Chinese New Year: delicacies to welcome in the Year of the Dragon

Celebrations will take place across the world, with good food at the heart of the proceedings

Dragon Momo - steamed dumplings
Dragon momos are a special take on the classic dumplings
(Image credit: Zoe Warde Aldam)

Chinese New Year falls on 10 February and 2024 marks the Year of the Dragon. According to Chinese horoscopes, the dragon is a "symbol of power and intelligence" and its years have been associated with spikes in the number of babies born.

This is the only animal in the zodiac that is mythological, and consequently being born in the Year of the Dragon is seen as "auspicious", said Sky News

Across the world, millions of people of Chinese descent, as well as other nations such as South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, will celebrate the lunar new year. 

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Food continues to be a central part of the occasion, and some will eat certain foods for good luck. For example, dumplings "symbolise wealth" and sweet rice balls are a "symbol of family togetherness", the news site added. 

The Week has selected some of the best Chinese New Year recipes that could help you cook up a storm for the special occasion. 

Recipe: Pasta Dragon

Pasta Dragon

(Image credit: Pasta Evangelists)

A new take on Chinese New Year has been devised by Roberta d'Elia, the head chef at Pasta Evangelists. This creation aims to encapsulate the spirit of Chinese tradition and Italian folklore. It comprises a fresh egg pasta filled with ricotta and spinach crafted into the shape of a dragon's tail and served with a fiery tomato sauce.

Ingredients: serves 2

  • 200g '00 pasta flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200g ricotta
  • 500g fresh spinach
  • 40g parmesan cheese
  • Nutmeg (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 500g cherry tomatoes
  • Handful basil
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVO)
  • Pepper (to taste)

Method

  • Firstly, make the fresh pasta dough:
  • On a clean work surface, create a well in the flour mound large enough for the eggs.
  • Crack the eggs into the well and beat with a fork, gradually pulling in flour from the sides until a dough forms.
  • Knead the dough for 10-20 mins until smooth, then let it rest for at least 30 mins at room temperature or up to 1 day in the refrigerator.
  • Next, prepare the filling:
  • Heat oil in a pan and add peeled garlic clove.
  • Add fresh spinach, mash gently, cover, and cook for 10 mins, turning occasionally.
  • Once cooked, cool and squeeze out excess water. Cut into small pieces and mix with ricotta, Parmesan, nutmeg and salt. Let the filling rest in the fridge while preparing the sauce.
  • Prepare the sauce:
  • Wash tomatoes, cut in half, remove seeds and place in a saucepan with garlic, basil, salt and EVO.
  • Sauté over low heat with the lid on for 30 mins, stirring occasionally.
  • Pass the tomatoes through a food mill to remove skin and transfer the sauce to a smaller pan. Cook for an additional 30 mins until reduced.
  • Roll out the dough for the dragon:
  • Use a pasta machine or a rolling pin to roll out the rested dough into thin sheets.
  • Fill and seal the dragon:
  • Cut the pasta sheet into rectangles (35x15cm).
  • Divide each rectangle in half lengthwise and place the filling in the middle.
  • Moisten the dough, fold it over the filling, pinch the ends tightly, and cut off excess dough with a wheel cutter.
  • Wrap the dough in a circle to form a dragon, pinching the ends to secure the shape.
  • Cook and serve:
  • Boil salted water in a pot and cook the dragons for 3 mins.
  • Drain and toss them in the tomato sauce. Serve with Parmesan shavings.

Recipe: Singapore-style chilli seafood

Singapore-style chilli seafood

(Image credit: Dominique Woolf)

Chef Jeremy Pang visited Borough Market to share a sticky, sweet, salty and savoury seafood treat inspired by years spent in Singapore during his childhood. The simplest way is to buy a dressed crab, but more adventurous cooks can buy a live crab or lobster to prepare it themselves.

Ingredients: serves 2

  • 1 dressed crab
  • 8 whole prawns
  • 900ml chicken stock
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • ½ tsp belacan shrimp paste
  • 5 Thai shallots or 2 banana shallots
  • ½ thumb of galangal or ginger, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bashed and finely chopped
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1½ tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Method

  • Blitz the paste together in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar until smooth. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a bowl.
  • From the dressed crab shell, separate out the white meat from the brown meat. Keep the shell to add to the sauce later.
  • Butterfly the prawns using scissors, keeping the shell and head on. De-vein the prawns, then score their flesh 4-5 times horizontally to allow them to butterfly easily when cooking.
  • In a large thick-based wok or pan over a medium heat, heat 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil. Add the paste and fry for 8-10 mins, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and aromatic and the liquid has reduced.
  • Now pour in the sauce and stir through to combine with the cooked paste.
  • Once the sauce is vigorously boiling, add the chicken stock. Add the brown crab meat into the sauce, together with the empty crab shell. Turn the heat up high and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 30 mins.
  • Just before finishing off the dish, turn the heat up to a medium heat, then place the butterflied prawns into the stock to boil for 4-5 mins, depending on their size. This should reduce the sauce to a silky, syrupy consistency. Add the white crab meat into the sauce for the last minute.
  • Remove the sauce from the heat. Plate up the prawns and remove the crab shell. Then, just before serving, pour the beaten egg into the hot sauce in one go. Give it one gentle stir then pour the sauce with its fresh whisps of ‘eggy-ness’ over the prawns to finish. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with fried bao.

Recipe: Beef noodles with beetroot-stained egg

Beef noodles with beetroot-stained egg

(Image credit: Nick Hook)

This delicious recipe by Harry Hook, commissioned by DukesHill, promises an explosion of flavours through a hearty broth, with an Asian twist. 

Ingredients

  • 700ml beef broth
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, halved
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp gouchujang
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp miso
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 x 170g DukesHill grass-fed British fillet of beef
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 jar pickled beetroot, juice only
  • 2 eggs
  • Half red onion, finely sliced into rings
  • 1 lime, halved
  • Fresh coriander, stalk finely chopped, leaves picked
  • 150g egg noodles
  • Beansprouts
  • Half red pepper, finely sliced
  • Mange tout
  • 2 tbsp kimchi
  • Crispy chilli to serve

Method

  • Start with the eggs. Submerge them in a pan of boiling water, cook for 5 mins and remove. Place them in a jar of pickled beetroot juice and leave for a minimum of one hour – the longer you leave them, the more intense the vibrant pink will be.
  • Put the sliced red onion rings in a bowl, squeeze the lime juice over and sprinkle some salt in. Combine and set aside to develop while the broth cooks.
  • Pour the beef broth into a large pan over a medium heat. Add all the broth ingredients straight into the pan along with the chopped coriander stalks. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a very gentle simmer for 1 hr. 
  • Set your barbecue up to searing temperature while the broth is simmering. Rub a little oil over the steaks, then season generously with salt and plenty of black pepper. Place the fillets on the grill or you can sear directly on the charcoal. Give it a couple of mins without touching it on each side so it browns it all over. Then move it around on the heat until it has an internal core temperature of 55C. At this point, remove from the barbecue and allow it to rest for 10 mins. Slice neatly, always against the grain. 
  • Cook the noodles according to the pack instructions. Drain well and place in the serving bowls. 

Recipe: BBQ Prawns

BBQ Prawns

(Image credit: Posh Cockney/Chinese Cricket Club)

Chinese Cricket Club chef Tony Truong uses prawns that have a symbolic blessing for happiness in the upcoming lunar new year in this simple and tasty recipe.

Ingredients

  • 300ml water
  • 450g sugar
  • 225ml Worcestershire sauce
  • 30ml OK Sauce
  • 35ml Maggi Liquid Seasoning
  • 25ml mango juice
  • 50ml white vinegar
  • 30g ketchup
  • 225g plum sauce
  • 75g oxtail soup
  • Fresh tiger prawns (size of 100g each)

Method

  • Mix all the seasoning together in a bowl and prepare for use.
  • To prepare the tiger prawns, remove tentacles and the shell from the body and de-gut.
  • Wok-fry the tiger prawns for around 3 mins.
  • Add 40g of the mixed seasoning to the pan to fry the prawns for 1 more min.
  • Serve and enjoy.

Recipe: Dragon Momo

Dragon Momo - steamed dumplings

(Image credit: Zoe Warde Aldam)

A new take on the classic chicken momo, this dragon momo is served in a pool of fiery, deep red "dragon" sauce, typically known as the spiciest sauce on the menu. Made with Szechuan pepper, this recipe by Fatt Pundit has a signature numbing kick.

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 250g all-purpose flour
  • 125ml water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • For the filling:
  • 500g chicken mince
  • 2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 2 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh green chillies chopped
  • 2 tbsp leek finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp spring onions chopped
  • 2–4 tbsp sesame seed oil
  • Salt to taste
  • For the dragon sauce:
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp Szechuan chilli ground
  • 1 tsp red peppercorn ground
  • 1 tsp green peppercorn ground
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 350g chopped tomato
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup water

Method

  • Mix flour with water and knead into a soft dough. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 15 mins.
  • In a large bowl combine all filling ingredients and mix them well, rest in the refrigerator for 1 hr at least.
  • Divide the dough into small balls. Roll in dry flour and roll into small 5cm circle keeping the edges thin and the centre thick. For well executed momos, it is essential that the middle portion of the wrapper be slightly thicker than the edges to ensure the structural integrity of dumplings during packing and steaming.
  • For packing hold wrapper on one palm, put 1 tbsp of filling mixture and with the other hand bring all edges together to the centre, making the pleats. Pinch and twist the pleats to ensure the absolute closure of the stuffed dumpling. This holds the key to good tasting, juicy dumplings.
  • Heat water in a deep non-stick pan. Line a bamboo basket with cabbage leaves. Apply a little oil on the momos and place them over the cabbage leaves.
  • Cover and place the basket over the hot water, cover the pan and steam for 8-10 mins or till done.
  • Uncover the pan, take the basket out and open it. Serve the momos hot.
  • To make the dragon sauce, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 mins. Add the sesame seeds and Szechuan chilli, green peppercorn and red peppercorn powders and let toast for 1 min.
  • Add the onion to the skillet and sauté until soft, about 4 mins, then add the chopped tomatoes. Cook until soft and juicy, about 5 mins.
  • Transfer the mixture to a blender, add lemon juice and water and blend until smooth. Taste and add salt if desired. Use immediately or allow to chill in fridge.
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