The Year of the Tiger will be upon us come February 1, and so a generous spread is most definitely required for friends and family.
Restaurants, in historic Chinatowns and elsewhere, are here to help with that feast. But in this third year of the plague, you might still feel uncomfortable about dining out.
That is no reason to avoid the celebrations, for a good Cantonese deli and a few things from an Asian supermarket will supply you with everything you need to create a memorable yet super easy Chinese American meal.
Before you get started, a few things to note:
Buy everything with a (*) from your favorite Chinese deli at least a couple of days before your feast, as that will cut your stress level way down.
- Start at the deli by having the counter guy chop your duck up for you. The ribs should preferably be left in slabs so that they don’t dry out when they’re reheated.
- Buy an order or two of Singapore fried rice noodles (or whatever noodle or rice dish you want). Store all of these in the refrigerator.
- Ask if the deli has pickles, and if so, buy a pint or two. If not, you can DIY them using the recipe below.
Now for the market items marked with a (+).
- For DIY pickles, head to an Asian market and buy a 1-pound Chinese radish (luobo or daikon), 4 carrots, 3 small cucumbers, 1 sweet red pepper, and about an inch of fresh ginger, as well as some pale rice vinegar and yellow rock sugar.
- For the vegetable course get a big bunch of flowering mustard (gailan), toasted sesame oil, and oyster sauce.
- Finally, pick up some Tsingdao beer and visit the freezer section for those chewy ice cream bars.
An Easy Lunar New Year Feast
- Cantonese pickles (* or +)
- Roast duck (*)
- Barbecued ribs (*)
- Fresh mustard greens with oyster sauce (+)
- Singapore fried rice noodles (*)
- Cold Tsingdao beer (+)
- Brown sugar boba ice cream bars (+)
- Hot tea
Prep: A day or two before dinner, chill the beer and then prep the mustard greens by trimming off the cut bottoms and rinsing them carefully. Do not cut them up yet. Shake the stalks dry, wrap them in a paper towel, and refrigerate in a plastic bag.
If you’re doing your own pickles: To make the pickles, peel the radish and carrots, and then cut these, plus the unpeeled cucumbers, into ¾-inch dice. Toss with a tablespoon of fine sea salt. Leave the vegetables to sweat for an hour or two, then squeeze out the moisture with your hands, but do not rinse, and set them in a heatproof bowl. Place the thinly-sliced ginger in a small saucepan with ¾ cup rice vinegar and ¾ cup crushed rock sugar (or other sweetener to taste), and simmer only until the sugar has melted. Cool and pour over the vegetables. Chill until needed, and then drain however much you want to serve. (Makes 1 quart.)
1. An hour or so before dinner, place the duck and ribs on two foil-lined baking pans. Cover the ribs with another piece of foil and then heat both meats at 350ºF for about 15 to 20 minutes. The duck’s skin should be crispy at this point; pour off any melted fat. Cut up the ribs between the bones, and tent some foil over both the meats to keep them warm.
2. While the meats are in the oven, bring 2 tablespoons of the oyster sauce to a boil in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons regular Chinese soy sauce, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons sugar to make the sauce for the greens.
3. To cook the greens, boil a quart of salted water and add about two tablespoons vegetable oil. Blanch handfuls of the whole mustard stalks in this for a minute or two, only until they are a bright emerald green. Immediately remove these to a serving dish. When all of the greens are blanched, drain the greens again and then cut them horizontally in half. Drizzle the sauce over the top.
4. Microwave the rice noodles until heated through, and then serve these with the duck, ribs, mustard greens, and chilled beer. For dessert, offer hot tea and brown sugar boba ice cream bars.