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Chinese New Year 2014

>> After the busy festive season, January is always a notoriously difficult time for caterers. However, with Asian cuisine being one of the fastest growing trends in foodservice, caterers can capitalise on Chinese New Year which, this year, falls on Friday January 31st.

2014 heralds the Year of the Horse - so let's tempt your customers to "eat like a horse" at your place! Here, four leading chefs and industry experts share their tips and recipe suggestions to help you make a fortune from Chinese New Year...

Wilson Chung, Oriental food specialist and development chef, AB World Foods

Chinese New Year is a great opportunity to excite your customers with some delicious, yet high margin dishes. The breadth of Chinese food means it is easy to offer a variety of dishes to suit your customer. Why not package up a stir-fry, choice of rice or noodles and some extras (e.g. a simple chicken and sweetcorn soup, or vegetarian spring rolls) as a 'banquet' to tempt your customers to spend just a few extra pounds?

With the weather turning cold and grey, soups and broth-based dishes are easy to make and hold, high margin and satisfying. Perhaps make one 'broth' or base mild with chicken stock, dark soy sauce and oriental aromats like star anise, cinnamon and orange zest, and another hot and spicy with the flavours of Thailand to give your customers choice. Allow your customer or operator to add your choice of cooked noodles (egg, rice or udon) and top with cooked protein and veg for a simple one-bowl meal. Using a ready-made curry paste like a Blue Dragon red or green curry paste as a broth base is a shortcut to great flavour and ensures consistency batch to batch.

"Anything that is made from chicken and fish symbolises happiness and prosperity..."

Street food is really popular right now. Punchy, street style offerings like Vietnamese style Banh Mi are easily re-created at your sandwich bar by making your ingredients right. Why not mix some fish sauce, black pepper and chopped coriander into your pate, pickle some cucumbers with chilli and rice vinegar and get in some herbs like anise-flavoured Vietnamese mint to jazz up your sandwich offering.

Other easy street food ideas are: deep fried wontons can be made from ready-made lasagne sheets and pork mince mixed with oriental mushrooms, oriental style grilled corn with a sweet chilli compound butter, or fresh vegan or vegetarian rice paper rolls made from noodles, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs. Donald McInnes, executive head chef, Ayr Racecourse and Western House Hotel (

Anything that is made from chicken and fish symbolises happiness and prosperity, especially when served whole. Dishes made with oranges represent wealth and good fortune because they are China's most plentiful fruit. Noodles represent longevity, therefore, they should never be cut! Duck symbolises fidelity, while eggs signify fertility. Bean curd or tofu, however, is avoided because its white colour suggests death and misfortune. So my menu idea is:

Five Spice Turkey and Lettuce Wraps


  1. Bring a little water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the rice and reduce the heat to low.

  2. Cover and cook for five minutes. Remove from the heat.

  3. Meanwhile heat a little oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey and ginger, cook slowly until the turkey is cooked through, takes about six minutes.

  4. Stir in the cooked rice, bell pepper, water chestnuts, broth, hoisin sauce, five-spice powder and salt.

  5. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes until well incorporated and well cooked through.

  6. To serve, divide the lettuce leaves among your plates and spoon some of the turkey mixture into each leaf, top with the herbs and shredded carrot and roll into wraps.
  7. This menu idea is ideal for any left over turkey as it is nice and cheap to make, very quick and looks really good.


  • 1kg ground turkey

  • 25g crushed fresh ginger

  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced

  • 1 small can water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped

  • 50g instant brown rice

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

  • ½ lt reduced-sodium chicken broth

  • hoisin sauce

  • five-spice powder salt

  • 2 heads of Baby Gem lettuce, leaves separated

  • Chopped fresh herbs - basil, mint and chives

  • 1 large carrot, shredded

Jonathan Holden, foodservice and on-trade controller, Petty Wood & Co. Ltd

During the Chinese New Year, people will normally wish one another "wu fu lin men' which means "May the five fortunes arrive at your doorstep!' The five good fortunes are longevity, wealth, health, love of virtue, and happy "ending' (happy ending means a natural and comfortable death. Interesting, isn't it?)

The following are the auspicious Chinese New Year dishes which you may bring into your menu if you want something special for this season:

  1. Chicken Meatballs with Hoisin Dip - Round shape in Chinese means "complete, perfect, in abundance". This is also the reason why most Chinese New Year lucky snack bowls are round in shape, and so is a Chinese dinner table. Meatballs are not only great festive party food but also deliver this imagery with wishes of abundance.

  2. Grilled Prawns in Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce - In Cantonese, the word "prawns" is pronounced the same as the word "laughters". It is pronounced as "ha". This is the reason why Chinese will call an auspicious prawn dish with a nickname "Ha Ha Siu' which means happy with a good laugh everyday.

  3. Classic Sweet & Sour Pork - The reddish and fruity-sweet class Sweet & Sour Pork delivers the Red Celebration Mood and taste of every Chinese New Year. Red means prosperity and celebrations.

  4. Vegetarian Lettuce Wrap (San Choy Bao) - "San Choy Bao' is a special dish for celebration as the Chinese word "San Choy' is pronounced in the same way as the phrase "Make a Fortune" in Chinese. For wealth in the coming year, people wish each other lots of opportunities to make money.

    Normally, the second day of the Chinese New Year is time for a vegetarian dinner. Hence, a vegetarian version of "San Choy Bao" is a healthy alternative although the original classic San Choy Bao includes minced pork as well.

  5. Braised Chicken in Oyster Sauce - Oysters have always been associated with the meaning of "good fortune' because of the same pronunciation as the word "good", in Chinese "hao". A chicken dish is a must for Chinese New Year banquets so a chicken dish using oyster sauce is a great match for the season.

"Chinese will call an auspicious prawn dish with a nickname "Ha Ha Siu" which means happy with a good laugh everyday."

Bonnie Yau, chef and oriental food retailer ( ) Chinese New Year is all about food, family and friends. It is also a fresh start to the year ahead.

The more extravagant and lavish the food the better. Fish symbolises good fortune and is served with its head and tail on. This conveys that there is a start and a finish to everything that you do. Oriental food is not just about using Asian ingredients such as bean sprouts - be bold with your ingredients and use what is in season.

Think about ingredients which add vibrant colour to the dish. We use marrow and green beans in stir fries to add a new twist and stir-fries do not have to be just vegetable based - why not make them fruity or spicy? Cooking is all about flavours - there is no right or wrong and oriental food is not just stir-fries! Steamed Red Grouper with Yau's Kung Po Sauce.

Spicy baked prawns


  1. Rub salt all over fish including gut area.

  2. Place fish on a plate and put the ginger in the gut area of the fish.

  3. Put the plate with the fish in a steamer and steam for 15-20 minutes from boiling point.

  4. Heat oil and Yau's Kung Po Sauce, once it is hot then pour over fish.

  5. Sprinkle spring onion over fish and serve.


  • To test if the fish is cooked, poke a chopstick through the thickest part of the fish. If it goes through with ease then it is cooked.

  • Remove any excess liquid from the steamed fish.


  • 1 Red Grouper (or Sea Bass), cleaned and gutted - pat dry with a tea towel

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 1 tbsp ginger, shredded

  • 3 sprigs spring onions, cut into

  • 5cm lengths

  • 180ml Yau's Kung Po Sauce

  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil or vegetable oil

Article taken from Jan / Feb 2014 issue of Stir it up magazine. Get your copy here



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