The year of the rooster is here – Chinese New Year starts today! Offically the festivities run for two weeks with lantern parades, parties and firework displays and millions across the world will be gathering together with family and friends to celebrate this big occassion. London, Liverpool, Manchester and of course Berlin are among the many places where celebrations will be in full swing this weekend.
I see this a good excuse to go out for a delicious Chinese meal. Chinese cuisine has the most varied of tastes and spices compared to others. Typically known as the Doctrine of Five Flavours, Chinese food is grouped into five key elements – spicy, sweet, sour, bitter and salty. From the heat and spice of sichaun pepper to the sweetness of honey or hoisin sauce to the sourness of limes and rice vinegar, followed by the bitterness of star anise and of course rounded off with the saltiness of soy sauce, it really is a wonderful and vast connection of many flavours and taste. It is no wonder that Chinese food is one of our most popular cuisines.
There are however many different ways to enjoy Chinese food. Of course there are plenty of good restaurants outside of your typical take out places where you can enjoy the best of Chinese food and this weekend most restaurants will be putting on a special menu with their finest of dishes and ingredients. For me though it is the take away that symbolises our love for Chinese food. Dishes such as crispy chilli beef, special fried rice, beef in black bean sauce, spring rolls, prawn crackers, wontons, chow mein and crispy seaweed all washed down with a cold lager is possibly one of the best ways to start a weekend!
I won’t go all preachy on you about how unhealthy a Chinese take away is. We have enough of that from the ‘virtuous’ clean eating lot, and food and eating out shouldn’t be some kind of status symbol where I encourage you to only eat out at the high end Chinese restaurants that avoid all MSG and only found in the bigger cities, but I think it is common sense that a take away really should be eaten in low moderation. It is exactly why I like to cook my own. A favourite dish of mine, that I like to call my fakeaway, is Chicken Chow Mein. It is healthier to make your own and tastes delicious. I always pack in extra vegetables and use up whatever is left in my fridge. To get that sweet and tangy sauce we associate so well with Chow Mein I mix together tomato puree, oyster sauce, soy sauce, lime juice and fresh chillies. This dish is ready in just 20/25 mins.
- Thumb size piece fresh ginger (peeled and then grated)
- 2 cloves garlic (peeled and finely chopped)
- 2 tbpsn tomato puree
- 1 and half tbspn oyster sauce
- 1 and half tbpsn light soy sauce
- 1 tbpsn dark soy sauce
- Juice of 1 lime
- 3 nests medium egg noodles
- 200g beansprouts
- 1 red pepper (sliced)
- 1 medium onion (peeled and thinly sliced)
- 2 spring onions (finely sliced)
- Handful of mange tout (halved)
- 150g button mushrooms (roughly sliced)
- 2 red chillis (finely sliced, I add the seeds but discard if you don't like it too hot)
- 2 small chicken breasts (cut into small chunks)
- Sunflower oil
- Black pepper
- Small bunch french coriander.
- Heat a dash of sunflower oil in a wok or large, deep frying pan. Add the chicken and cook for around 7 mins until almost cooked through on a medium heat.
- Add the onions, red pepper and mange tout and cook for a further 5-7 mins on a medium heat until the vegetables are starting to soften. Stir regularly.
- In the meantime put the noodles in a pan of boiling water and boil for around 5 mins. Drain and leave to one side until needed. Also during this time add the tomato puree, light and dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, lime juice, ginger and garlic and mix together. Leave to one side until needed.
- Add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 mins, stir regularly. Then add the beansprouts and mix every together, leaving the beansprouts to soften for just another 2 mins.
- Pour in the tomato puree and soy sauce mix into the wok with the noodles and mix well making sure that everything is well covered. This should just be for a minute or so.
- Take the wok off the heat and then add the spring onions and coriander and season with black pepper. Mix well and then serve!