Chinese New Year Banquet

Fragrant Flower Tea
Photography by Ron Boszko

We did it! We had a blast on Saturday night. I managed to serve the full ten-course dinner without any mishap. We even photographed each course of the meal. My friend Ron, who is a great photographer, helped me with the photography. We set up a small “studio” area in our bedroom. Each course was carefully transferred to the “studio” prior to serving. And what great guests we had, they were so patient with the entire process. I love my neighbors!

So, I am now ready to share the dinner with all of you!

We started off with a cold appetizer course of Smoked ham hock in chili oil (紅油燻蹄), jellyfish salad (涼拌海蜇絲), drunken chicken (紹興醉雞), shrimp salad in mustard mayonnaise (鮮蝦拌沙拉槳) and preserved eggs (皮蛋). The ham hock was purchased from Chinatown and dressed with a chili oil and dark vinegar dressing. I love the slight kick of spice to the smokey flavor. The jellyfish salad was a classic mix of shredded jellyfish and shredded cucumber with a sesame oil, soy sauce and dark vinegar dressing. The drunken chicken was a classic Shaoxing (紹興) dish. The chicken was steamed in Shaoxing wine, ginger and scallion. Then refrigerated in the broth, which became wine aspic. The chicken was then sliced and served with the aspic. The shrimp salad was a Chinese version of Western shrimp salad and commonly served in Cantonese restaurants. The dressing was a mix of sesame oil, Chinese mustard (芥末) and, of course, mayonnaise. (Kim adored the shrimp salad. She begged me for extra shrimps from the kitchen after the cold plate was consumed.) And finally to complete the cold plate I included slices of preserved eggs served with pickled ginger.

Assorted Cold Appetizers
Photography by Ron Boszko

The second was the seafood course. I chose to serve sea cucumber (海參) braised in oyster sauce with winter bamboo shoot (冬荀) and winter mushroom (冬菇). This was a perfect winter dish and a good way to introduce sea cucumber to the American palate. By the way, if you did not already know, sea cucumber is sea slug.

Double Winter Sea Cucumber
Photography by Ron Boszko

I then served a crispy fried chicken with a garlic sauce. The chicken was first marinated in aromatics, and then steamed. It was then refrigerated overnight to dry the skin before being deep-fried just before serving. The sauce was made from soy sauce, Shaoxing wine and fried chopped garlic. For those squeamish diners who found the sea cucumber too exotic, this was a more familiar and welcomed dish.

Crispy Chicken in Garlic Sauce
Photography by Ron Boszko

The soup course was eight treasures winter melon soup, a classic Cantonese soup, that has an incredibly flavorful broth. The eight treasures were dried scallops, straw mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots, shrimps, ham, green peas, and winter melon.

Winter Melon Soup
Photography by Ron Boszko

We now reached what I considered the highlight of our dinner: red cooked pork (紅燒肉). I was anxious to find how well received this dish would be from our guests since it is the namesake of my blog. And was I glad it did not disappoint! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. I served the pork with steamed buns accompanied by a side of refreshing cucumber salad.

Red Cooked Pork
Photography by Ron Boszko

Kung Pao frogs followed the pork dish and it was an exciting contrast in flavors. This is, of course, a Sichuan dish and is fiery hot. I made it with pieces of whole frogs rather than just the legs. For a few of our guests it was the first time they had sampled frog meat, and thought this was a case where it actually did “taste like chicken.”

Kung Pao Frogs
Photography by Ron Boszko

I served mustard greens (芥菜) for the vegetable course. The mustard green had a mild bitter taste and tender texture. I served it with a simple crabmeat sauce making a nice light vegetable dish.

Mustard Greens with Crabmeat
Photography by Ron Boszko

I chose sea bass for the steamed fish dish because it is a flakey fish, which holds up better in the steaming process. It was steamed with Shaoxing wine and some ginger. Then I finished it by drizzling a mixture of soy sauce, dark vinegar and vegetable oil. It was also garnished with thin slices of scallion and sprigs of cilantro.

Steamed Sea Bass
Photography by Ron Boszko

The starch course was fried rice and it was a Chinese sausage variety. This was what the Chinese would consider comfort food. My version was very simple and contained Chinese sausages, peas and eggs.

Chinese Sausage Fried Rice
Photography by Ron Boszko

The finale was fried red bean paste dumpling (高力豆沙) that resembled Italian fried dough, zeppola, on the outside. The red bean paste was coated with a meringue batter and deep-fried. The result was a combination of crisp spongy dough and a smooth custardy filling. When I first considered this dish for the dessert I was not sure if red bean paste would be well received by the guests. But I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out to be the star of the meal. Our guests just couldn’t stop praising it!

Red Bean Paste in Meringue
Photography by Ron Boszko

It took me slightly more than four hours to serve the complete ten-course meal. I did make a lot of preparation way in advance, and only finished all the dishes just before serving. So it was not terribly hectic. The only slight inconvenience was the detour of the dishes from kitchen to table via the photo “studio.”

I know you’re all now wondering if I will ever supply the recipes for these dishes. Yes, they are coming! Better yet, why don’t you tell me which one you’d like to see first.

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17 Comments

  1. Posted February 11, 2008 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Those photos are unbelievably gorgeous!

  2. Posted February 12, 2008 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I wish I could cook like you. Look so delicious and better then the Chinese restaurant that I went to last time:)

  3. Posted February 12, 2008 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    WoW! Awesome pics! My wife is from Taiwan, and we cooked up a storm together last week for the new years. She always gets a little homesick this time of year, plus it is hard to get the best ingredients were we live. We have a little cooking group down here, and I will pass this site along to my friends!

  4. jeannie
    Posted February 14, 2008 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    i linked to your website through another and wow! The food pictures look great. That’s a mighty big feast and sea cucumbers! Even I can’t bring myself to eat them, despite my mother’s coaxing. Did any of your guests eat it?

    Love the website. I’m looking forward to the red bean recipe!

  5. Peiling
    Posted February 14, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Kian, I never saw a website as attractive as this one. Now I don’t need to worry about what to cook for dinner.
    Not only the food is delicious the photos are so beautiful!
    The most important is I can show off it to my friends that Kian is my friend!
    Happy New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai !
    Peiling

  6. Posted February 14, 2008 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Jeannie,

    Thank you so much for visiting. Majority of our guests actually tried the sea cucumber. However not all liked it. It is an acquired taste. But for those who enjoys sea cucumber, it is truly a delicacy.

    Peiling,

    Thanks for your wonderful comment. Do let your friends know about the blog. My aim for this blog is to show people that authentic Chinese food can be made with ingredients available in America.

  7. Regina
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    I vote for posting the red bean paste dumpling recipe soon!
    Is it the same red beans (azuki?) that are used for red bean paste in red bean cake?

  8. Posted February 19, 2008 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Marvellous! And welcome to join MultistyleCooking at Zimbio ~LOL~

  9. Ana
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    This is a wonderful post! I love how you balanced the flavours and ingredients. Happy Chinese New Year!

  10. Lily
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    “The second was the seafood course. I chose to serve sea cucumber (海參) braised in oyster sauce with winter bamboo shoot (冬荀) and winter mushroom (冬菇). This was a perfect winter dish and a good way to introduce sea cucumber to the American palate. By the way, if you did not already know, sea cucumber is sea slug.”

    Could you please tell me everything that was in this dish? It looks like something we had when we went to China for my brother’s wedding but we never were able to find out exactly what we had or where to find it in America…

    Thanks!! (Everything looks great, btw!)

  11. Sylvia Kuo
    Posted January 31, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Wow…
    I can only say that you’ve done a wonderful job planning and preparing the dinner and Ron is certain a great photographer.Bet if you have an open house,the whole town will drop everything just to try your food.

    I would love to try your fried rice for sure.

    Thank you for sharing.

  12. Tuyet Nguyen
    Posted September 25, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    What a great blog post, Kian! Doing a banquet shall be on my list of Must Dos for my cooking club! I’m so glad to stumble upon your blog when I searched for Chinese cooking. Thanks again for the great recipes!

  13. Karen
    Posted April 29, 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    All of the dishes look wonderful! Could you recommend a good rice? I normally buy Thai jasmine rice from the local Asian market and wondered if there is any better.

    • Posted April 30, 2012 at 1:25 am | Permalink

      I love jasmine rice for general use. Any brand would do. The one I regularly buy from my favorite Chinatown market is “Lucky Elephant” brand. But I think any jasmine rice brand is fine. I use short grain rice for porridge and other purposes.

  14. Posted June 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Great Pictures, now im craving chinese, I wish i knew some of these recipes, especially for the crispy chicken with garlic sauce?

  15. Helena
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Would you post a recipe for the “eight treasures winter melon soup” when you get the chance? It looks yummy!

    • Posted November 27, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Yes, I’d be very glad to post the winter melon soup when I have a chance. I’ve been extremely busy lately.

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