Cantonese according to Kit so, again, the tofu recipe here represents both financial riches and rich relationships, especially between the young and the elderly.

And putting this spicy steamed sea bass on the menu should double the chances of wishes coming true.

Whatever the main dish may be, there is likely to be rice and noodles to go with them and, since noodles mean long life, great care should be taken never to cut them up.

The more unusual ingredients such as black moss should, said Kit, be available in Chinese supermarkets.

Braised Chinese mushrooms and black moss Serves four to six Ingredients * 40g (1.75oz) dried Chinese mushrooms stalks removed and soaked in hot water until soft * 20g (.75oz) black moss well washed and soaked for 10 minutes * 125g (5oz) dried oysters soaked for 30 minutes * 450g (1lb) bok choy * Five cloves garlic, chopped * 10 slices ginger * One cup water * Two tablespoons oil * One tablespoon oyster sauce For the stock: * One teacup water * One tablespoon oyster sauce * One tablespoon oil * Four tablespoon peanut oil * 90g (3.5oz) gingko nuts, shelled and husk and bitter centre removed For the seasoning: * Half teaspoon salt * Three teaspoons soy sauce * Quarter teaspoon thick soy sauce * One tablespoon ginger juice * One teaspoon sesame oil * One teaspoon sugar * Two tablespoon oyster sauce To thicken: * One and half teaspoons cornflour * Quarter cup water Method * Drain mushrooms and place in a saucepan with a teacup of water, a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon of oyster sauce.

Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. * Drain the black moss and squeeze out water then mix well with one tablespoon of oil and one teaspoon of sugar.

Put one tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic and ginger for a few minutes until fragrant.

Add in the mushroom stock ingredients and bring to the boil.

Add bok choy, oysters and mushrooms and cook for 15 minutes or until bok choy is tender. * Add black moss and gingko nuts and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Blend in seasoning. * Make a paste with the cornflour and water and blend in to thicken.

Serve hot garnished with spring onions.

Steamed sea bass Serves four Ingredients * One whole sea bass washed and cleaned * One tablespoon sesame oil * One tablespoon chopped spring onions * One tablespoon chilli powder or less to taste * One tablespoon garlic powder * One tablespoon ginger paste * Salt to taste * Three tablespoons oil * Half a glass white wine Method * Steam fish for six minutes then marinate in the salt and wine.

Heat oil and sesame oil in a wok or pan, add chilli and garlic powders, ginger paste and spring onion and fry for 10 seconds. * Pour over the fish and serve.

Blossom tofu Serves four to six Ingredients * Four eggs * Two tablespoons Chinese mushrooms soaked and diced * Two tablespoons peas * One dried scallop soaked and diced * Six squares fresh tofu diced * One tablespoon Chinese fish paste * Two tablespoons baby corn * Three tablespoons oil * A few drops sesame oil * Salt and pepper to season plus * One teaspoon salt * Two teacups of cold chicken or vegetable stock * A little cornflour to thicken * Extra seafood ie. prawns and mussels (optional) Method * Beat eggs, one teaspoon salt and stock together in a basin then put the basin in a pan of hot water on a low heat for 15 minutes or until eggs are just set.

Put oil in a wok, add mushrooms, corn, peas, scallop, fish paste and tofu and stir fry for one minute. Season with salt, pepper and sesame oil to taste, thicken with cornflour and pour on to the steamed egg to serve.

If wished you can decorate the dish with extra seafood such as cooked prawns and mussels.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Jan 21, 2012
Words:850
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