A Chinese New Year menu from Amy Poon

For Chinese New Year I wanted to share dishes that are different from the usual fare, but still easy and quick to cook at home. There’s a whole world of Chinese home cooking out there that’s not covered in the West. Most of the Chinese dishes that first come to mind are really from restaurants. At home, for example, a lot of dishes are steamed, which is an area of Chinese cookery that’s lesser known.

The beautiful sea bass recipe is the centrepiece, of course. Traditionally, you always have a whole fish at New Year because the word for fish (yu) sounds similar to other words in Chinese relating to abundance, good fortune and completion. When eating the dish, you should never flip the fish! Once you’ve eaten one side, you should remove the spine and bones and carry on eating, rather than turning the fish over. That’s because fishermen believe flipping the fish is like a boat capsizing, so it’s unlucky.

The lion’s head meatballs are different because of their large size and because they’re fried until golden, then simmered. I like the Chinese cabbage leaves around them because it’s a vegetable that can stand up to quite intense cooking methods, yet still retain a wonderful sweetness and bite. And the stir-fried slivered potatoes are, for many people, a completely new way to approach cooking the vegetable, focusing on the crunchy texture rather than on trying to get them all pillowy soft and fluffy.

A portrait of Amy Poon
Amy Poon of Poon’s London (portrait: Harriet Langford)

 

Amy’s Chinese New Year recipes to share…

Stir-fried potato slivers with wind-dried bacon

I don’t think Western recipes treat potatoes like a green vegetable, but that’s how they’re viewed in China. The Chinese rarely go for ‘soft’ when cooking veg; it’s all about crunch. Here, potatoes are washed to remove their starch, then julienned and stir-fried with Chinese wind- dried bacon, because bacon and potatoes are a perfect match.

Stir-fried potato slivers with wind-dried bacon in a dish

Home-style steamed sea bass

Everyone knows about whole steamed fish with spring onion and ginger, which is wonderful, but this dish is a classic example of home-style Chinese cooking. It includes typical Chinese storecupboard staples such as wood ear mushrooms, red dates and goji berries. I love to cook turbot this way, but it’s expensive and large. Sea bass is excellent too, as it’s forgiving and the meaty texture works so well with the mushrooms.

A patter with a whole steamed sea bass, topped with spring onions and herbs

Powerful, majestic creatures like lions, tigers and dragons are auspicious in Chinese culture, and these meatballs are named after their size – they’re unusually large, representing a lion’s head, with the frilly cabbage leaves surrounding them being the lion’s mane. This is a dish for celebrations.

A clay pot of three large meatballs surrounded by Chinese cabbage leaves, with a pair of red chopsticks resting on top

Hungry for more? Discover our full selection of recipes for Chinese New Year.

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