Food for the New Year
PUBLISHED: 11:39 09 January 2017
Sarah Lucy Brown
It's Chinese New Year on January 28. Why not welcome in the Year of the Rooster by surprising your friends with a dim sum party?
Food and words: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis. Photography: Sarah Lucy Brown
Dim sum. Together, these two words essentially mean ‘snack’ in Chinese, and they are something the culture cherishes. Long, lingering afternoons are often spent gathering with friends over bottomless steaming pots of tea, and servings of little bites, grabbed from servers as they dash past, fresh from the kitchen.
Dumplings, long rolled noodles, meatballs, steamed buns – the list of possibilities is endless, and the choice dizzying for foodies. But have you ever tried to make them at home? They’re surprisingly easy and quick to put together, and would be fab served on New Year’s Eve as a lighter, more interesting alternative to a buffet of sausage rolls and leftover turkey sandwiches.
Note: For three of these recipes you’ll need a two-tier bamboo steamer.
(makes up to 50)
Potstickers, or gyoza as they are known in Japan, are one of the most delicious types of dim sum. The thin pastry shell melts in the mouth and leaving an explosion of flavours. These are a real treat for vegetarians, although meat eaters could swap the mushrooms for chicken, pork or prawns. Serve with your favourite Chinese dipping sauce. I like a mixture of sesame oil, grated garlic, chilli flakes and soy sauce.
1 large onion, 5cm piece fresh ginger peeled and grated, 300g chestnut mushrooms, 100g cabbage finely shredded, 200g carrot grated, 2 cloves garlic minced, 1/2tsp ground white pepper, 2tsps sesame oil, 3tbsps Shaoxing rice wine, 2tbsps soy sauce, 1tsp sugar, a few pinches of salt, up to 50 gyoza or dumpling wrappers
Place all the ingredients, except the wrappers, into a food processor and blitz until you have a rough chunky paste. You might want to go online to see how to fold the potstickers, but here is the method.
Take a wrapper. Wet the edges with a little water on your finger. Place a heaped teaspoon of mixture in the centre and bring up the edges (don’t seal yet) so it’s like a little Cornish pasty.
Now on one side fold at the edge to make a little pleat and stick that part to the other edge. Continue all the way along, making sure you pinch it well to seal.
Steam for five minutes.
Open satay-style dumplings
Chicken satay is one of my favourite Asian dishes. Here it’s served within an open steamed dumpling. Served with a pot of soy sauce for dipping, these are irresistible.
1tbsp each sesame oil and rapeseed or vegetable oil, 1 clove garlic, 1 red chilli, deseeded, 1tbsp light soy sauce, 1tsp curry powder, 1.5tsp sugar, 2tbsp peanut butter, 50g coconut cream, salt and pepper to taste, 2 chicken breasts finely chopped, gyoza or dumpling wrappers. I got mine from Go East, Ipswich. Global Foods also sell them, or you can make your own)
Finely chop the garlic and chilli and fry gently in the oils. Add the chicken and fry for five minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients (not the wrappers) and add a dash of water. Simmer until thickened then taste for seasoning. Allow to cool.
To make the dumplings firstly cut out small squares of greaseproof paper. Take a wrapper, wet the edge lightly with your clean finger and place a couple of teaspoons of filling in the centre.
Gather up the edges to encase the filling and set on the greaseproof paper. Repeat with the remaining filling.
Place a few at a time in your bamboo steamer for four to five minutes. Repeat until all are cooked.
Sesame prawn balls
(makes 10 to 12)
These are a lighter alternative to prawn toasts. Make sure you use fresh prawns. Chilling the mixture makes it easier to handle. Serve with sweet chilli or hoi sin dip. I served these with Keejays sweet chilli sauce, which is made in Hadleigh and part of the Sourced Locally range at the Co-op. It’s also worth seeking out Stokes’ hoi sin sauce – the best I’ve ever tasted.
250g raw peeled prawns, 1 egg white, 4 spring onions, 1tbsp light soy sauce, 2cm piece of peeled fresh ginger grated, 1 clove garlic grated, 1tbsp cornflour, pinch salt and pepper, 100g sesame seeds, oil for cooking
Place all the ingredients apart from the sesame seeds and oil into a food processor and blend until it comes together, but is still a bit chunky. Place in the fridge to chill for one hour. Now roll into small balls in your palms and roll to coat in sesame seeds. Place on a lined tray and grill, turning regularly, until golden all over.
Steamed char sui buns
The steamed buns cook in just five minutes, their bouncy, sweet pillowy crumb the perfect foil for a filling of sticky, crispy pork belly.
For the buns: 225g warm water, 1.5tsps yeast, 375g plain flour, 2tbsps caster sugar, pinch salt, 1/2tsp baking powder, 1tbsp oil
For the pork: 400g lean pork belly (about 5 bits), cut in half into pieces about 5cm long, 1tbsp sugar, 1tbsp each light and dark soy sauce, 3tbps Shaoxing rice wine, 1 star anise, water to cover
For the buns pour all the ingredients in a bowl and knead until smooth. Cover and leave for one hour. Make the pork while the dough is rising. Place the pork in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum and then drain and pat dry.
Add a little oil to the pan and return the pork. Fry until golden all over then add the sugar, soy sauces, rice wine, star anise and cover again with water. Bring to the boil then turn to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and boil again until the liquid reduces and thickly coats the pork. Set aside.
Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knock it back and knead it again, then form into 10 pieces. Roll each into a ball and flatten to 10cm round circles then fold one side in just over half way so you have a half moon shape. Set up your steamer as per instructions and steam in the top of this (2-3 at a time) for five minutes. Serve with the pork.
All the following would work very well with the selection of dim sum.
Escondido Torrontes from Adnams – bright with citrus notes and hints of pear.
Exquisite Clare Valley Riesling from Aldi
Sainsburys Taste the Difference Alsace Gewurtztraminer – with hints of rose, lychee and spice.
Other Asian favourites
Har gau: Whole shrimp wrapped in dough and steamed
Sui mai: Minced prawn or pork wrapped with an open top
Cheong fan: Rice noodles wrapped around a filling
Lo baak gou: Daikon radish and rice flour combined with vegetables and sometimes Chinese sausage or prawns and pressed into cakes and fried
Ngao yuk kau: Typical steamed/braised beef meatballs
All ingredients for this shoot (apart from the wrappers) were provided by the East of England Co-op where there are always interesting and exciting products from East Anglia in store as part of the Sourced Locally range. Charlotte used local cabbage, Marriage’s flour, Keejays dips and sauces and local rapeseed oil.
The Chinese New Year 2017 begins on January 28. Festivities end two weeks later on the 15th day of the first month on what is known as the Lantern Festival.
The Chinese believe that as they enter a new year, they should start a new beginning. They clean their houses, pay off all their debts, purchase new clothes, paint their doors, and even get new haircuts – so there’s more than enough to keep you busy!