Dumplings & Dinosaur Sex: The Ultimate Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year Menu
I won’t be the first, second or even 169th person you’ve heard say that the mere mention of Valentine’s Day or the mere glimpse of a foil heart adorned Hallmark window display fills them with an unquellable wave of nausea. Admittedly for the last three years whilst I’ve been “with-beau”, so to speak, those bouts of sickness have been less pervasive. But enough. I won’t bore you with another anti-Valentine’s Day tirade. In fact, this year, I’m wholly looking forward to the 14th February. Indeed, I wish every year could be like 2010. And that’s because it also happens to be Chinese New Year. Despite the ominous warnings of the ancient Oriental soothsayers that predict tumult during the coming year of the Metal Tiger, both I and said beau will be celebrating whatever chaos and disarray comes our away with home-cooked Chinese fare.
Like most Chinese revelers we’ll be starting out with dumplings (a great hands-on Valentine’s activity to get the juices flowing too), a variety I think; moist and savory pork and prawn filled steamed siu mai, then Beijing style beef jiaozi with their pert, crisp, golden bottoms and juicy, flavorful filling. These petite pockets are symbolic of wealth and prosperity, resembling gold coins. So the more you eat, the weightier your wallet in 2010 (well something’s gotta work, right? It may as well be dumplings).
Then we’ll glide gracefully onto the noodles, a fiery prawn and chili bean concoction. You must always have noodles on Chinese New Year , the longer the strands the better as they represent longevity. Don’t be tempted to snip unruly noodles. I can’t be sure, but you may well shorten your life. Why take the risk? Just wear a bib… or a dark shirt.
As for dessert, we’ll be nibbling suggestively at Mandarin oranges, the vibrant, burnished orange diminuitive fruits that litter the streets of Chinatown right now. Well, at least I will, no doubt, unconvincingly. Lover Boy, however, will at this stage be mesmerized by the nether regions of a T-Rex. Yes, this is still the same post, we are still on Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day. In case you missed the news alert, the Discovery Channel is airing Tyrannosaurus Sex at 10pm on Valentine’s Day. Writes the New York Daily News:
“Tyrannosaurus Sex” doesn’t just answer the questions, it shows dinosaur sex in all its glory with state-of-the-art CGI animation,” reads a press release.
“The scenes created for the special are all based on fact,” it continues. “Interviews with scientists on the cutting-edge of paleontology bring new life to one of the last mysteries of these mighty giants.”
So here you have it, Chinese chow and watching dinosaurs getting down and dirty. Have we cracked the code for an awesome Valentine’s Day? Let me know Monday…
Beijing Beef Dumplings
For the dumpling filling
1/2 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp finely grated ginger
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp Chinese wine
2 spring onions, finely chopped
3 1/2 tbsp finely chopped bamboo shoots
½ medium sized carrot, peeled and finely grated
1/2 tsp salt
18-20 dumpling or Jiaozi wrappers
1/4 pint / 4 fl oz chicken stock
For the dipping sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2tbsp Chinese black vinegar
2 birds eye chillies, finely chopped
1. Combine all the ingredients for the dumpling filling in a large bowl and stir well until thoroughly mixed.
2. Lay a dumpling wrapper on a board and place 1 tbsp of the filling the centre. Tab the edges of the wrapper with a little water then lift the edges of the wrapper and press together at the seam until you have a crescent shaped dumpling with a flat bottom. Pinch the seam to create a crimped effect. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers.
3. To cook the dumplings, heat 2 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil in a wide saute pan. When hot place the dumplings inside in batches making sure they are sitting on their flat bases. Fry for 2-3 mins until the bases are golden brown. (At this point you can freeze half the dumplings for another time if you want. Just place on a tray or baking sheet and freeze for 1-2 hours until frozen, then transfer to a zip lock bag and return to the freezer for up to 2 months. When ready to eat remove from the freezer and steam as directed below. )
4. Return all the browned dumplings to the pan. Pour in the chicken stock, bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan and steam the dumplings for 4-5 mins until cooked through.
5. Meanwhile, combine all the sauce ingredients and mix well. Serve the dumplings immediately with the dipping sauce on the side.
Fiery Prawn and Chili Bean Noodles
1 large onion, cut into 1½cm / ½in chunks
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
2 large red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 large red pepper, deseeded and cut in 1½cm / ½in chunks
16 raw tiger prawns, shelled but tail left on and deveined
1/2 pint / 8 fl oz chicken stock
3 tbsp chilli bean sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp corn flour
Small bunch coriander chopped
1 lb fresh, medium egg noodles
1. Bring a large pan of salted water to theboil. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok and throw in the onion. Stir fry for 2 mins until softened then throw in the garlic, ginger and chilli. Cook for a further minute then add the peppers. Season the prawns with a little salt and throw into the pan. Stir-fry until the prawns turn pink then add the chicken stock, chilli bean and soy sauces and bring the whole thing to the boil.
2. Combine the corn flour with 2 tbsp of cold water and add to the wok. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1–2 minsuntil the sauce is thickened and glossy. Stir in the chopped coriander.
3. Meanwhile, throw the egg noodles into the boiling water and blanch for 30 secs. Drain well, add to the prawns and toss. Remove the wok from the heat and turn out into a serving dish. Take to the table to serve.
(I know this serves four, but it’s so good you can keep half of it in the fridge for a midweek supper or if you have a microwave at work, take to the office in a Tupperware and treat yourself to a delicious hot lunch. Alternatively just scale down for enough for two.)
Spiced Roast Pears with Red Wine & Brandy Cream
4-6 unblemished pears, such as Bosc or Anjou, peeled and halved
Pared zest of 1 orange
Pared zest of 1 lemon
3 1/2 fl oz crème de cassis
1 bottle red wine
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp cold butter, diced
9 fl oz heavy cream
2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp brandy
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF. Place the pears in a small saucepan so they sit inside snugly, then pour over the red wine. Make sure the pears are completely submerged. Add the orange and lemon zests, crème de cassis, spices and sugar. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook covered for 20 mins. Remove from the heat and allow the pears to cool in the pan.
2. Remove the pears from the wine and place in a roasting tray. Dot with the butter and roast for 15 mins. Meanwhile make the brandy cream by whipping the cream and the confectioner’s sugar until it just holds soft peaks then stirring in the brandy.
3. Strain the wine and return to a clean saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce by ½.
3. Mix the cornflour with a little cold water and whisk into the simmering wine. Continue to cook stirring unil the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 min. Serve the pears hot with the warm sauce spooned over and a dollop of the brandy cream on the side.