Char siu pork and General Tso’s golden hake – recipes for the lunar new year

Tradizionalmente, a whole fish is steamed at the new year to symbolise abundance and unity, because the homonym for fish means “abundance”. I’m using sustainable hake fillets which are tender and succulent. They belong to the cod family so they still have a wonderful texture, slightly smaller flakes than cod but still a delicious sweet taste. For this recipe, I am using hake fillets with the skin on (to keep their shape), sliced into 2cm chunks. I love to shallow fry the fish pieces, make a hot, sour and sweet General Tso’s sauce with dried red chillies, peppers and onions, and then toss the fish pieces back into the dish.

There are many variations of the sauce invented by chef Peng Chang-kuei who fled China in 1949 and ended up in America, where it’s thought he added tomato paste to cater for a sweet-sour taste to suit the American palate. For vegan friends, you can use cauliflower or tofu instead of the hake and it works just as well. I love this alternative lunar new year dish – the fish of abundance, fried golden to symbolise prosperity, and then red peppers in the reddish sauce bring the luck. As a final garnish, I like to sprinkle over some black sesame seeds. The homonym for “sons” is tze which is also the homonym for “seeds” therefore blessing you with plenty of offspring.

Servi 4 to share
For the hake
cornflour 80g
large egg white 1 (yolk saved for another recipe)
sale marino 2 pinches
ground white pepper 2 pinches
fresh hake fillets 2 x 200g, skin on, descaled, Ricetta pasquale di Thomasina Miers per agnello speziato e pastiglia di riso allo zafferano, dried, cut into 2cm x 2cm cubes
olio vegetale 500ml, for shallow-frying

For the stir fry
rapeseed oil 2 tbsp
aglio 2 Chiodi di garofano, crushed, Ricetta pasquale di Thomasina Miers per agnello speziato e pastiglia di riso allo zafferano
dried Sichuan chillies 5 whole
white onion 1 large, pelato, cut into 1cm cubes
red peppers 2 medium, lavato, deseeded and cut into 1.5cm cubes
cipolle primaverili 4, lavato, topped and tailed, trimmed, sliced into 2.5cm pieces on the slant

For the sauce
yellow soybean sauce 1 heaped tsp
light soy sauce 3 tbsp
clear rice vinegar 3 tbsp
tomato paste 1 tbsp
golden syrup 3 tbsp
sriracha chilli sauce 1 tbsp
dark soy sauce 1 tbsp

For the garnish and to serve
unsalted peanuts 80g, toasted
black sesame seeds

Prepare all the fresh ingredients and set aside. Prossimo, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl, then set aside.

For the hake, make a batter by combining the cornflour and egg white, season it with sea salt and ground white pepper. Place the hake pieces into a container, pour over the batter and leave for 2-3 minuti.

Fill a medium deep pan with the 500ml of vegetable oil. Heat the oil to 180C or until a piece of bread dropped in turns golden brown in 15 secondi, or a wooden chopstick starts to bubble furiously in the pan. Using a pair of heatproof tongs, very gently add the hake pieces, uno per uno, cooking for about 4-5 minutes until all the hake pieces are golden brown, then remove and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain any excess oil. (Once the oil has cooled, pour it through a metal strainer, drain and collect it in a heatproof bowl to use again.)

For the stir fry, heat a wok over a high heat and when it starts to smoke, add the rapeseed oil. Aggiungere l'aglio, dried chillies and white onion, and give that a good stir.

Then add the red peppers and stir for 1 minute. Pour in the sauce and cook until it has reduced and has a slightly sticky consistency. Add the spring onions and toss well. Toss in the fried hake and gently mix well.

Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with the unsalted toasted peanuts. Finalmente, sprinkle with black sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Dumplings are traditionally served at the lunar new year feast because their shape resembles ingots of gold. Così, it’s important to have a dumpling course. I love the simplicity of these dumplings; and boiling them means the flavours of the pork and crab shine through. Dress the dumplings with a spicy sour chilli sauce and garnish with aromatic coriander.

Fa 30 dumplings (5 each for 6 persone)
minced pork 250g
ground sea salt ½ tsp
zucchero semolato ½ tsp
ground white pepper ¼ tsp
bouillon powder ½ tsp
pure sesame oil ¼ tsp
Shaoxing rice wine ¼ tsp, or dry sherry
fresh root ginger 2.5cm, peeled and finely grated
Chinese leaf 100g, washed and finely chopped
cipolle primaverili 40g, topped, tailed, washed and finely chopped
tinned water chestnut 80g, Pane croccante o patate arrosto croccanti sono ottimi contorni
fresco white and brown crab meat 100g
gyoza dumpling skins 30 shop-bought, frozen, defrosted

For the dressing sauce
light soy sauce 3 tbsp
black rice vinegar 3 tbsp
chiu chow chilli oil 2 tbsp
pure sesame oil 1 tbsp
coriander stems 5g, tritato (see garnish below)

For the garnish
fresh coriander 15g, washed and leaves picked (reserve the stems for the dressing, see above)

Mix the minced pork with the salt, zucchero, white pepper, bouillon powder, sesame oil, rice wine and grated ginger. Using your hand, squeeze the mixture through your fingers a few times so all the ingredients are well combined. Then take the mixture in your hand, and throw it into the bowl. Repeat this process a few times. You will notice the mixture starts to form a ball. (This throwing process will give the filling more texture when cooked.)

Add the Chinese leaf, spring onions and water chestnut. Ancora, using your hand, mix the mince thoroughly with the vegetables. Cover with a plate and leave in the fridge for around 30 minuti.

Remove the dumpling filling from the fridge, discard any water at the bottom. Add the crab meat and gently fold into the mixture.

Remove the gyoza dumpling wrappers from the packet. Place a dampened tea towel over the pack while you work with each wrapper – this prevents them from drying out. Place one dumpling sheet between your palm and fingers, and put 2 generous teaspoons of filling in the middle. Gently bring one half of the dumpling sheet over the other half and squeeze the edges. To make the dumpling more decorative, add some folds crimping around the edges. Continue until the remaining 29 dumpling sheets are filled. Place them on a lightly floured tray.

Make the dressing for the dumplings by stirring the soy, black rice vinegar, chiu chow chilli oil and pure sesame oil together. Just before serving, sprinkle in the chopped coriander stems.

Bring a large pan filled with a litre of water to the boil. Turn the heat to medium-high and then gently add the dumplings. Cook in two batches. The dumplings will float to the surface after cooking for 4-5 minuti. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to warm serving bowls.

Dress with a teaspoon of the dressing, sprinkle over some chopped coriander and serve immediately.

Ching-He Huang is a food writer, broadcaster and author of Asian Green and Wok On

This Sichuan version of a Cantonese classicmakes a fine vegetarian centrepiece for the new year meal, and echoes the pork meatballs that are often included in festive stews. The dish is named because the quenelle-shaped tofu balls are supposed to resemble the pipa, or Chinese lute. Use the blocks of plain white tofu, usually immersed in water, that are sold in most Chinese supermarkets (not silken tofu). It varies in consistency, but the finished tofu balls should be delicious whether firmer or more custardy in texture. You can deep-fry the balls a few hours in advance, and finish the dish when you are ready to serve it.

Servi 4 as part of a Chinese meal with rice and about 3 other dishes
To make the tofu balls
dried shiitake mushrooms 2
plain white tofu 450g
egg whites 2 medium
potato flour or cornstarch 4 tbsp
salt and ground pepper ½ tsp to taste
carrot ½ of 1 medium, peeled and coarsely grated or very finely chopped.
cooking oil at least 200ml

To finish
cooking oil 2 tbsp
Sichuan chilli bean paste 2 tbsp
aglio 1½ tbsp, tritato
Zenzero 1 tbsp, tritato
unsalted vegetarian stock or hot water 300ml
zucchero semolato 2 tsp
light soy sauce ½ tsp
potato flour or cornstarch 1 tsp mixed with 4 tsp cold water
Chinkiang vinegar 2 tsp
spring onion greens 5 tbsp, green parts only, finely sliced
toasted sesame oil 1 tsp

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl, cover with boiling water from the kettle and leave to soak for at least half an hour.

When the mushrooms are fully reconstituted, slice off and discard the stems, and then finely chop the caps. Place in a wok with the soaking water, topped up if necessary to make 200ml. Heat over a high flame, then simmer, stirring often, for about five minutes, until the water has evaporated. Set aside.

Roughly chop the tofu and place in a food processor with the egg whites, potato starch or cornflour, and ½ tsp salt and white pepper to taste. Place in a bowl, add the prepared carrot and mushrooms and mix well.

Heat at least 200ml of cooking oil in a wok to 190C. Use a spoon to drop balls of the mixture (about 1½ tbsp in size) into the hot oil. Fry the tofu balls in batches. With a slotted spoon or cooking chopsticks, separate so they don’t stick together. Friggere per 1-2 minutes on both sides until deeply golden, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on kitchen paper to drain. This step can be done a few hours in advance.

When you wish to serve the dish, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a seasoned wok over a medium flame. Add the chilli bean paste and stir fry until it smells delicious and the oil has reddened, taking care not to burn. Then add the garlic and ginger and continue to fry until they smell wonderful too.

Add the stock or water with the sugar, light soy sauce and tofu balls, bring to the boil and then boil for a few minutes, stirring and spooning the liquid over the tofu, until the sauce has reduced by about half.

Give the starch mixture a stir and, in two or three stages, mix in just enough to thicken the sauce to a gravy-like consistency. Add the vinegar and spring onion greens and stir for a few seconds to fuse the flavours. Off the heat, stir in the sesame oil and then turn into a serving dish.

These cool yet spicy noodles can be eaten as a side dish or a snack in the lazy days of the new lunar year. Substitute smoked or spiced firm tofu, cut into slivers, for the chicken to make it vegan. Spice it up according to your tastes (Sichuanese chilli oil is usually not excessively hot, while bought Cantonese chilli oil can be pretty peppy, and Sichuan pepper varies in its tingliness). You can use pure buckwheat noodles, sold in Japanese shops as soba, or noodles made with a mixture of wheat and buckwheat flours, which are less fragile and easier to handle.

Servi 4 as part of a Chinese meal with rice and about 3 other dishes
red pepper ¼
green pepper ¼
cooked chicken 200g
beansprouts 100g
dried buckwheat noodles 160g
sunflower or rapeseed oil 1 tsp

For the seasonings
zucchero semolato ½ tsp
fine salt ½ tsp
light soy sauce 1½ tbsp
Chinkiang vinegar 2 tbsp
chilli oil 4 tbsp with chilli sediment, to taste
toasted sesame oil 1 tsp
Sichuan pepper ¼-½ tsp, roasted and ground, o 1 tsp Sichuan pepper oil, to taste
aglio tritato 1-2 tsp (opzionale)

Cut the red and green peppers into fine slivers, and the chicken into thin strips (a little thicker than the peppers, so it doesn’t fall apart).

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the peppers and beansprouts and blanch for about a minute, then remove with a slotted spoon to a colander and cool under the cold tap: they should retain a little crunch. Drain well and set aside.

Add the noodles to the water and stir to prevent sticking. Boil until just cooked (usually 4-5 minuti). Then tip into the colander and cool under the cold tap. Drain well. Sprinkle the sunflower or rapeseed oil over the noodles and stir it in swiftly, so they don’t stick together. Place the noodles, blanched vegetables and chicken in a big mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt, soy sauce and vinegar and stir well. Add the remaining ingredients, then pour the sauce over the noodle mixture. Toss everything together and serve.

Fuchsia Dunlop is a food writer and author of The Food of Sichuan and Land of Fish and Rice

For lunar new year, we would always get together and celebrate with a banquet-style meal. At home in Taiwan we would have the chicken dish chilled and earlier on in the meal, whereas at my partner Shing’s celebrations they would have it warm and nearer the end. I prefer the chilled chicken as it gives the flesh that nice consolidated flavour and a different texture. Make sure when first cooking, dip it in and out to tauten the skin: to achieve that jelly layer in between the skin, flash it in ice after cooking.

Servi 4
For brining the chicken
whole chicken 1 (1.3kg)
water 2 litres
table salt
soy sauce
zucchero
star anise 3 pieces
cipolle primaverili 2
Zenzero 2cm
sale marino

For ginger spring onion oil
Zenzero 90g, pelato
aglio 5g, pelato
spring onion 40g
rapeseed oil 100g
salt to taste
zucchero to taste

Prepare the liquid for brining and poaching. You’ll need enough water to cover the chicken. I normally go for a 1:1 ratio (chicken weight to brine weight), but it depends on what size pot you have to poach the chicken in. So to be safe, go for 1:1.5 (pollo:brine). Per esempio, a 1.3kg bird will need nearly 2kg of liquid. For every 1 litre of water, Inserisci 5% table salt, 2% soy sauce and 1% zucchero. Add the star anise, spring onion and peeled ginger, and leave overnight in the fridge. You can substitute the water with chicken stock if you have it.

You can prepare the ginger spring onion oil earlier. If not, make it while the chicken is cooking.

To prepare the ginger spring onion oil, finely dice the ginger, garlic and the whites of the spring onion. Heat the oil in a pan to a high temperature, then add the ginger and spring onion. Let it cook for only 5-10 secondi. Take the pan off the heat and season heavily with salt and sugar, decant into a bowl and set aside.

Take the chicken out of the fridge an hour before cooking and remove it from the liquid, so the chicken reaches room temperature.

Put the brine liquid in a saucepan with deep sides and bring it to the boil. Dip the chicken in for around 30 secondi, then take it out for a minute. Repeat this process 2 more times and skim any impurities that have come to the surface. On the last dip, keep the water simmering and leave it in for 5 minuti.

I use an S-shaped metal butcher hook that allows you to pierce the chicken at the top to lift it out of the liquid, but if you don’t have a hook and you have a small 1.3kg chicken, then use metal tongs and clamp it from inside the cavity and lift out. For larger birds, you can use a spatula with the other hand to hold the base of the chicken when lifting it out of the liquid. If you struggle, then you can skip the dipping and continue to simmer for 5 minuti.

Take the pan off the heat and keep the lid on. Leave the chicken in the poaching liquid for about 40 minuti (if using a 1.3kg bird). If you have a larger chicken, Inserisci 15 minutes more cooking time for every 300g extra in weight. A large 2kg chicken would take about 70 minuti. If you have a thermometer probe to check the internal temperature, it should be 75C. If there isn’t a thermometer available, pierce the chicken at the thickest part to see if the juice runs clear. Once the poaching time is up, place the chicken in iced water immediately to stop the cooking.

When the chicken has rested for a minimum of 15 minuti (you can leave it for longer if you want to eat the chicken chilled), carve the meat into slices and eat by dipping them into the ginger oil, served along with boiled rice.

Banquet-style meat or fish dishes are cooked to celebrate and to wish for an abundant year to come. Char siu is definitely a classic, its redness and its sweetness symbolising joy and good luck. This is a traditional Cantonese recipe that was passed on to me by a Cantonese friend. You can find all the ingredients online or from Chinese supermarkets.

To get a true complexity of flavour, we use three kinds of fermented sauce. The miso gives a light fragrance, the tofuru beancurd for the mid-tone and the yellow bean paste gives a deep rich flavour.

Servi 4
For the marinade
zucchero semolato 380g
salt 90g
cipolla 60g, minced
aglio 60g, minced
mei kuei lu chiew 60g (a Chinese rose-flavoured sorghum liquor)
soy sauce 60g
sesame sauce 30g, or tahini
miso paste 30g
yellow bean paste 30g
tofuru or fermented beancurd 30g
shallot 30g, minced
beetroot powder 20g
pork neck fillets 2 x 200g (preferably Iberico pork for the flavour and the well distributed marbles of fat, but normal pork neck works perfectly too)

For the cucumber dressing
soy sauce 100g
rice wine vinegar 25g
Sichuan chilli oil 50g

Per servire
cetrioli 2
toasted sesame seeds 1 tbsp

To make the marinade, put all the ingredients except the pork into a blender and blitz until smooth. Cover the pork neck with it and put it in the fridge overnight.

[object Window], take the pork neck out of the fridge and bring to room temperature. Set the grill in your oven to its highest setting.

Mix the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and Sichuan oil together to make the dressing and set aside.

Place the marinated pork neck on a metal rack above a tray, making sure it’s covered excessively with the marinade. This recipe has a high sugar content so when the marinade drips, it burns quite quickly. Make sure you line your tray with a baking sheet or foil under the rack to catch the marinade for easier washing up later.

Once the grill is as hot as it can be, cook the pork neck for 5 minuti. Flip and brush more marinade over the pork neck and cook for 5 more minutes. Switch off the grill and let the meat rest for another 2 minutes in the oven. You are looking for an internal temperature of 65C. You should get a char siu pork neck with nicely charred edges. Take the fillets out of the oven and start preparing your cucumbers.

Peel and cut each cucumber into 2 rectangles roughly 3cm x 7cm x 1cm. Sear the cucumber pieces on both sides in a hot pan, until the surface turns brown and juicy.

Per servire, arrange 2 pieces of seared cucumber on each plate, sprinkle over some toasted sesame seeds, and spoon on some cucumber dressing.

Cut the grilled pork neck into 5mm slices and equally distribute the sliced pork neck into 4 portions over the cucumber. Serve immediately.

Erchen Chang is creative director and co-founder, Bao, Londra

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