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The next event in our foodie calendars is Chinese New Year, which this year falls on Friday 31st January. Last year, we made an effort to head into Chinatown in London to soak up the party atmosphere, and I can recall endless rows of hanging red lanterns, banging drums, a playful Chinese dragon and a tasty meal in a simple and authentic Chinese restaurant in the thick of the action. This year, we’re being slightly less adventurous and staying at home to celebrate, but inspired by our experiences last year we’re looking forward to a Chinese-themed evening with plenty of great food and cheer to mark the year of the horse.

Part of the huge appeal of Chinese food around the world is the almost endless array of dishes and recipes to try, inspired by many regional variations, such as the Cantonese, Szechuan and Mongolian cuisines. Cleansing soups, bite-sized dumplings, sticky ribs, crispy duck, slow-braised casseroles, steamed fish, sizzling stir-fries, often accompanied by the staples of noodles and rice. Chinese food is almost always complimented with fresh vegetables and aromatics, delicious flavours of ginger, chilli, coriander, spring onions and garlic. It’s almost impossible to pick out a favourite dish, although for me, crispy Peking duck in pancakes is a must to start with, or perhaps some finger-licking salt and pepper spare ribs. I also love the fact that dim sum translates as “touch your heart,” denoting the individually handmade dumplings or buns, usually steamed or fried.

Possibly one of the easiest dishes and methods of cooking Chinese food is stir-frying. Almost any slithers of meat or seafood, such as king prawns, can be flash-fried in a wok using a dash of sesame oil, soy sauce or oyster sauce, and a good handful of vegetables. Remember to try to have everything prepared to hand and chopped to roughly the same size before cooking in a seasoned wok on a very high heat. Try not to overcrowd the pan – remember you can batch-cook your meat and then set some of it aside until it is all sealed. If you can marinade your meat in advance it will stay tender and moist. Why not try coating your meat in a little cornflour/cornstarch mixed with water and a dash of Chinese rice wine and soy? Or, watch Jamie making a classic chicken chow mein (chicken with noodles) for some more home-cooking tips. Don’t forget to use “half-decent” chicken!

Red is considered to be a lucky colour for Chinese New Year, so lay out some red napkins, small bowls, chopsticks and the all-important fortune cookies. To drink, serve green leaf or jasmine tea or even a cup of feel good chicken broth – since drinking soup with your meal is a common Chinese custom to aid digestion and boost energy levels.

Wishing you all a Happy Chinese New Year! Let me know what you’ll be doing to mark the occasion.

About the author

Ren Behan is a well-known food writer and mum-of-two based in Hertfordshire in the UK. She grew up in a food-loving Polish household and now writes a popular family-friendly and seasonally-inspired blog at www.renbehan.com. Ren enjoys cooking with her two children, aged 6 and 4.

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  • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ Mardi Michels

    Yesterday I made the pork dumplings from the latest issue of Jamie Magazine with my boys’ cooking club yesterday and sent them home with express instructions to “save at least one” for a family member. T’was not to be – most of them ate their dumplings on the walk to the carpark!

    The boys LOVE making dumplings and always ask to make them each term. Honestly, it might sound like a mess but it’s the quietest, most organized session each term – they are SO concentrated making them! Keeping little hands busy making something they love to eat? What could be better?

    • Food Ren

      Such a good activity to keep young little hands busy and a lovely story. Thanks for reading :-) Hope you get to enjoy some Chinese food on Friday.

  • spas yankov

    i would make the dumplings and sticky ribs,yum…they are easy.wish you happy new year,china.

    • Food Ren

      Sounds great – hope you get to make some.

  • http://fussfreeflavours.com/ Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours

    A lovely round up Ren. I did a Chinese class recently and the use of those massive cleavers terrifies me, but I also am in awe of how delicatly they can cut.

    • Food Ren

      Thanks Helen, I’d love to do one of those classes. I have such a meat cleaver at home and also terrified of using it!

  • Denise

    I love these pancakes they are my favourites, I love hoisin sauce and the fresh ingredients that makes this perfect combination of flavours, best of all its wrapped up and eaten with your fingers.

  • Katie Bryson

    I need to get the boys in the kitchen this weekend and there’s plenty of inpsiration here Ren – thanks!

  • tinnedtoms

    Nice tips Ren. I really must do some homemade chinese food soon.