Recipes: A Chinese New year's banquet

By Angela Casley

Angela Casley uses everyday ingredients to whip up a Chinese meal of appetising splendour.

Abacus, wooden board,Leaf & Bean glass teapot, bamboo steamer, chopsticks, wooden bowls and wok from Wah Lee. Photo / Babiche Martens.
Abacus, wooden board,Leaf & Bean glass teapot, bamboo steamer, chopsticks, wooden bowls and wok from Wah Lee. Photo / Babiche Martens.

The most traditional Chinese holiday is certainly the largest: 15 days of celebrating the new year, including the not-to-be-missed, crazy busy, colourful Lantern Festival.

Traditions vary widely and it is a time for families to gather, clean the house, then decorate with elaborate colours and lights. The dishes served during this period are sumptuous and often have a spiritual meaning.

The Chinese more than anyone bring a humble approach to creating tasty delicacies in a simple manner. Often, these are home-grown and inexpensive ingredients, made without extravagant kitchens and endless equipment.

Two simple pieces of equipment are required for good Chinese cooking - a wok and a steamer. Meals often are meatless and rice is a staple.

The marinated tofu here is deceptively easy. Pricking the tofu all over with a fork lets the marinade seep in to leave an intense flavour.

I like to blanch Asian greens then plunge them into cold water to refresh.

This way, when they are tossed in the wok, they will remain a wonderful bright colour and retain their crunchy texture.

Served with rice, this is a meal on its own or can be added to an array of other Chinese dishes in a banquet.

The easiest way to use wonton wrappers (which you will find at Asian supermarkets) is to fill with something tasty and steam them. I have used a mixture of pork and prawn with added flavours.

They can be made in a range of shapes; different regions in China have particular shapes that define their dumplings. Here I have gathered the edges together and cooked them in a steamer over simmering water, then served with a delicious dipping sauce of chilli and soy.

When we were young and ate at Chinese restaurants - which was a real treat - sweet options were few. The dessert would be toffee apple, lychees or deep-fried bananas, which were my favourite.

Instead of deep-frying, you can simply roll the bananas in dark, rich muscovado sugar then fry in a little butter and serve with a warm caramel sauce. For those of you with a sweet tooth, this dessert is a must.

Marinated tofu with Asian greens

Steamed pork buns

Fried bananas and caramel sauce


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