What do the Chinese really eat during Chinese New Year?

Published on Yahoo Lifestyle UK & Ireland on 7th February 2014:

Chinese New Year at Yauatcha, London

A journalist friend of mine recently asked me what I was doing for Chinese New Year this year for an article she was writing. When I replied that we usually ate home-cooked foods and watched the Spring Festival Gala, like we did in China, she was surprised.

It seems that, from her experience at least, our way of celebrating Chinese New Year was very outdated and people no longer ate at home. It got me thinking, what do the Chinese really eat for Chinese New Year?

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How to make jiaozi (Chinese dumplings)

Published on Yahoo Lifestyle UK & Ireland on 4th February 2013:

Dumplings by Qin Xie

There’s probably nothing more perfect than jiaozi for a Chinese New Year celebration – it’s the sort of dish that families make together and enjoy together.

Jiaozi, or Chinese dumplings as it’s more frequently known, are essentially little parcels of pastry wrapped filling. It’s traditionally considered a dish from Northern China although it’s enjoyed all over China.

The pastry is made with just water and flour while the filling can be almost anything you want. Most fillings are meat based and vary from region to region, like pork and garlic chives or beef and celery.

Here’s a recipe for pork and Chinese leaf dumplings:

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How to make tangyuan (glutinous rice balls)

Published on Yahoo Lifestyle UK & Ireland on 4th February 2013:

Tangyuan, Qin Xie

The name sounds rather strange even before you translate it (the Chinese characters for “tang” and “yuan” mean “soup” and “sphere” respectively) but it’s really just a sweet filling wrapped in a glutinous rice flour pastry and served in its cooking liquid.

In China, the most popular flavour for tangyuan is black sesame but it’s also commercially available in flavours such as rose, peanut and red bean.

There are lots of theories about when to enjoy tangyuan, which varies according to the part of China that you’re from. Some have it at the turn of midnight for Chinese New Year while others have it on the 15th day of the festival.

Either way, the most important part of the tangyuan tradition is about family. Not only is it something to be shared with family during New Year celebrations but, in Chinese, tangyuan also sounds like “tuanyuan”, or reunion.

Here’s a recipe for easy peanut butter tangyuan:

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Chinese New Year with Ken Hom

Published on BespokeRSVP on 19th January 2012:

Billions of people around the world will be welcoming in the Year of the Dragon in Chinese New Year celebrations this year on the 23rd of January. The celebrations can go on for as long as 15 days, with different traditions followed each day, or can be as small as a family gathering on New Year’s Eve.

In my family the celebrations have always involved copious amounts of food, including dumplings and stir-fry (an amalgamation of our northern and southern China influences), and watching the CCTV (that’s China Central Television) New Year Gala.

Whatever the celebration though, it will always involve food – it’s just such an integral part of Chinese culture. So to celebrate a little on the Bespoke Blog, we decided to explore the Chinese New Year with Ken Hom OBE, one of the most internationally renouned personalities in Chinese cuisine.

Hom came to prominence in the UK when he was commissioned to do a TV series on Chinese cooking for the BBC in 1984. It was greatly received as it was the first time that food was cooked in real time and of course it was a very healthy and different way of cooking. The TV series was syndicated worldwide, with many more series and accompanying books produced since.

Hom took some time out from his busy schedule (currently in Brazil) to answer our questions…

What do you think Chinese New Year is all about? It is all about celebrating with family and friends, especially over meals. It is also a time of family reunion and looking forward to the New Year.

Do you have any family traditions when celebrating Chinese New Year? I remember we cleaned our house before New Year’s Eve and talked about planning the family dinner.

Are there any dishes that are Chinese New Year essentials? Yes, dried oysters with sea moss…. Good things and prosperity. A whole fish for prosperity and dumplings for good luck.

How are you celebrating Chinese New Year this year? With friends in London

What’s your outlook for the year ahead and are there any new projects coming up? So far it looks good as I am filming a new series for television. I am supporting Action Against Hunger, and I will be supporting the Prostate Cancer Charity for the London Marathon. And who knows what else the year will bring?

Are there any ingredients which are must haves for Asian inspired dishes for the Year of the Dragon? It would be the usual dishes but we are always weary about the Year of the Dragon because it will be a strong year with consequences for many years to follow! But I am positive!