Celebrate the dawn of the Chinese Year of the Rat with these recipes for a traditional feast.

The annual Chinese Lunar New Year celebration begins on the new moon that comes between Jan 21 and Feb 20, with Saturday 25 January officially marking the day that the Year of the Pig is supplanted, and the spotlight is shone, instead, on the Metal Rat, to whom 2020 belongs.

To do things properly ahead of welcoming in the shiny New Year, you must first ensure that your home is thoroughly cleaned and that red decorations and lanterns are dotted about. Only then may you kick off with a New Year’s Eve family dinner at which, typically, fish and dumplings are served to encourage prosperity.

Since eight is a lucky number in Chinese tradition, we present the same number of top recipes for a delicious, easy-to-prepare feast and a prosperous new year ahead.

???? / ???? to our Mandarin-speaking friends, and ??? / ??? to our Cantonese readers!

Pan Fried Fish

The Woks of Life

Family of four – Bill and Judy, along with their daughters Sarah and Kaitlin – are the enthusiastic quartet behind the excellent Woks of Life. Accessible and aimed at anyone who wants to try their hands at Chinese cooking – as well as other Asian recipes – they make every mouth-watering dish look eminently do-able, even to the novice. Perhaps that’s to do with Bill and Judy’s years of experience running a take-away, alongside their NYC-dwelling twenty-something daughters’ knack for delivering an engaging blog, which also details their lives and travels. We love the look of this celebratory Pan Fried Fish. As they write, ‘Fish at the dinner table for the Lunar New Year is an essential tradition for ensuring a healthy and prosperous year. This is because ‘fish,’ pronounced in any Chinese dialect, sounds like the word for abundance. Families always make two fish for the spring festival dinner, serving one and leaving one in tact for the next day to symbolise the abundance that will come in the new year.’ Whilst preparing a whole fish may seem daunting, the relatively short list of ingredients does not. Do also check out their ‘how-to’ section, which details all the Chinese basics, done the right way.

One Pot Crystal Chicken

BBC Good Food

This recipe, by Barney Desmazery, is winningly easy and fantastically tasty. For anyone who has ever imagined that traditional Chinese cooking might be too complicated to concoct at home, this one-pot wonder will disabuse them of the notion in the mere 15 minutes it takes to prepare. Ginger, star anise, spring onions and coriander ensure it’s packed with flavour, as well as, of course, the all-important soy sauce. One to try, not just for New Year, but as a family staple.

Chicken Apple Dumplings

Appetite For China

Diana Kuan is a New York-based food writer, photographer and author of two books: The Chinese Takeout Cookbook and Red Hot Kitchen. As such, her blog is, happily, illustrated with shots so inviting that we’re currently itching to rustle up her whole back catalogue. Her gastronomic knowledge is an amalgam of a life spent between Massachussetts, where she grew up; Puerto Rico, where she spent a good deal of time in her early life; New York where she learned to cook French food; and Hong Kong and mainland China, where she wrote about the country’s cuisine. Her well-seasoned eye makes her whole blog a joy, but we particularly love her Chicken Apple Dumplings, which parcel up a great marriage of sweet and savoury ingredients.

Mini Bao

Red Cook

Kian Lam Kho is the author of Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees, and a proponent of Chinese home cooking using local and imported ingredients. An ex-aerospace engineer and Wall Street software developer, he came late to the foodie party, but since he decided to make his enthusiasm for cooking his life, it has paid dividends. As he says, ‘The blog emphasises the importance of understanding proper Chinese cooking techniques while describing them in historical and cultural context.’ Thanks to his devotion to his heritage, he is now a published cookery writer and an in-demand teacher. We are eyeing up his Mini Bao for our Lunar New Year feast. Bao may be on every menu across the land right now, but here’s how to do it properly.

My Mother’s Famous Chinese Eggs Rolls Recipe

Steamy Kitchen

TV chef and blogger Jaden Hair is the one-woman-wonder behind Steamy Kitchen, and if she tells us that you’re getting your Chinese Lunar New Year off to a bad start without a stack of egg rolls, well, then we believe her. With her mum’s recipe, she teaches us how to create authentic, crispy-skinned rolls that won’t get soggy. Ideal.

Vegetarian Potstickers

The Spruce Eats

The ever-reliable The Spruce Eats is a veritable mine of just about anything we’d ever want to cook. Coming up trumps once again for Chinese New Year is this great potstickers recipe, which takes just 20 minutes to concoct and a mere one minute to cook. Said to bring prosperity, this dish is an essential at any new year feast – plus the doughy- yet-crunchy texture is a reason to come back again and again to this staple.

Braised Duck

Ken Hom via The Happy Foodie

Ken Hom is one of the first names that springs to mind when it comes to Chinese cooking. Raised in Arizona, his Cantonese parents taught him everything he knows about food, and when the time came for him to leave home for university in California, he supplemented his bank balance by giving cookery lessons. Soon discovered by Madhur Jaffrey, his own cookery show swiftly followed and the rest is history. We love The Happy Foodie’s homage to Hom, and are particularly taken with this braised duck recipe; after all, what is a Chinese feast without crispy duck cooked up under instruction of the master?

Hot and Sour Soup

Jamie Oliver

Chinese New Year comes in January, ergo, in the UK at least, it is cold. For that reason, we love this hot and sour veggie soup, which is exactly what we need in this darkest and chilliest month, both to warm us from the inside, and to nourish us with all its goodness.


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