I caught up with Executive Chef Indraneel, one of the best chefs in the country in Oriental Cuisine. I was lucky to have a tee-a-tee with him when he was re-engineering the Oriental Menu for the Chinese New Year. 2020 is the year of the Metal Rat for the Chinese.
According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order of the Zodiac would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived at the finish line, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox, becoming first.
Traditionally Chinese New Year foods include whole fish, dumplings, noodles, chicken, spring rolls, fruit, and glutinous rice cake. Each dish has its own significance and symbolism behind them. For a change Chef Indraneel wanted the same to be curated in vegetarian style.
Fish, which signifies Prosperity, and in Chinese, “fish”, sounds like ‘surplus’. Fish is a traditional Chinese New Year dish on the Chinese New Year dinner menu.
There are some rules related to the position of the fish.
The head should be placed toward distinguished guests or elders, representing respect. Diners can enjoy the fish only after the one who faces the fish head eats first. The fish shouldn’t be moved. The two people who face the head and tail of fish should drink together, as this is considered to have a lucky meaning. In a representative way we were served Matchstick Potato – crispy-fried and plated like fish with diced onions on top representing water.
Chinese Dumplings signifies wealth; the dumplings served looked like Chinese silver ingots (which are not bars, but boat-shaped, oval, and turned up at the two ends). Legend has it that the more dumplings you eat during the New Year celebrations, the more money you can make in the New Year. The dumplings were steamed and fried the same way as our own Chitau Pitha is made and had fillings of cabbage and radish, implying that one’s skin will become fair and one’s mood will become gentle.
Glutinous Rice Cake signifies a Higher Income or Position, Rice in any form eaten during the Chinese New Year brings in peace and happiness to the family. The rice, which we were served, was too good, has to be relished to have the experience. The crunchiness of the sprouted beans bought in the malted characteristics along with the sweetness of the Jasmine rice
Longevity Noodles signifies Happiness and Longevity. Longevity noodles unsurprisingly symbolize a wish for longevity. Their length and un-severed preparation are also symbolic of the eater’s life. The noodles were longer than normal noodles and uncut, it was stir fried and served hot on a plate.
Another Dish, which we tried was Haricot bean with Chillies and Sesame this also signifies longevity. As the dish had a good dose of all ingredients and had a very mellowing effect due to the high heat tossing and cooking.
This was the showstopper of the entire dishes we had, with much pacifying Chef shared the recipe and the method for cooking this dish – I would recommend a must try for those who are connoisseur.
Ingredients needed: Haricot Beans 200 gms, oil 50 ml, sesame oil 15 ml, Diced red as per need, sliced garlic 1 tsp, light soy 15 ml, salt as per taste, broth powder 2 to 3 gms, white sesame seed 1 gm.Preparation: Cut the beans and string the beans, plunge in hot oil so that the beans does loose its colour but softens that wee bit retaining the crunchiness, keep on a strainer and apply hot water to drain out the extra oil, in a wok heat sesame oil and sauté the red chili and sliced garlic, to this add the beans, light soy, broth powder, salt and toss. Sprinkle with toasted white sesame seeds just before taking it out. SERVE HOT. Till then – Bon Appétit.