Monday, February 18, 2013

Lunar New Year 2013

This is the first year I've decided to host Lunar New Year in my home. I usually celebrate with family by going out to eat. Nobody really volunteers to cook anymore, except me. I like to challenge myself though. The last few years I've been really trying to remember the foods that I grew up with and write down formal recipes. My mother, the awesome cook that she was, never wrote down recipes. She just knew what to do. I'm trying to recreate those delicious foods from memory. It's been quite a journey but it's one that is very close to my heart and worth doing.
As tradition goes, having 8 or 9 dishes during the holidays is a sign of good luck. Didn't you know Asians are very superstitious? So 9 dishes it was for Lunar New Year. Rice doesn't count unless it's fried rice. For the holidays, I'm very particular to stick with white rice. Not sure why. It's how I am. And since I was cooking everything, what I wanted is what everyone was eating.
First up, the seafood bird's nest and choy sum/yu choy with oyster sauce. The seafood birds nest was fried noodles topped with sauteed squid, scallops, oysters, carrots, lotus root, and sugar snap peas. This was a bit sloppy in presentation since I was rushing to plate the last dish. But overall, it was well executed. The noodles stayed crispy, and the seafood wasn't overcooked. The vegetables were light and crunchy too.

The choy sum was simple. I blanched it in salted boiling water. Then threw it in an ice bath to slow down the cooking and layered it with oyster sauce. You can skip the ice bath if you are serving this immediately. Otherwise, you can make this ahead of time. Just set aside to come up to room temperature before serving.
Other must haves during the holidays are chicken and whole fish. For the chicken, I steamed it so it remained really juicy and tender. Another make ahead dish. The chicken is lightly salted so its true flavor is presented here. But for extra zip, I made ginger scallion sauce on the side. I can just pour that stuff over white rice and be happy.

A whole fish is presented also steamed but with soy sauce, ginger, and scallions. I cooked it until just tender and the meat easily separated from the bones. Again, another very simple and yet delicious way to prepare food. However, steamed fish is not a make ahead dish. It should be cooked and served immediately.

In the back of the picture is a plate of spring roll filling. I was attempting to fry spring rolls but they all just exploded in the oil. I saved what I could and just served the filling which was spicy XO sauce with lump crab meat, bean thread noodles, and vegetables. The flavor was very good. Too bad my frying skills suck.
And here is the rest of the heavy hitters that night. Roast suckling pork belly, pork and cabbage wontons, honey walnut shrimp, and fried tofu with shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, and noodles. I was quite nervous about the roast pork. It's not like any roast pork I've done in the past. The skin is much thinner and crispier. The flavor is unique. But with the help of a wonderful recipe from Saveur, I accomplished the perfect roast suckling pork belly. It was so amazing. Super crispy skin, rendered fat, juicy and flavorful meat. Perfectly cooked and browned. So proud of myself.

The wontons were something that I made weeks ago then froze until ready to use. I make dumplings fairly often and have been doing so for years, even decades. I'm very comfortable making them with all sorts of fillings. This year, I served pork and cabbage that was lightly pan fried.

The honey walnut shrimp dish is something that I've made before but never wrote down a recipe with my own tweaks. I finally took the time out to document the process with good results. This dish is always a party favorite. The shrimp is fried crispy then lightly coated in a sweet mayo sauce. Candied walnuts dot the dish and quickly blanched broccoli line the plate.

And lastly, the fried tofu with shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, and noodles. Normally, I would make this dish with fat choy but it's been really difficult to find the real stuff ever since China limited the production due to its nature to destroy the soil that its planted in. A lot of fake products have swarmed the markets since but we all know about fake products from China. It's a do not try. So instead, this year I used purple potato noodles to represent the fat choy. It worked pretty well.
And there you have it. My Lunar New Year feast. It was quite a feat with 1 full day of prep and 1 full day of cooking. Yes it took me 2 days to make all this but it was worth the swollen legs and feet. Although not everything came out as I had planned, everything sure was delicious.
And don't forget about dessert. I capped off the night with an almond tofu dessert which is like a almond flavored panna cotta with fresh fruit on top. Unfortunately the custard was very grainy and terrible. Some people didn't eat it. Some people were nice and ate it. I know it sucked. At least the fruit was good though. Back to the drawing board with this one.
Recipes for most of these dishes will be coming the next few days.


  1. Looks like it was a great Lunar New Year dinner. Props to Hungry!

  2. I love choi sum, but gai lan is still my favorite Asian greens. :) Happy Year of the Snake! :)

    Your chicken even made the vegan in me want a bite, hee.

  3. A lot of work, great results !!


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