Ray's Chinese New Year dinner
Any excuse for a special meal works for me, so the next occasion that deserves my culinary attention is Chinese New Year.
A quick search of the net showed me that the names of the special foods the Chinese eat at New Year are all about homonyms. This means the words for certain foods have two meanings, one the name of the actual food but the other where the same word also sounds like auspicious or lucky things, such as happiness, long life or wealth. Bearing this in mind I have put together some of my favourite dishes with Chinese flavours into a tapas-like meal and chosen a few foods like noodles that denote happiness and longevity (they should be as long as possible); spring rolls because they are golden and look like gold bars and denote wealth; chicken (although technically it should be a whole chicken) that denotes unity and a good marriage; and peanut and sesame brittle to give a sweet — and therefore happy — start to the new year. The Singaporean raw fish salad is a Singaporean New Year classic and a real favourite in our house. I have, of course, made my own simplified Kiwi versions.
So, with a respectful nod to tradition, welcome in the Chinese New Year and try the following. I would serve the spring rolls first, then the salad, followed by the chicken, the noodles and finishing with the peanut brittle.
A great, summery way to eat noodles. Get the recipe
The spring rolls can be made in advance or frozen and cooked when needed. Thaw before frying if frozen. To avoid the need for a lot of oil in a deep fryer, I have shallow-fried the spring rolls to give them a golden brown colour and crisp texture and cooked them through in the oven. They will stay crisp. Get the recipe
I love this stuff and it is easy to make. The large amount of crushed peanuts, with just enough caramel to hold it together, means that it won’t break your teeth when you bite into it. This is a typical Chinese New Year food. Get the recipe
This is my Kiwi version of the Singaporean Chinese New Year salad. Many of the ingredients have symbolic meanings such as oil wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year. Plum sauce: may your house be full of treasures. Lime: may you have luck, success and prosperity. Raw fish: wishing you surplus wealth. Pepper and five spice: may fortune smile on you. The salad is presented with the other ingredients around the fish, then everybody digs in with their chopsticks to toss to prosperity. The higher you toss the salad, the more luck you will have in the coming year. The salad is usually served with deep-fried prawn crackers but this is optional. Get the recipe