In honour of the approaching New Year I had Chinese food twice this week and it wasn’t bad. After two previous experiences at “Chinese” restaurants – one in Roma where the MSG level was enough to guarantee an instant migraine, the other in Munich where the Haus Ming is the only place I know that can ruin white rice – I have been giving them a wide berth. But the WOK I near work was actually good and the jioazi and shao mei were very good, and they served really cheap jasmine tea – Laurent said he almost felt he was back in Beijing.
So we are now entering the Year of the Ox, the second sign of the 12 animal signs that make up the Chinese Zodiac.If you were born in any of the Years of the Ox you might want to check this out. And the rest of us can check out our signs here.
I know that as I am writing this that in Beijing our friend Jack’s mother will be making her own jioazi and shao mei for the family New Year’s celebration. If you’d like to try your hand at shao mei here’s an easy recipe I adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.
6 ounces medium shrimp , raw, peeled, and coarsely chopped
2 ounces ground pork
6 water chestnuts (peeled if fresh), minced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry or vermouth
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 large egg white , lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
Ground black pepper , to taste
2 tablespoons minced scallions (greens only)
1 package wonton wrappers
1. Mix all filling ingredients in medium bowl; let stand about 30 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to make dumplings.
2. Use a 3-inch round cookie cutter to cut square wonton wrappers into rounds. Holding the wonton skin in the cup of your hand, place two rounded teaspoons of filling in the center. Cup your hand around the wonton skin, gathering folds up around the filling. Press the gathered folds lightly around the filling to adhere, forming a cup-shaped dumpling.
3. Spray a collapsible steamer basket* with cooking spray. Fill large Dutch oven with enough water to come to the bottom of the steamer basket. Bring to simmer over medium-low heat; lower basket into Dutch oven. Arrange dumplings 1/2-inch apart in basket. Increase heat to high; cover and steam until the dumplings are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Serve, passing dipping sauces separately.
*I use a bamboo steamer lined with cabbage leaves over a wok of simmering water.
And Hui Chun or luck messages are an important part of New Year’s. As well as hanging them in your home or office it’s a nice idea to send one to a friend.
In the meantime: Gong Xi Fa Cai – Gung Ha Fat Choy*
*Wishing you prosperity – in Mandarin and Cantonese
26 gennaio – Eve of the Lunar New Year