Culture Article

"Chinese New Year was the most exciting time of the year for me"
Darcy Littler
/ Categories: Culture, Food

"Chinese New Year was the most exciting time of the year for me"

Ken Hom’s Chinese New Year Memories

"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."

Ken Hom's chicken on crispy noodles

"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

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