So here we are! The first recipe challenge for 2017 Around the World in 12 Plates: China!
After I posted the announcement for the challenge, word spread amongst bloggers and it really caught on. We now have ten awesome blogs participating! Each month, I’ll post the links to their recipe challenges at the bottom of my post and they will do the same (see below).
When I realized the first day of Lunar New Year fell on January 28, I knew what we had to explore China’s cuisine first. I knew very little about this two-week celebration, so I was happy to learn the customs surrounding an event so many people around the world celebrate, especially considering so many Canadians partake!
AROUND THE WORLD IN 12 PLATES: CHINA
A.K.A How to do hot pot in the slow cooker
The recipes we used
The traditions of the Lunar New Year dictated the recipes this month. After doing some research, I decided we would cook longevity noodles (for a long life, they are never supposed to be cut, the longer the better), dumplings (to bring prosperity in the new year), and hot pot (one of the most auspicious dishes for celebrating the new year). We also had tangerines (for luck, and never grouped in fours, we had five), wore red (the luckiest colour), and had nian gao, a rice cake promoting higher income in the new year, for dessert.
I don’t own the actual equipment for hot pot, but after discovering we could do hot pot in a slow cooker on epicurious.com, I was in! The article mentions a blog called The Woks of Life where I found heaven for Chinese cooking.
How had I not read this blog before? I thought to myself.
It’s won Saveur Blog Awards and everything! I found amazing recipes on their site for both the hot pot and the dumplings (entitled, The ONLY Dumpling recipe you’ll ever need). We also cooked a simple noodle recipe from Hip Foodie Mom. (For those not in the know: hot pot is basically a vat of bubbling broth, into which you dip and cook meat, veg. The Woks of Life have a great how-to hot pot here)
Matt and Erin are on board for the challenges again this year and we got to chopping — there was a lot of garlic between these three recipes.
How did we cook?
To be honest, the grocery shop was harder than the cook! Adam and I spent time at T&T grocery store pouring over labels making sure we got the right sauces and spices for the recipes: the hot pot requires a lot of ingredients for the broth and more for the sauces for dipping, but once we got home, nothing was overly difficult.
The dumpling filling was simple to make, but the folding was another story! After several attempts we all finally managed to fold them properly, but Matt was definitely the master.
Initially, we halfed the dumpling recipe because we felt like it was really too big for four people. I’m glad we did, we made over 120 dumplings! We were able to cook a bunch for dinner, plus Matt and Erin were took dozens home and there are many more in my freezer.
While the folders extraordinaire finished the dumplings, I made the broth for the hot pot. The recipe required us to use hot pot paste, but add in an array of spices like Sichuan peppercorns, star anise and a boatload of whole dried chillies to build the layers of flavour and heat. I thought it might be too spicy at first, but it turned out great!
How the food turned out
The Woks of Life was right. This really is the only dumpling recipe I need to know. I thought we might be copping out because we didn’t make our own wrappers, but it turns out many people don’t, plus these tasted so freaking good I didn’t care!
The longevity noodles were beyond easy to cook — and they only took 10 minutes! We prepared them last as they need to be served right away so once we sat down to the hot pot nothing was cold.
Overall our Lunar New Year meal went off without a hitch. The hot pot worked amazingly well in the slow-cooker, making the beef juicy and the mushrooms nice and spicy. We devoured every last scrap!
I’m so glad I chose China as the first country for the recipe challenge. It pushed me out of my comfort zone with ingredients and techniques, as well as broadened my horizons for new dishes I want to cook.
And now I have a freezer full of dumplings!
From vintage recipe testers to vegetarian-based bloggers, we have a great variety in the recipes our challengers are using this month. Here they are, along with links to their awesome recipes for Around the World in 12 Plates China!