This Chinese New Year is the Year of the Fire Rooster, and Sydney is promising the biggest celebration of the Lunar Year outside of mainland China – a pretty huge claim, that we can’t wait to see come true!
But if you’d prefer to stay at home with friends and family, we have a few recipes for you that will encourage prosperity and good fortune for the year ahead.
Chinese Steamed Fish
A classic dish for Chinese home cooking, steamed fish represents wealth and good fortune, as the character for fish, yu, is a homophone for the Chinese word for “surplus”. The idea is that the fish should be cooked whole, and some left over for the next year, encouraging a surplus of wealth and food in the coming year.
This dish is so simple that the most important part of it is to get the fish just right. It should be very fresh – with clear eyes and metallic scales – and quite small, around 20 ounces, as the bigger the fish the tougher it will come out. Wash and dry the fish before cooking, and do not overcook it – as soon as the flesh comes from the bone easily, stop cooking.
You will need:
- One whole white fish, no more than 25 ounces
- 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, sliced
- ½ thumb sized piece of ginger, julienned
- 1 cup chopped spring onion
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 2 dried chilli peppers
- ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorn
- 2 tbsp seasoned soy sauce
Place a quarter of your chopped spring onions on a large glass plate, to act as a barrier between the fish and plate.
Stuff the ginger and another quarter of the spring onions into the fish’s cavity
Rub both sides of the fish with sesame oil, cover with another quarter of onions, and pour the Shaoxing wine over the top
Take a large, deep skillet, wok or steamer and add half an inch of water, and a steaming basket upside down in the middle. Cover and bring to the boil over a high heat.
Place the plate with the fish on the steaming basket, cover and steam for 5-8 minutes – stop immediately once cooked!
Use a spatula to transfer the fish to another large plate, and remove the ginger and spring onions from inside and around the fish
Place the rest of the ginger and spring onions on top of the fish
Heat a wok or skillet over medium heat, then add the chilli peppers and Sichuan peppercorns to hot oil
Cook for around 40 seconds, turn the heat right down and then use a ladle to scoop out the chilli pepper and peppercorn
Use the ladle to pour the sizzling hot oil onto the fish, followed by the seasoned soy sauce
Serve immediately, dipping the fish flesh into the sauce on the plate.
Nian Gao is a sticky rice cake, also known as Chinese New Year’s cake. Its name is a homophone for “higher year”, which leads to the symbolism that consuming Nian Gao will encourage oneself to be raised taller (either literally through growth, or in terms of professional or personal improvement).
You will need
- 2 cups of water
- 1 lb package of Chinese brown sugar
- 1 lb sweet rice flour
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp almond extract
- ½ tsp toasted sesame seeds
Place the water and brown sugar in a medium saucepan, and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved – don’t let it boil! Once dissolved remove from the heat and let it cool.
In the meantime, fill a wok with an inch and a half of water, and put a bamboo steamer inside so that it doesn’t touch the water. Bring the water to a simmer
Coat a nine inch round cake tin with vegetable oil and place to the side
Add the rice flour to a stand mixer and slowly pour in the sugar water mixture, beating until smooth (around 2 minutes, scraping the sides with a spatula if necessary)
Add the oil and beat on low speed until you have a smooth batter with the oil fully incorporated
Add the almond extract and beat until it is just incorporated. Pour the mixture into your prepared pan.
Put the pan into the bamboo steamer and cover, cooking until the cake is firm to touch, usually around three hours. Top up the water if necessary and check at least once an hour.
Garnish with sesame seeds and allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving.
Whatever you end up doing this year – whether it’s appreciating the incredible efforts on the Sydney shoreline or staying home with friends and family – have a fantastic Chinese New Year.
Kung Hei Fat Choi!