Just when you thought the festive season was over, along comes Chinese New Year. The longest and most important celebration on the Chinese calendar, the festivities this year run from 25 January to 8 February. According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2020 is the Year of the Rat, the first in the cycle of the 12 animal signs.
Legend has it that in ancient times Buddha asked all the animals to meet him at the beginning of the Chinese New Year. Twelve came and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that people born in each animal’s year would have some of the animal’s characteristics. Those born in rat years tend to be leaders, pioneers and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hard working. Ben Affleck, Cameron Diaz, William Shakespeare and Mozart were all born in the Year of the Rat.
Food plays a major role in the Chinese New Year celebrations — also called the Spring Festival. ‘Lucky’ foods such as whole chickens and uncut noodles are served as well as foods that have special significance because of the way the names sound. For example, the Cantonese word for lettuce sounds like ‘rising fortune’ so it is common to serve lettuce cups filled with other lucky food.
So Happy New Year — again!
CHINESE STICKY PORK
Shaoxing wine — Chinese cooking wine — is available from Asian food stores and many supermarkets.
1kg pork belly, rind removed
1/2 cup Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
1/4 cup each: soy sauce, char siu sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated root ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons diced chilli
Place the pork in a large, deep frying pan. Add the Shaoxing wine and 1/2 each of the soy sauce and five-spice. Cover with 1 litre of water. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer on medium heat then reduce to low. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stand for 5 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, place the remaining soy sauce and five-spice in a jug. Add the char siu sauce, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, brown sugar and chilli. Stir well to combine. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the mixture.
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Line a roasting pan with baking paper. Place a greased wire rack on top. Transfer the pork to the rack. Brush with half of the larger amount of the char siu mixture. Roast, basting with the remaining mixture halfway through, for about 1 1/2-2 hours or until the meat is tender and golden (internal temp 85°C).
Serve sliced and drizzled with the reserved 3 tablespoons of the char siu mixture. Serves 4-6.
RICE STICK NOODLES & PRAWNS
Vermicelli could replace the rice stick noodles.
200g rice stick noodles
Sauce: 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons each: curry powder, Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon each: soy sauce, Shaoxing wine
1/4 teaspoon each: white pepper, sugar
Prawns: 250g shelled and deveined raw prawns
1 teaspoon each: canola oil, Asian fish sauce
Stir-fry: 2 tablespoons canola oil
200g ham, julienned
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 each: red capsicum, carrot, julienned
1 cup peas
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Prepare the rice stick noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and run under cold water in a sieve. Place aside.
Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well and place aside.
Pat dry the prawns. Place in a small bowl with the canola oil and fish sauce. Mix well, cover and refrigerate.
To stir-fry, heat 2 teaspoons of the canola oil in a wok until very hot. Add the prawns and stir-fry until just pink. Add the ham and onion and continue to stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the capsicum, carrot and peas and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Tip into a bowl.
Wipe the pan clean. Heat the remaining oil until hot. Add the cooked noodles and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
Stir the reserved sauce then mix into the noodles. Mix well.
Add the prawn mixture to the wok ham and stir-fry until everything is evenly combined about 30 seconds. Drizzle with the sesame oil. Serves 4.
HONG KONG BBQ CHICKEN
Simple and super.
3 tablespoons each: sugar, soy sauce, honey
2 tablespoons each: Shaoxing wine, grated root ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons each: sesame oil, five-spice powder
600g skinned and boned chicken
Combine all the ingredients — except the chicken — in a jug. Mix well. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the marinade.
Cut the chicken into 2.5cm cubes. Thread 3-4 pieces onto skewers.
Place in a single layer in a flat pan. Baste thoroughly with the remaining marinade. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours, turning often.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess.
Preheat a barbecue or grill to medium. Cook the chicken for 10-15 minutes turning often, until the juices run clear.
Drizzle with the reserved marinade. Serves 4.