Gong Hei Fat Choi!
Happy Chinese New Year, wishing you Happiness and Wealth and Joy.
Chinese New Year festivities start on the first day of the lunar month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. This year the festival starts on 10 February 2013, is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. Also known as the Spring Festival it celebrates the start of new life and a season of sowing and ploughing.
In 2013 the Chinese are welcoming in the year of the Water Snake. People born in the Year of the Snake are said to be intuitive, private and reticdent, as well as wise. Regarded as great thinkers, they like to live a peaceful life in a quiet environment.
Crispy Aromatic Duck - the mix of heady aromatics, Chinese Five Spice, Hoi Sin Suace, and succulent crumbly meat, wrapped in little pancakes with slithers of spring onion and cucumber is a combination which is very difficult to beat. Marks and Spencer Crispy Aromatic duck is one of the finest I have tasted. Placed in a very hot over the skin crisps quickly without drying the meat. Peking duck is very difficult to make at home because of the process of curing the meat, and basting and cooking, over severals hours. This duck was restaurant quality but served at home, and its server without MSGs or other nasties.
Duck spring roll - the sweet and savoury heady mix soft sweet duck and Chinese Five Spice, which interestingly sometimes continues seven spices, served in crispy crunchy rice pastry, takes some beating. Marks and Spencer have got these duck spring rolls down to a tee, and they make a perfect nibble to serve with drinks or they can be served family style, along with everything else.
Chinese culture is filled with fascinating tradition and ritual, New Year is no different. Before the festivities start, Chinese people usually spring clean their houses. Believing they are sweeping away any bad luck. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, dustpan and brushes are put away so that good luck can not be swept away. Houses are decorated with paper scrolls with good luck phrases such as 'Happiness' and 'Wealth'.
Mini spare ribs - always a winner in my house especially when there is rugby on. The sweet sticky sauce, over broiled then roasted meat is just right in these Marks and Spencer Creations. They disappeared very quickly. I will know in future to get in more than one box.
A Chinese friend of mine told me it is good to celebrate Chinese New Year with foods that are well seasoned with pepper and basil, ginger and cinnamon, cloves and chili, coriander and nutmeg because bold flavor is associated with the year of the snake. Red food is very important at this time of year because the colour red symbolises fire which will scare away evil spirits, so people dress in new red clothing.
Veg spring rolls - I absolutely love spring rolls, and these little fellas are just the ticket. Cooked again in a hot over, the rice pastry crisps to a crunch, and the inside remain juicy. I served them with a jar of Chilli and Mango Chutney, which has quickly become a staple in my home. This chutney, works brilliantly with Asian food, but also a jar of it mixed with some sliced chicken fillets, and cooked slowly in the oven, served with a spinach salad, makes a very popular tea in my house. My tip is to always make sure there is plenty leftover for lunch the next day, it wraps perfectly into sarnies or as a filling for a baked potato
Families get together for a large traditional meal, after which they stay up to midnight to let off fireworks to frighten away evil spirits. On New Year's Day children will wake up to find a red envelope filled with money and sweets under their pillows left by their parents and grandparents. This year I celebrated Chinese New Year with my soon to be sister-in-law Sarah and some scrumptious dishes from Marks and Spencer. Their dishes are the best you will find on the high street, and the research that has gone into making each dish has taken the team to seek advice from some of the top Chinese chefs in the world. Like David Chang at his legendary New York restaurant, Momofuku SSam Bar, who is the king of Pork Buns.
Char Siu Roast Pork in Chinese style BBQ sauce - Somehow the Chinese do BBQ unlike any others, except perhaps for the Southern States of the USA, and then again, the flavour combinations are different, but both somehow achieve a balance of sweet and south, depth of flavour, with a slightly zingy flavour left on the tongue. This roast pork with tender, and not in the least fatty or greasy, a normal complaint when eating pork, and had a melt in the mouth consistency.
Beef in black bean sauce - tender strips of broiled beef, served in a rich sauce that had a peppery bite, with chunks of soft red pepper that brought a sweet depth to the dish, enhanced the smooth finish on the tongue in terms of final taste. Add to this the crunch of water chestnuts and you are somewhere near a perfect bite combining, soft and succulent, spicy and sweet, with crunch and texture. This was one of my favourite dishes of the evening. The sauce was absorbed by the fried rice, which actually tastes more like boiled rice, with lovely bits of soft omlette and peas - fried rice, without the greasy aftertaste is something very difficult to achieve, and Marks and Spencer, execute it very well here.
One of my favourite things about eating Chinese food, is the way it is eaten - family style. A range of different dishes and textures, flavours and colours all served in the middle of the table for people to share is the perfect way to eat. I love how eating in this way encourages conversation, and interaction at the dinner table, something always to be encouraged when children are around.
Children are very important at Chinese New Year, and they are an intrical part of the celebration. The layers of flavour, the ease of cooking, the quality of the meat and the taste of the Chinese Food from Marks and Spencer, make it easily the best food Chinese Food on the High Street, it is so good in my opinion that I would have to be eating at a really good Chinese restaurant to beat it.
Gong Hei Fat Choi!
That's it for now ...
Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable