I always think that New Year’s eve falls a bit too close to Christmas to be made the most of. We’re all too full and knackered to lean into yet more celebrations so soon, and lack the headspace to make resolutions for the year ahead. Chinese New Year, on the other hand, which falls next Sunday, is so well timed that everyone might want to mark it. Not only do we have the renewed energy to think about another feast, the food associated with the Spring Festival is exactly what we should be eating at this time of the year: steamed greens, slivers of aromatic ginger and chilli, toasted seeds and sticky nuts. Hop along! Happy year of the rabbit!
Steamed fish with vinegar and soy
Steamed whole fish is often the centrepiece of a Chinese New Year celebration, and is believed to bring prosperity and abundance for the coming year. This method of steaming is not only speedy, it’s also all that is required to bring together the flavoursome sauce. For ease, I have adapted the approach to using fillets, but by all means go down the traditional route and use a whole fish instead, if you prefer. If you don’t have a steamer, just fry the fish and serve it with the sauce and aromatics.
Prep 25 min
Cook 20 min
175ml rice-wine vinegar
80ml Shaoxing wine
75ml soy sauce
1 star anise
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp aleppo chilli
2 tbsp demerara sugar
1 large leek (200g), dark green tops removed, the rest cut first into thirds and then into matchsticks
25g knob fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks (use a mandoline, if you have one)
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus 1 tsp extra to finish
4 x 90g skin-on sustainably-sourced sea bass, sea bream or red snapper fillets, each about 2½cm thick
1 red chilli, deseeded and julienned
10g coriander, leaves and soft stems
Put the first eight ingredients in a small saucepan with four tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil on a medium-high heat, then turn down to medium, simmer for 10 minutes, take off the heat and set aside.
Mix the leek with half the ginger, and put a wide, high-sided saute pan for which you have a lid on a medium heat. Add the oil and the leek and ginger mixture, and fry, stirring, for two minutes, until the leeks have softened but not coloured. Tip the mixture on to a lipped platter and put the pan back on the heat.
Strain the infused sauce mix into the saute pan, then discard the star anise and scatter the remaining strained spices over the cooked leek.
Bring the sauce to a simmer, then place an oiled steamer basket on top. Lay in the fish fillets skin side down, cover and steam for three to four minutes, until the fish is opaque and cooked through (cook for longer if your fish fillets are thicker or if you’re using a whole fish).
Lift the steamer off the heat, then use a spatula and gently lift out the fish (peel off and discard the skin, if you like). Lay the fish on top of the leeks and pour the sauce all over the top. Serve hot with the reserved ginger, chilli and coriander scattered on top.
Spiced longevity noodles with crispy duck
Yotam Ottolenghi’s spiced longevity noodles with crispy duck.
Longevity noodles are eaten at Chinese New Year to symbolise a long and happy life. Use extra-long noodles, such as fresh youmian, from an Asian food store, or large nests of dried noodles from large supermarkets. To reduce the cooking time – and to turn the dish vegan – simply omit the duck.
Prep 25 min
Cook 2 hr
2 x 320g duck legs
3 tsp aleppo chilli
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
¼ tsp ground white pepper (or ½ tsp if not using Sichuan pepper)
½ tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar
8 Sichuan peppercorns, lightly crushed in a mortar (optional)
10g piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
3 bundles dried medium egg noodles (190g)
110g bean sprouts
65ml vegetable oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1½ tsp chinkiang vinegar (or 1 tsp rice-wine vinegar mixed with ½ tsp soy sauce)
30g spring onions, julienned
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9. Pierce the skin of each duck leg six times with the tip of a small sharp knife, then season with three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and lay skin side up on an oven rack set on top of a tray. Roast for 30 minutes, until golden, then turn down the oven to 185C (165C fan)/360F/gas 4½. Use a pair of tongs to turn the duck legs skin side down, roast for another 20 minutes, then flip again and roast for 25 minutes more, until the skin is nice and crisp. Remove, leave to rest for five minutes, then use two forks to shred the meat and skin into large pieces (discard the bones).
Put the chilli, garlic, white pepper, fennel, Sichuan pepper (if using) and ginger in a large, heatproof bowl.
Half-fill a medium saucepan with water, bring to a boil, then cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, adding the beansprouts for the last minute of the cooking time. Drain the noodles, then set the colander over a large bowl and leave to steam dry for a minute.
Meanwhile, put the oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat for three or four minutes, until it’s visibly hot, but not smoking. Pour the hot oil over the chilli and garlic mixture in the bowl, then stir in both soy sauces and the vinegar. Add the noodles and toss gently to coat, taking care not to break them up. Transfer to a lipped platter, scatter the shredded duck, spring onions and sesame seeds on top, and serve hot.
Stir-fried romaine with sweet-and-sour cashews
Yotam Ottolenghi’s stir-fried romaine with sweet and sour cashews.
Steamed greens provide a touch of comfort and respite from the cacophony of flavours and textures in a Chinese-style feast. This dish is quick to make and best served hot, but it’s also lovely in a sandwich with some cold cuts and/or boiled eggs.
Prep 8 min
Cook 20 min
For the cashews
50g cashew nuts, halved
2 tbsp satsuma juice (ie, from 1 satsuma), or tangerine or orange juice
½ tsp honey
⅛ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp sesame seeds
¼ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp vegetable oil, plus 1 tbsp extra for the stir-fry
Fine sea salt and black pepper
For the stir-fry
2 romaine lettuces (550g), cut widthways into 3cm chunks
1 tsp rice-wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp satsuma juice
¼ tsp sesame seeds
10g mint leaves, roughly chopped
First, make the sticky cashews. Set a large, high-sided saute pan for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat. Add the cashews and toast, tossing frequently, for five minutes, until golden. Pour in the satsuma juice and cook, stirring constantly, for 20 seconds, then add the honey, chilli flakes, sesame seeds, both oils, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, mix well to coat, tip out on to a tray and set aside.
Wipe the pan clean, put it back on a high heat and add the tablespoon of vegetable oil. Once it’s hot, add the lettuce and a quarter-teaspoon of salt and mix quickly to coat. Cover the pan and leave the lettuce to steam for three minutes, mixing it once halfway through. Remove the lid and cook for five minutes more, stirring frequently, until the lettuce has wilted, then mix in the vinegar, honey, satsuma juice, sesame seeds, a tablespoon of chopped mint and an eighth of a a teaspoon of salt and take off the heat.
Mix in three-quarters of the sticky nuts, then tip into a large, shallow bowl and serve with the remaining cashews and mint sprinkled on top.