Chinese New Year – Another month, another reason to celebrate

February seems to be just as busy an eating month as December, what with Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day all happening during the week of  February 10.

Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in Chinese culture and it’s the one holiday where I exercise my Chinese cooking skills.   My parents are Hakka Chinese and the foods we have for celebrations are a little different from the Cantonese dishes that you may be familiar with.

This year’s appetizers included dumplings, shrimp spring rolls and Chinese liver sausages which,  for the sake of time and effort I bought frozen from the local Chinese grocer.  My focus was on the mains and dessert.

My father did all the cooking when I was growing up.  He’s a great cook and loves nothing more than making fantastic meals when all us kids come home to visit.  He taught me how to make a Hakka egg roll when I was young and it’s one of my favourite comfort foods. The Hakka egg roll, is an omelet base filled with minced pork, dried shrimp, spring onions and steamed with oyster sauce.

To change things up a little this year, I opted to make a Thai red curry with lobster and shrimp.  If you’ve never made a red curry from scratch it’s something you should really try. A red curry is made with fresh lemongrass, cilantro and Thai basil, sambal oelek (red chile paste), coconut milk  as well as many other ingredients that you can find at your Chinese grocer. Yes, it’s time-consuming and there are a lot of ingredients but  it’s so tasty and fragrant that you’ll want to master the recipe.  I served both mains with jasmine rice.

I love baking and to me the highlight of any meal is dessert.  I can’t help but make a grand celebration cake for any holiday and Chinese New Year was no exception. To end our meal I made a vanilla buttermilk cake filled with a coconut custard mousse filling and covered with a not too sweet classic Italian Meringue.

As big a celebration as this was, dinner time was so quiet with everyone enjoying second and in some cases third helpings.  I have to say, it was one of the best meals I’ve made so far this year as there were no leftovers to be had!  Everything was consumed, happily though, there was cake left.

So welcome to the Year of the Water Snake, apparently this will be a good year for me, I hope it is for you too!  For now, I wish you all happy eating!  Back next time with my Mardi Gras menu.

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