Happy Chinese New Year!
Our New year is like Western’s thanks giving day or Christmas day where we will make a big fat feast like you would for xmas. And when we do feast, not only would we prepare the main festival chinese meals, we would also prepare side snacks or foods that resemble some good luck.
The typical dish that I will make will be radish cake, its a cake that you shreds the radish, add in the fried diced chinese sausage, mushroom etc and then sift the rice flours in where you take it to steam, once done. You will then let it cool down to set before you slice out and pan fry it until golden; serve with some hoi sin sauce!
There’s actually a reason to make this savoury cake, not only its yummy full of goodies but it also has a meaning, radish (菜頭, chhài-thâu) is a homophone for “good fortune” (好彩頭, hó-chhái-thâu) in Hokkien and this is why people reckon if you ate this over CNY, you will gain good fortune for the coming year.
When I was young, I love eating this because all kids love deep fried snacks and this one makes it even tastier with ground peanuts, sugar and coconuts inside each little dumplings pastry. Though, the pastry tastes super flakey that melts in your mouth. Its really time consuming to make from roasting the peanuts to kneading and rolling the pastry. It takes a long amount of time to deep fry a dozen out. The more you make, the easier it will get and faster I would say. I personally would recommend you to deep fry it twice, not only it will be more crunchy but deep frying it second time will get the dumplings to release any extra oil that it first got absorbed, so worth doing this. Give this a try if you want to try a different dumplings to the hot dumplings that you eat in restaurants.
Water Chestnut Cake 馬蹄糕
This is classified as a sweet cake and you often get this in dim sum but we would also make this as a CNY foods. It have the meaning of “馬到功成、步步高陞”; homophone for “step to high rise and succeed in it”. The ultimate tips that I would give you is to use either palm sugar or damerara sugar to make the syrup, this actually enhance the flavour of the cake, not as plain as using normal white caster.
Tang Yuan 湯圓
This often comes in a sweet form as well as savoury form, however, for CNY wise, you often see people making the sweet version of this in varies sweet fillings, ie red beans, black sesame, peanut filing etc. This dish symbolise the family togetherness and often eat on the CNY eve dinner when the entire family are sitting together for their final year end meal. I would suggest to make the sweet soup using slate sugar with loads of ginger. Yet, there are varies version, my next favourite is putting tangyuen in coconut sago or red bean soup.
Coconut Milk Nian Gao 椰汁年糕
My favourite of the CNY dishes and yet it is the one that I first ever learnt to make for CNY. I have tune the original recipe to my own taste bud, so feel free to change the sugar level or reduce the coconut milk to suit your taste. Yet, You can reduce the recipe to one can coconut milk and up the ginger juice quantity to make it as a more traditional nian gao.
The little story of why this is called Nian gao and associated with CNY is that “the Chinese word 粘 (nián), meaning “sticky”, is identical in sound to 年, meaning “year”, and the word 糕 (gāo), meaning “cake” is identical in sound to 高, meaning “high or tall”. As such, eating nian gao has the symbolism of raising oneself taller in each coming year 年年高升” (Wikipedia).
Red Beans Nian Gao 紅豆椰汁年糕
I have once again adapted the original recipe turning it into red beans nian gao. This has been a bit of trial and error, referring to other existing recipe online and tuning it into my own. I was fearing that the water quantity got lower would cause it to be really thick and dry, but thank god it came out perfect. Indeed to be sure to use brown sugar but not overly too much, else you might get a sour taste from the sugar.
Both of which involves making the syrup,mix into the flour and steam for an hour. Once cooled, you can slice and pan fry to eat… and loads of variation to consume this gao, my favourite is pan fry with egg!!!! Yummy!
Jiaozi, I’m sure everyone know the existent of this savoury dumplings, you would get all sorts of filing, yet this time round I have made it with radish, mince, chinese mushroom, dried shrimps and spring onion. Indeed, you can change the recipe to whatever meat you preferred etc. You wonder what does dumpling got to do with CNY? how do they look like? because the shape looks like golden ingots “yuan bao” and the name sounds like the word for the earliest paper money, so serving them is believed to bring prosperity.