Happy Chinese New Year! It’s the year of the goat or sheep, which means it should be an important year for people born in 1979 such as myself!
I wasn’t specifically planning to celebrate Chinese new year but we were having some people over to dinner and it seemed a good opportunity to make Chinese food. At least, if you ignore the fact that one person doesn’t really like Chinese food (though he’s so fussy there isn’t much he likes, which makes dinner parties hard!), one was vegetarian, two don’t really eat vegetarian food (being big meat eaters and quite picky about vegetables) and the other two eat pretty much anything.
Despite all that I thought I could make a few variations on the same dish to keep everyone happy. I’ve got a great Slimming World recipe book called ‘Fakeaway’ – i.e. how to fake your favourite takeaways and make them much healthier. Chinese food isn’t as unhealthy as some anyway – there are a few dishes like duck which are fatty, and if you go to a takeaway that does deep-fried sweet and sour balls (yum!) that will rack up the calories, but a lot of Chinese restaurants do a more upmarket sweet-and-sour dish which doesn’t involve batter and the deep fat fryer. At the same time, you need to watch the oil and the fattening sauces when you are stir-frying (not to mention the prawn crackers!).
I picked a few recipes from the book and spent a good half hour chopping, preparing, mixing sauces and marinating meat. I lined everything up in rows so I knew which ingredients were for which dish – you can see here them all ready to go!
First of all I made chicken chow mein. Mix soy sauce, Chinese rice vinegar, garlic, ginger and five spice powder in a bowl and coat 1 chopped chicken breast per person. Leave to marinade for 20 minutes.
Stir-fry with Fry Light until the chicken is cooked, then add the vegetables to the pan: julienned carrot, sliced mangetout, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots (unfortunately I couldn't get hold of either of those so had to leave them out), sliced red pepper, baby sweetcorn (though the supermarket had sold out of that too), sliced spring onions, beansprouts and finally I added a whole bag of straight-to-wok noodles.
Pour over 1 tbsp. oyster sauce mixed with 2 tbsp. soy sauce and 1/2 tsp oil and stir-fry until the vegetables have softened to your liking.
At the same time I made a dish called speedy vegetable noodles with tofu. Again make the sauce first, mixing soy sauce, garlic, ginger and five spice powder. Spray a wok or large frying pan with Fry Light and stir-fry mangetout, mushrooms (which I forgot to buy - not doing well here!), red pepper, spring onions, pak choi (left out as the vegetarian doesn't like it so I added courgette instead) and cubes of tofu. Add noodles, 1 tbsp. sweet chilli sauce and 2 tbsp. soy sauce and stir fry until cooked.
I cooked extra noodles and also decided to do egg fried rice, though this was less of a success. I used microwave rice to make my life easier so cooked that, then placed it in a saucepan with peas and spring onions, soy sauce and a beaten egg. But I got sidetracked speaking to my guests and the rice started to stick a bit on the bottom of the pan! It wasn't too bad when it came to serving at least.
Finally for my boyfriend who doesn't like stir fry I made chicken satay, from a recipe on the Slimming World website. Marinade one diced chicken breast per person in a mixture of soy sauce, sweetener, garlic and ground cumin and when you are ready to cook, just fry the chicken in Fry Light.
Make the sauce in another pan: you need peanut butter, water, garlic, sweetener, soy sauce and fromage frais. Simmer until the mixture thickens and serve with the chicken - I thought this tasted really good and luckily so did my fussy boyfriend!
I had some lovely sets of chopsticks I bought in Kuala Lumpur and some fan-shaped paper napkins; the prawn crackers were put out in bowls for the guests to nibble on while I finished cooking and we had quite a feast!
As this is a really healthy meal I'm sharing this with the Spice Trail challenge, which has as its theme this month 'temple food'. The challenge is hosted by Vanesther at Bangers & Mash.
As I used courgette in the vegetarian dish I can send this to Anyone Can Cook, this month hosted by Catherine at Cates Cates as the theme is zucchini and marrows.