I am completely and utterly obsessed with Asian cuisine — so much so, that I was delighted to write this piece as it gave me a very good excuse to spend more than an hour in the Asian supermarket picking up ingredients. It is fascinating to trawl through each aisle and discover new ingredients; that’s what essentially drew me to it in the first place. I always pick up something I hadn’t planned on: frozen spring-roll wrappers, a big bag of star anise or Szechuan peppercorns.
While I don’t cook with Asian ingredients on a daily basis, I do like to have them in my cupboard, ready and waiting for me to whip up a quick stir-fry. Chinese New Year is a big event, which sees families across the globe coming together to celebrate and tuck into a feast. Noodles are traditionally served as they signify a long life — it is highly unlucky to cut the strands of noodles. Many different varieties are served up and each family has their own take on the list of ingredients included.
Dim sum are served all year round, but take pride of place as part of the New Year menu. These little dumplings come in many different varieties. They can be tricky to make — you will need some frozen dumpling skins, which can be found in the freezer section of most Asian supermarkets; unless, of course, you fancy making the pastry yourself. The pastry is filled with seasoned meat. There is a real technique in assembling the dim sum, though don’t worry if it doesn’t go exactly to plan — Chinese chefs train for months to perfect their dim sum. Once assembled, they are placed in a bamboo steamer (which costs very little) and cooked briefly over a wok filled with boiling water. Served with soy sauce, they are delicious.
The highlight for many at Chinese New Year is baking, and pineapple tarts are one of the more popular sweets. They are almost like a shortbread with an intensely sweet, exotic filling that melts in the mouth. If you are feeling adventurous this weekend, I highly recommend you head to an Asian supermarket and pick up some goodies to give these recipes a go. Happy Year of the Rabbit!