A Banquet for Chinese New Year – ‘Gong Hay Fat Choy Everybody!’

Hey there everyone,

Thursday the 19th of February is Chinese New Year and if you live in a multicultural part of the country you can expect a great party! Make sure you say ‘Gong Hay Fat Choy’ – it’s Happy New Year in Cantonese.

This got me thinking about how to cook some Chinese dishes on the BBQ and so I put together a menu for a Chinese Banquet. I don’t know how you guys feel, but I love a beer with my BBQ and so I sought out some Chinese beer, Tsingtao, which I first met in Korea, and made some recipes using it. The results were fantastic.

On the menu was Tsingtao Chicken Soup, Char Sui Pork, and Spatchcock Chicken. Each of these dishes would feed four, so if you decided to put on a banquet for your friends, you could easily feed up to twelve people. It’ll cost you a hell of a lot less than a night out at a restaurant for twelve too! You can split this up to, so you just cook one dish for a regular sized group, or you can triple the size of one recipe to cook the one thing for all twelve people.

I have a side burner on my BBQ which opens up some more options for me. If you don’t have one, I’ll forgive you for using your stove. Most of it is still done on your ‘Q though, so don’t panic.

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You need to start your food prep the day before to give the meats a chance to marinate over night. The Char Sui Pork is dead easy. The sauce come in a jar from the supermarket or from an Asian grocer. Other than that all you need is some pork spare ribs (sometimes called belly ribs), brown onions and some spring onions for garnish. Oh, and of course, some Tsingtao.

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Chop the pork into cubes about 1.5 centimetres wide and thinly slice your onions.

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Then pour in your sauce, a couple of tablespoons of Tsingtao, and mix it all up well. Cover it in cling wrap and put it in the fridge for at least four hours, but overnight is best.

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Next, you want to start prepping your chicken. Spatchcocking a chicken is easy, but you will need a pair of kitchen shears or preferably some chicken shears. You’ll also need a sharp knife.

Begin by patting down your chicken with paper towels. Place it in a tray and turn it upside down so the spine is facing up to the ceiling. With your shears, cut down each side of the spine from bottom to top. Trim any extra skin or fat around the top and the bottom and give it and the spine to your dog. (N.b. only give your dog raw bones, never cooked ones: they splinter and cause all sorts of problems.)

You’re going to have to open up your chicken to flatten it out. To do this you’ll have to use your sharp knife to help get through the breast bone. Once you’ve got through the breast bone you’ll be able to flatten out your chicken.

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Now you need to prep your marinade. You need to get some fresh ginger and garlic, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, sherry, caster sugar, honey, and five-spice powder. And of course, a good healthy slug of Tsingtao! Pour two-thirds of this over both sides of your chicken, and put it skin side up in the dish, cover it in cling wrap and put it in the fridge for four hours minimum. Keep the remaining marinade aside for use as a baste. The Tsingtao Soup can be prepped right before you want to start cooking.

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So, on the big day, the first thing you want to do is put some vegetable or canola oil in a pot on your burner and start to brown some fresh garlic, fresh ginger and brown onions on a medium heat. Whilst this is happening start browning your drumsticks on your hotplate, again with a neutral oil and a medium heat.

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Once the onions, garlic and ginger start to smell good (‘aromatic’), pour in about two thirds of a cup of Tsingtao and allow them to simmer. Once your chicken is browned on all four sides, put them in the pot and pour in enough Tsingtao to just cover the chicken. Add four chicken stock cubes, stir it all up and put on the lid. Let it simmer for thirty minutes. When it’s done, put the pot in the oven with the lid on. But don’t turn on the oven. We’re done cooking it. Any more cooking will happen due to the residual heat in the pot.

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While your soup is simmering away, you can put on your chicken. Hit your grill with some canola or sunflower oil spray and turn it up to a medium heat. Once it’s heated up, put on your chicken and close the lid for ten minutes. Then turn the chicken over. Apply some of your reserved marinade with a spoon or basting brush and close it up for another ten minutes. Repeat the turn-and-baste until you’ve done each side twice.

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Your chicken is done when you pierce a thigh or breast and the juices come out clear. Put your cooked chicken in a clean tray and cover it with aluminium foil. By now your soup will be in the oven. Put the chicken in there too.

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Now it’s time to do your Char Sui Pork. In another saucepan, put two cups of rice and three cups of water. Put a lid on it and turn your burner onto maximum. Once it starts to boil, turn the burner back down to the minimum setting and set your timer for fourteen minutes. When the timer goes off, your rice is done.

While the rice is cooking, put your pork onto your hotplate on a medium heat with a neutral oil. Close the lid on your pork, checking it and stirring it up with a spatula every five minutes to make sure the pork gets cooked on all sides.

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Once the sauce has thickened and gone a deep reddish brown and your pork is no longer pink (pink from rawness I mean – there will be some redness from the marinade) you’re done.

Garnish with some sliced spring onions, and you are ready to plate up!

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So, Gong Hay Fat Choy everybody! What are your plans for Chinese New Year? Let me know in the comments below.

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