Let the New Year Feast Begin

2018-01-31 03:31:58

Ken Hom- Chinese New Year Memories

I grew up in Chicago’s Chinatown. It was a small neighborhood but I felt it was a Chinese world. I did not speak English until I was 6 years old. We had a Chinese grocer, many restaurants, a Chinese school and even a Chinese cinema.

Chinese New Year was the most exciting time of the year for me, almost as if Christmas and Easter were rolled into one event. My mother would clean and sweep the house before New Year’s Eve as per tradition, wash my hair and then get me to light incense to the kitchen god. During New Year’s Day, I would go around Chinatown and would wish everyone a happy Chinese New Year and would receive red envelopes filled with money. You could smell incense burning everywhere. Beautiful red steamers would hang from shops across all street corners. I remember extravagant parades with lions and the sounds of firecrackers thundering around the streets. The atmosphere was so joyous and everyone was in a good mood thinking about the Chinese New Year feast.

It was my uncles who were chefs who would make the New Year dinner. It was a brilliant display of Cantonese cooking, the freshest ingredients cooked with light sauces with a beautifully delicate taste. We would often start the meal with hairy seaweed cooked slowly with oysters (a symbol of good things to come – a play on Chinese words), and then proceed to eat dumplings, usually steamed and stuffed with prawns. A stir-fry dish of flowering Chinese cabbage with garlic would follow. As was tradition, we would always have a whole steamed fish — usually a pike which was the freshest fish you could get in Chicago – it was regarded as a symbol of prosperity. The end of the meal was usually a dish of noodles which symbolised longevity in the coming years. My uncle would always make me crispy noodles with chicken as he knew it was my favourite. To finish the meal we would all have whole oranges which we would peel and eat together.

In recent years, friends from all over the world come to meet in London and share a banquet meal together. I feel London has some of the best Chinese food on the planet so the venue for the banquet always changes every year. It’s a fantastic occasion and I love it because I don’t have to cook!

Ken Hom (OBE) is a widely acclaimed chef who has an incredible amount of experience with Chinese cuisine and oriental cooking. His first acclaimed book ‘Ken Hom’s Chinese cookery’ was published in 1981 and later transitioned into a hugely successful television series which demystified Chinese cuisine to a worldwide audience, Ken has gone on to write a total of 80 books published worldwide in multiple languages.


Chicken on Crispy Noodles

This noodle dish is a great favourite of many dim-sum diners in Hong Kong and Guangdong province. The noodles are pan-fried, so that thin, crispy fresh egg noodles are browned on both sides, and then served with a shredded chicken sauce, making it a wonderful addition to a Chinese New Year meal. It combines a delightful crispy texture of the noodles with the softness and simplicity of the chicken breasts. Noodles are often served at Chinese New Year as it is a symbol of longevity and I remember as a child being admonished never to cut my noodles in order to enjoy a long life!

For Ken’s recipe go to this link:

Recomended Chinese Cook Books and Websites

Classic food of China by Yan-Kit is a detailed account of Chinese food culture, introducing classic regional recipes of China with historical context.

Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop is an absolute must read for those interested in Sichuan cuisine. This classic contains authentic Sichuan recipes and culinary culture spanning from simple home-style cooking to banqueting dishes.

Mastering the art of Chinese cooking by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo is a masterful depiction of the ingredients and techniques used for more than 100 classic Chinese recipes. This book demystifies an ancient cuisine and opens it up to the kitchen of the common cook.

Woks of Life: A beautiful website and blog which shares traditional Chinese recipes for foodies and aspiring cooks alike.

Appetite for China: This blog focuses on traditional Chinese dishes that have become popular across the world.

China Sichuan Food: Focusing on Sichuan cuisine, this blog introduces traditional recipes with detailed step-by-step procedures.

Regional Chinese Specialities

Owing to the incredible geographic, demographic and cultural diversity that exists in China, Chinese food is incredibly multi-faceted to the extent that discussions of Chinese cuisine are a huge oversimplification. Across different provinces in China, culinary traditions and practices have all developed unique profiles. The following dishes offer an opportunity to explore authentic and regional Chinese food from different parts of China.

Xian- Biang Biang Noodles (biang biang mien)

In Xian noodles of every size, shape and flavour are proudly exhibited across every street corner. Biang biang noodles are special handmade noodles hailing from China’s Shaanxi province. The noodles are deliciously chewy and wide with a special texture imparted from the hand-preparation. A dish so special that the character ‘biang’ doesn’t even appear in a Chinese dictionary. Legend has it that the character biang is derived from the noise the noodles make when the dough is pulled and slapped against the table during preparation.

Xian Impression, 11 Benwell Road, London N77BW, 02034410191

Sichuan- Dry pot (gan guo)

Sichuan province in Southwestern China is the most widely served cuisine inside China, famous for its spicy flavours and the unique taste of the Sichuan peppercorn. Dry hot pot is a rich dish that contains a mouth-numbing combination of Sichuan peppercorns, chilli and various additions of vegetables and meat. The ingredients are dry-fried which conjures up an intense spice, making it one of the most popular restaurant dishes.

Jinli, 4 Leicester Street, London WC2H 7BL, 02074371582

Shanghai- Red-Braised Pork (hong shao rou)

Shanghai cuisine is characterised by a slightly sweeter taste, often incorporating sugar and braising methods to achieve the characteristic red glaze that accompanies many dishes. Red braised pork is a testament to Shanghai cuisine- pork belly is braised with a combination of ginger, garlic, aromatic spices, dark soy sauce and sugar until the meat and fat melt effortlessly together in a rich silky-sauce. This dish a masterful symphony of sweet and salty tones that dance on the palate of your tongue.

Alley Restaurant, 291-293 King St, London W6 9NH, 02085638470

Guangdong- Pork Tripe Chicken Soup (zhu du ji)

Cantonese cuisine, referring to the food found in China’s Guangdong province, occupies a prime position in the famous Eight Culinary Traditions of China. Of all the regional Chinese cuisine, Cantonese cuisine is the most widely recognised across the world. Guangdong is a coastal province and has a plethora of fresh seafood and ingredients, where dishes are expertly cooked with delicacy to retain their original flavour and texture. Pig tripe chicken soup is a beautiful marriage between the pleasant chewy textures of stomach and silky-chicken, bound together in a rich soup by the fragrant embrace of white-peppercorns.

Four Seasons, 11 Gerrard Street, London W1D 5PP, 02072870900

For recipes go to: #haochi

London’s finest Chinese dining experience- Gurdhit Panesar

Park Chinois, located in London’s Mayfair, offers a glamorous fine-dining experience where past meets present in the splendour of 1930s Shanghai. Behind the opulent red doors exists a realm of exquisite flavours and world-class live entertainment in London’s finest dining environment. Expertly sourced ingredients are combined together in an extensive menu rooted in authentic flavours and elevated with contemporary tastes. Luxurious antiquity is blended with stunning décor at the bar where rare vintages and bespoke cocktails are crafted by expert mixologists. The progressive dining experience combined with an in-house theatre company establishes Park Chinois as an unparalleled dining experience.

Park Chinois, 17 Berkeley Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 8EA, 02033278888



Are you a member?Have you logged in?