In Asian countries, many of us are now busy preparing for Chinese New Year, the first day will be on Sunday, but many families will come together the night before for the reunion dinner (团圆饭). The celebration will last for the next few days – in Singapore, we get to have 2 public holidays off to celebrate this popular festival. In other Asian countries, they can get up to 15 days of public holidays off! During these few days, we will be busy cooking and feasting, have you thought of what to cook for your family?
Those who aren’t celebrating Chinese New Year are probably more aware of the coming international lover’s day – Valentines’ Day. Are you thinking of how to prepare a restaurant-style romantic dinner for your date?
Here is a round-up that I think you may be interested in!
Chinese New Year
Abalone is an expensive and luxurious treat that many families only eat it during Chinese New Year and other very special occasions. In my family, we always sliced the abalone and drizzled the slices with a sweet and spicy sauce and served it with crunchy cabbage. It is an extremely easy dish to prepare and can be prepared well in advance (:
During Chinese New Year, it is kind of a tradition in my family to eat lots of meat and seafood. My grandmother used to rear chickens in the backyard and her chickens were very succulent, juicy and extremely delicious. I used to help my grandmother pluck the chicken feathers (after the chicken is dead, of course). As it was getting difficult for her to take care of the chickens due to her old age, she had stopped rearing chicken a few years back and we just buy chicken back for her to cook. Now I’ve finally learned how to cook a decent Hainanese Chicken Rice, I hope to cook this to impress my grandmother ;)
Chinese dumplings, also known as jiaozi (饺子), are often wrapped and eaten during Chinese New Year. They are considered very auspicious because they tend to look like yuan bao (元宝), which are golden ingots, hence serving and eating dumplings are believed to bring prosperity and wealth. In the olden days, a clean coin would be wrapped in one of the many dumplings, and the one who found the coin would have extra luck and prosperity. After cooking the dumplings in water, transfer them into the delicious chicken stock (used to cook the Hainanese chicken above) and serve them together during meal time. The dumplings can be made ahead and frozen until needed, or you can wrap them together with your family for a family-bonding session.
This 30-minute meal is so simple to prepare yet scores in terms of taste and presentation. A tip is to get a huge, white plate – almost all food will stand out very well in white background, and a nice white plate will make presentation of food so much more easier! I strongly recommend Corelle brand as their plates are light-weight, simple and classic. Serve this dish with a side salad (or mashed potatoes) and a glass of wine and you’ve almost gotten the heart of your date.
If you’re not a fan of meat, try this simple and easy seafood dish. With most of the work done by the oven, you have plenty of time to chill with your date over a glass of wine – just make sure you keep a look out of the fish so that it doesn’t burn in the oven! The potatoes are cooked together with the fish in the oven – you can simply swap it with salad if you’d like!
If you’d like to impress your date with your culinary skills on the spot, aglio olio is probably the way to go as it’s easy to prepare. You won’t want to spend 1 hour preparing the food in front of your date, then let the food spend another 1 hour to cook in the stove/oven before serving – that’s too much time! You can try mushrooms aglio olio, prawns aglio olio, or a tuna-lemon variation.
No meal is completed without desserts, and no girl’s heart is won without desserts (okay there may be exceptions…) If you’re new to baking and if you have no mixer and no oven, I strongly recommend making the Ice Cream Cake (pardon the Happy Birthday sign). You can use store-bought sponge cake and store-bought good-quality ice cream. Assemble it ahead of time, keep it frozen, and when you’re ready to serve, whip up an easy chocolate sauce (only needs 3 minutes of your time, can be made a head too), unmould the cake and just pour the chocolate sauce over. If you have some experience in baking, try making cream puffs! These small and cute puffs can be filled with pastry cream or ice cream. Cuddle together with your date in front of the TV and pop these little treats with a glass of dessert wine. Two different desserts, but both should be able to get your date’s heart ;)
And I’m off to celebrate Chinese New Year! I will be back next week to blog more recipes (and hopefully some travelogues, being delaying them for too long!) Have a great and happy weekend, take care!
Happy Chinese New Year to you all! :)