Chopsticks are probably the most versatile utensil ever. It's a fork, knife, pair of tongs, a whisk, and a steamer stand (just place them in your wok and they'll hold your bowl above water) all rolled into one.
But for some, who maybe didn't grow up using them, they can be a bit of a challenge. So here's our step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Hold your dominant hand loosely. People who clench their chopsticks usually just end up flinging their food all over the place. Place the first chopstick in the valley between your pointer finger and thumb. Balance it on your ring finger.
Step 2: Place the second chopstick in the valley between your pointer finger and thumb along with the first chopstick, but rest this one on your middle finger instead of your ring finger.
Step 3: Use your thumb, pointer and middle fingers to grasp the second chopstick a bit more tightly.
Step 4: The first chopstick (on the bottom) remains more or less stationary. The index and middle fingers do all the heavy lifting with the second chopstick. Lets have a demonstration. (Our refrigerator was pretty sparse. So it's not like you need to use chopsticks for this particular task, but it's going to have to be the grapes).
Using your index and middle fingers to move the top chopstick up and down, open up your chopsticks.
And close them over the food. Remember to keep your hand loose but still maintain good control over that chopstick. You'll really be tested when picking up heavier pieces of food.
Once you've got a good grip, go ahead and pick it up.
And that's it.
Pretty simple, right?
When buying chopsticks, we prefer the sturdy and traditional bamboo versions. Plastic chopsticks can get a bit slippery and food is harder to handle. They also make more ornate bamboo versions these days, if that's your fancy. Avoid the flimsy disposable ones.
Taro Cakes are a traditional treat that we always have during the New Year. Serve it as an appetizer or the day of for breakfast–a couple of crispy pieces with a fried or hard-boiled egg is pretty close to Chinese New Year perfection.
Turnip Cake is another Chinese New Year brunch classic. You’ve probably seen it served up on steaming carts at dim sum restaurants across the country. We pride ourselves on our recipe, because it boasts a healthy turnip flavor (tastes better than it sounds) with plenty of mushrooms, scallion and Chinese sausage peppered throughout.
This is one of our earliest recipes on the blog (hence the somewhat…ahem…questionable photography). But don’t let photo quality fool you–every time we make these for family gatherings, they disappear as quickly as we can fry them!
Soup-Yan Du Xian (Shanghainese Salted Pork Soup with Bamboo Shoots and Tofu Knots)
This is a delicious, classic soup that our family loves. Made with Shanghainese salty pork, the flavors are unique and awesomely savory. Every Chinese New Year table needs a soup, so if you’re looking for something simple and tasty, give this one a whirl.
Chinese New Year is the time to eat auspicious (read: expensive) foods to ring in a prosperous and happy new year. What’s more *auspicious* than lobster? This one isn’t for a novice cook, but the pay off is phenomenal.
A classic titan of the Chinese New Year table is fish of some kind. The fish must be whole and there must be two–one for Chinese New Year’s Eve and one saved for Chinese New Year’s Day. Both must be cooked on New Year’s Eve, however. Make one of these and one of the next recipe or two of each!
This is my maternal grandfather’s specialty–he’s heavy-handed with the vinegar, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and rock sugar. It all culminates in the tastiest version of this fish anyone has ever had, and we’ve translated his method into this recipe. You may not see this on many menus, but trust us when we say that you won’t regret making this fish!
There’s nothing more auspicious than a whole chicken. Technically, the proper Chinese New Year way is to serve the chicken with head and feet included on the plate. We’ll give you a pass on this one, though!
If you REALLY want to wow your guests, make this delicious Cantonese Roast Pork Belly. The crispy skin, the five-spice marinade…they’ll practically be groveling at your feet when this arrives at the dinner table.
A hallmark of an amazing dish at our house is the speed with which we demolish it during a blogging session. Well. This was practically inhaled in the 20 minutes after the last photo cleared approval! It’s spicy, saucy, and full of veggies and chicken; and let’s not forget the surprise bed of noodles underneath!
Until this recipe, Easy Peking Duck seemed more of a cruel oxymoron than recipe title, but believe us when we say that this is pretty much as easy as it gets while preserving authentic flavors. Chinese New Year is the perfect time to give this festive dish a whirl!
Braised Pork Belly with Arrowhead Root is a traditional and festive Chinese New Year dish that my dad makes sure is on our dinner table. If you can’t find arrowhead root, you can sub in taro or potato.
Meat - Mei Cai Kou Rou (Steamed Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens)
This is one of my all-time favorite Chinese dishes. And around here, them’s fightin’ words–so you know I mean business. In fact, when I would visit my mom’s aunt’s house around Chinese New Year time, taking home a leftover container of this was a serious and significant highlight of the holiday.
Vegetables - Braised Wheat Gluten with Mushrooms (Hong Shao Kao Fu)
This is a Shanghainese favorite that’s healthy, vegan, and surprisingly tantalizing when done right. This is another good contender for a meat-dish-substitute for vegan and vegetarian family and friends!
Buddha’s Delight is an auspicious vegetarian dish my dad has been ringing in the new year with since he was a kid going over to his grandmother’s house. To this day, she still cooks up a big batch of it for the kids and grandkids.
Another super simple veggie option, these pea tips are a bit more decadent (and pricy) than your average bok choy. Chinese New Year is a time to splurge–from new clothes, the best foods, and hong bao envelopes for kids. Spring for the pea tips!
Sticky rice is one of those dishes that seems elaborate and vaguely intimidating, but it’s easier than expected and tastier too! Chinese sausage and dried shrimp add distinctive yet highly traditional flavors.
Noodles & Rice - Bian Dou Men Mian (Steamed Noodles and Green Beans)
This was another vital revelation that we probably never would have made without the blog. Pork belly, green beans, chewy noodles, and a delicious soy sauce mixture makes this dish absurdly delicious, and steaming the noodles in the wok saves one more pot from the after-dinner sink!
Okay, so these technically aren’t Chinese, but the star ingredient is the auspicious clementine. If you’re going over to someone’s house for Chinese New Year, bring oranges and a batch of these. It’s considered bad form and inauspicious to show up to someone’s house empty-handed!