Kung Hei Fat Choy. Happy New Year.
Chinese New Year begins on February 10 and continues for 15 days. This is the Year of the Snake, a time for steady progress and attention to detail.
The Chinese calendar is based on lunar cycles, beginning on the second new moon after the Northern Hemisphere winter begins. It is divided into 12-year cycles, with each year influenced by a different animal.
The Snake is the sixth sign of the Chinese Zodiac. Famous people born in the year of the snake include Audrey Hepburn, Paul Hogan, Liz Hurley, Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt.
Ancient Chinese wisdom says a snake in the house is a good omen because it means your family will not starve.
Traditional New Year foods include fish and chicken.
A whole fish represents surplus or abundance and a whole chicken represents completeness.
Noodles are left uncut as they represent long life.
Peaches are also dominant. The Chinese name for peach is a pun on the word "million", so it stands for prosperity.
An important tradition on New Year's Eve is for families to gather and spend the evening preparing jiaozi, or boiled dumplings.
It is common to hide a coin in one of the dumplings. Whoever gets the dumpling with the coin will supposedly have good luck in the coming year.
The Chinese invented stir-frying and it has become enormously popular with Kiwi cooks because of the flavours and speedy cooking time.
Here's wishing you good health and prosperity during the Year of the Snake.
CHINESE-STYLE VENISON & VEGETABLES
In this quick, popular family dish, Asian seasonings complement lean, farm-raised venison and a selection of seasonal vegetables. I prefer to stir-fry the vegetables first followed by the marinated venison so the veges keep their bright colours. For variation, serve your stir-fry over split baked potatoes or kumara.
Vension: 400g farm-raised venison stir-fry
1 tbsp each: hoisin sauce, tamarind paste, sesame oil
Sauce: 2 tbsp meat stock or water
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tsp cornflour
Vegetables: 1-2 tbsp rice bran oil
1 tbsp grated root ginger
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
200g snow peas, ends trimmed, pods sliced
1 each: red and yellow peppers (capsicums), seeded and julienned
1 each: chilli, seeded and sliced; spring onion, sliced
Prepare all the ingredients before commencing cooking.
Combine the sauce ingredients and stir well.
Pat the venison dry. Combine the hoisin sauce, tamarind paste and sesame oil.
Rub into the venison. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Return the meat to room temperature before cooking.
Heat 1 tbsp of the rice bran oil in a wok until hot. Stir-fry the ginger and garlic for 15 seconds.
Add the snow peas and peppers and stir-fry for one to two minutes, until crisp-tender. Place to one side.
Heat the remaining oil. Stir-fry the venison in batches for about one to two minutes each batch, until just cooked. Return the vegetables to the pan together with the chilli. Stir the sauce mixture then add to the wok, stirring until thickened and hot. Serves 4.
Steamed whole fish.
1 whole fish, such as tarakihi or snapper, about 1kg
freshly ground salt and black pepper to taste
2 tbsp peanut oil
5 spring onions, diagonally sliced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp finely grated root ginger
Place 1-2 cups of water in a deep wok. Bring to the boil.
Place the cleaned fish on a rack and rest it above the water. Season.
Cover and steam over low heat for 15 minutes or until cooked.
Place on a serving platter and keep warm.
Heat the oil in a small pan and add the remaining ingredients.
Cook for one minute and serve drizzled over the fish. Serves 4.
WOK-STEAMED RED CHICKEN
This chicken could be butterflied if preferred. The cooking time would then be about 50 minutes.
1.5kg whole chicken
1 tsp each: salt, ground black or Szchewan pepper
1 tbsp each: soy sauce, dry sherry, hoisin sauce
1/4 tsp red food colouring
1 tbsp peanut oil
Wash the chicken and dry inside and out.
Combine the salt, pepper, soy sauce, sherry, hoisin sauce and red food colouring.
Brush over the chicken, inside and out. Marinate for at least one hour.
Place on a steamer rack above simmering water in a wok or saucepan.
Cover and steam for about 75 minutes or until tender, turning once.
Brush the chicken with oil and place under a preheated grill. Grill on all sides until the skin is crisp.
Excellent served with stir-fried veges. Serves 4-5.
WIDE NOODLES WITH VEGETABLES
250g wide rice flour noodles or rice sticks
1 tbsp peanut oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp chilli paste, optional
1 cup bean sprouts
3 spring onions, diagonally sliced
1 small red pepper (capsicum), julienned
1 tbsp each: light soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, oyster sauce
Soak the noodles for 15 minutes in hot water then drain well.
Heat the oil in a wok and stir-fry the garlic and chilli paste for 30 seconds.
Add the bean sprouts, spring onions and red pepper and stir-fry for one minute. Add the noodles and stir-fry for another minute.
Toss with the sauces and serve. Can be garnished with chopped coriander. Serves 4 as an accompaniment.