Happy New Year

It seems a tad trite to be saying happy new year when the first month of the year is almost over, but in many ways Chinese New Year, or the Lunar New Year, feels very much like the real start to the year. The kids are either back at school or about to go back after the long summer holiday, everyone who is going back to work has done so, and business as usual is so close to being business as usual that the festivities of Christmas seem a million miles away. In my humble opinion, the lunar new year comes at just the right time.

I don’t know a lot about Chinese astrology, but I do know that this is the year of the Rabbit, or the Water Rabbit to be precise. I’ve also read a lot that I like about the year of the Rabbit. Things like hope and longevity, and the colours azure blue and apple green. Forest green also gets a mention. Naturally, there’s more to it, but you get the idea.

I also googled my Sheep/Goat horoscope to see what the Year of the Rabbit had in store for me and apparently I’m in for a turbulent year. While business and career might have good prospects and be busy, everything else is likely to be pretty average. Oh, and I need to take a deep breath in discussions with my partner in case things get too emotional. In case? With me everything gets emotional!

Anyways, part of the whole new year thing is to go into the new year with a clean slate and clean hair (washing your hair in the first couple of days of the new year can apparently wash your prosperity away) so I did that. I also rolled a couple of oranges over my threshold…just to be sure.

Another thing I do every Chinese New Year is to cook a special meal – even though this year there’s just Grant and me. I set the table with the special chopsticks I bought in Shanghai Tang in Hong Kong one time when I was there for work for an office relocation. They’re ebony with pewter tops embossed with our zodiac animals – the ox for Grant, the sheep/goat for me, and the tiger for Sarah – and have little ebony rests to go with them.

On the menu this year were pork dumplings with a chilli dipping sauce and a golden soy roasted chicken served with rice and gai lan.

For the dumplings I used Recipe Tin Eat’s Chinese Pork Dumplings recipe. You’ll find it here. (As an aside, I really do need to get around to writing a review of her new cookbook – before I finish cooking absolutely everything in it…). I doubled the recipe (so I’d have plenty of dumplings left to pop into the freezer) and also added about half a tin of finely minced bamboo shoots which added absolutely nothing to the recipe. I shouldn’t have been surprised, Nagi’s recipes are tested and retested and tested again and are usually pretty spot on.

Making your own dumplings can be a bit of a palaver, but to be honest, it was a lovely way to spend some time on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I mixed up my fillings, turned up the playlist and got my dumpling on while Adventure Spaniel supervised from afar.

We pan-fried them and served them with this dipping sauce, but really soy sauce with chilli oil or paste will do the trick too.

  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp clear rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp pure sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped or a heaped teaspoon of chilli paste

For the soy roast chicken, I seasoned a 1.5kg (free-range) chicken inside and out with sea salt and white pepper. Into the cavity I stuffed a peeled and quartered onion, 4 peeled and crushed (but left whole) garlic cloves, and 3 spring onions (trimmed and cut into 2.5cm-ish pieces).

I melted 150g butter and stirred 5 tbsp light soy sauce into it. (As an aside, we use the Megachef brand which is not only excellent but also gluten-free. If you’re gluten intolerant, substitute with tamari.) This was then painted generously onto the chook, and also tipped inside it. Don’t worry if you don’t use it all.

Cook it in a preheated oven at 200C (180C fan) for about an hour and 15 mins – or until the juices run clear. At about the half-way mark, turn it around and baste it with either more of the butter and soy, or the pan juices.

We served it with steamed basmati rice and Recipe Tin Eat’s Gai Lan – Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce… the recipe is here.

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

7 thoughts

  1. I so agree with your feelings about New Year – I’m only just getting my head around being in a New Year and what my goals and intentions might be. Your Chinese meal sounds and looks delicious. I’m definitely feeling hungry now!


  2. I am impressed! Ive tried making dumplings a few times and it’s always always a disaster. I can never get to the necessary zen state and end up tossing the wrappers and cooking the filling😉


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