Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival falls exactly 15 days after the Chinese New Year and it ends the celebration of the new year. Lanterns are hung all over the city and sticky rice dumplings (yuanxiao) served in sweet (or savoury) soup are eaten.
The sweet soup is usually made with rock sugar and ginger, but I used slab sugar and kumquat, so if you want to impress your Chinese friends don't do as I did, although the soup was very delicious.

Slab sugar is a Chinese type of sugar that is made of white sugar, brown sugar and honey. It gives a bit of brownish color but it doesn't have a strong flavor.

Yuanxiao-sticky rice dumplings

1 dl sticky rice flour
1 tsp oil
1/2 dl hot water
1 dl red bean paste for the filling

4 dl water
100 gr slab sugar (1 stick)
10 kumquats, sliced and seeded

Mix flour, oil and water with a spoon until the dough comes together. Let rest for 15 minutes. The sticky rice flour lives up to its name when you mix it with water, the dough is incredibly sticky. To be able to work with it you need to sprinkle the dough with sticky rice flour so that it doesn't stick to your hands. Divide the dough in 10 pieces, flatten each piece with a slightly thicker center and put a bit of red bean paste in the middle, close carefully.

Put water and sugar in a sauce pan and simmer until sugar melts. Add kumquats and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.

In another pan boil 1 liter of water and boil dumplings until they float on the surface. Put couple of dumplings in a small bowl together with the kumquat soup. Serves 2-3.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A perfect Valentine's Day cake

This is a cake that has it all: chocolate, hazelnuts and meringue! To share it with the one you love is all you need for a perfect Valentine's Day. Happy Valentine's!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chinese New Year

Happy New 4706, the year of the Rat! Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China. The year of the Rat started on February 7th and it was a real pleasure to see how it is celebrated here in China. Not surprisingly food is quite central in the celebration, it is all about cured meats, dried fruits and Reunion Dinner. The dinner on the New Years Eve is called "Reunion Dinner" and as the name implies it is a dinner when family reunites.

Some of the traditional dishes served at Reunion Dinner are: dried goose, clay pot, dumplings, boiled chicken, stewed pork leg, jellyfish, bamboo shots with meat, 8 treasure sticky rice, new year cake, red dates in honey, etc...
One dish that is particularly popular here in Shanghai is the "New year cake with Shanghai pak choy". New year cake it self is not a sweet cake as you might think, it is made of glutinous rice flour and it can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Before coming to China I was not familiar with the new year cake, but here it is sold vacuum-packed all year round. New year cake symbolizes "a prosperous new year".

Shanghai pak choy looks a bit different than the regular pak choy. It is light green and leaves are bit wider, but the taste is quite the same. Its meaning in Shanghainese dialect is " getting rid of all worries". A double serving please.

So here comes a recipe for a prosperous new year where all worries will be out of the way.

New Year Cake with Shanghai Pak Choy

450 gr new year cake (1 pack)
200 gr pork, cut in small stripes
300 gr pak choy

pinch of salt and sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
piece of ginger, chopped

some oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp sesame oil

Marinate pork and let stand for 30 minutes. Stir fry until almost done, 3-4 min, remove and set aside. Add some oil to the wok and stir fry new year cake for couple of minutes until soft. Add pak choy, salt and pepper, stir fry for a 1-2 min, add pork and heat through. Drizzle with sesame oil and serve.