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Chinese New Year Recipes

By Maralyn Hill, The Epicurean Explorer

The end-of-harvest shows up on many records as the origin of Chinese New Year Celebrations. There were numerous different calendars, but under the Han Dynasty (206BC-25AD), the calendar and customs became more formalized and the Taichu calendar was adopted. The subsequent Tang Dynasty ( 618-907 AD) was a prosperous and stable time, which led the way for more celebrations around the New Year.

When checking about the drink of preference with a friend, Michael Taylor who writes the 'Accidental Travel Writer Blog', he shared, “Things vary from Hong Kong to Taiwan to mainland China and within China, from north to south and east to west. In Hong Kong, they used to favor French cognac for celebrations, but there has been a trend in recent years toward fine wines. In mainland China and Taiwan, they tend to favor Chinese ‘wines,’ which are usually made from grains, and VERY high in alcoholic content. I put ‘wines' in quotes because the Chinese character for ‘wine’ is really a generic term for alcoholic beverages and is frequently mistranslated."


Raffles Singapore Sling
Taiwan Cole Slaw      
Steamed Pork & Crabmeat Dumplings    

Fried Rice       
Chinese Sticky Cake

Raffles Singapore Sling

Since we like to start with a cocktail, it seems appropriate to feature a classic drink from a classic hotel. Raffles dates back to the mid-19th century, when Singapore was an English Colony. We featured this in our book, “Our Love Affairs with Food & Travel.” When Brenda visited Raffles, she took part in one of the culinary courses it offered. Maralyn was disappointed in 1989 on her first visit when it was undergoing total restoration. However, she returned two more times several years later to enjoy Singapore Slings with Norm.

Shortly after Raffles opened, Mr. Ngiam Tong Boon, a Hainanese-Chinese bartender, created the famous Singapore Sling. You can see the original recipe in the hotel’s museum. This attractive pink colored drink was originally created for women, but today, everybody enjoys it. A visit to Singapore would not be complete without trying a Singapore Sling.


1-ounce gin

1/2-ounce cherry brandy

4-ounces pineapple juice

1/2-ounce lime juice

dash of egg white

dash of angostura bitters


Blend quickly and pour into tall glass.

Garnish with wedge of pineapple and a cherry.

Taiwan Cole Slaw

Taiwan (officially the Republic of China) is a beautiful country. We experienced many unusual dishes during our visit. Cole slaw was served frequently with many of our meals, from Mongolian BBQ to seafood or chicken.


1/2-cup green scallions

1-head of Asian green cabbage

2 large carrots

1/2-cup mayonnaise

1/4-cup rice wine vinegar

1/4-cup honey

1-tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2-tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1/2-teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3-tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (we toast at 275 to 300 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or lightly toasted)


Slice scallions, cabbage and carrot into a very thin julienne and place in a salad bowl.

Keep 1/2 of the scallions back for top of dish.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, honey, ginger and sesame oil until thoroughly mixed and pour over cabbage mixture.

Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds and reserved scallions.

Steamed Pork and Crabmeat Dumplings

We’ve experienced steamed dumplings throughout Asia and the US. Some are more complicated than others. This is one of the easier recipes and courtesy of the InterContinental Shanghai Pudong Hotel. Serves 8


1-1/4 pounds of pork, minced

2-teaspoons salt

1-1/2 tablespoons sugar

2-teaspoons light soy sauce

2-teaspoons dark soy sauce

2-teaspoons minced ginger

2-teaspoons sesame oil

2-teaspoons ground black pepper

2/3-pound pork skin jelly

2-ounces crabmeat minced


Combine all ingredients and set aside.


1/2-pound all-purpose flour

1/3-cup water


Combine flour and water with fork in a small bowl to form dough.

Divide dough in 40 small pieces (about 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons or 10 ml).

Form into balls.

Roll the balls out on floured surface to form very thin circles.

To Assemble and Serve

1-large cucumber, sliced into 40 thin slices

2-cups rice wine vinegar


Place about 2-tablespoons of filling in the center of each circle wrapper.

Using your finger, lightly brush water along the rim of the wrapper.

Bring sides up to form small pouches.

Press firmly to close.

Repeat until you’ve made 40 dumplings.

Place each dumpling on a cucumber round and steam until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Serve with vinegar on the side for dipping.

Tandem Taster Tips

If you don’t want to make dough, purchase a package of prepared Jiao Zi Pi dumpling wrappers (this is the only brand we have seen readily available in Asian and specialty food stores). You can substitute wonton wrappers, but they will require less filling and give a slightly different result.

If you are not going to steam and want to boil, this is how to approach it. Using a large pot, fill with water and bring to a boil. Carefully, drop in dumplings.

When water returns to a boil, add a cup of water to cool (You do not want to let the water boil or the dumplings with explode). Let the water come to a boil again and add another cup of water. The third time the water returns to a boil, the dumplings are done.

Fried Rice

We enjoy this simple version of Chinese fried rice as a change from plain rice, pasta or potatoes. We serve it with shrimp, fish, meat and chicken, especially barbecue. This fried rice is also a unique side to serve with omelets.


1-1/4 cups cooked long grain rice

2-tablespoons sesame oil

2-tablespoons sesame seeds

2-inch piece of finely grated cucumber

1-teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

squeeze of lemon juice


Heat sesame oil in pan and fry the sesame seeds until golden.

Stir in the cooked rice.

Then, stir in the cucumber, lemon rind and juice, stirring for about 2 minutes or until hot and rice grains are coated.

Chinese Sticky Cake

This is a traditional Chinese New Year dish. It is basically a steamed rice fruitcake, quite easy to make and serves about 16. This recipe is adapted from Chiff.


3/4 – cup water

½ -cup brown sugar

1-1/4 cups glutinous rice flour


2-tablespoons milk

1/2 – cup dates, chopped (you can substitute preserved plums, candied orange peel, or your favorite dried fruit like apricots or cherries)


Using a small sauce pan, about 1-1/2 quarts, boil water.

To a mixing bowl, add brown sugar and stir in boiling water to make a syrup. Let this cool.

To cool mixture, add flour, egg and milk and stir to blend.

Knead the dough until smooth, then mix in chopped sweets.

Pour batter into a lightly greased 7” shallow cake pan.

Steam for approximately 45 minutes, or until edges move away from the pan.

Let cool completely before unmolding.

Cut in thin slices to serve.

The Tandem Travelers are a Food & Travel writing team  made up of authors Maralyn D. Hill and Brenda C. Hill, co-authors of ‘Cooking Secrets - The Why and How’ and ‘Our Love Affairs with Food & Travel’.

Chinese New Year Recipes Chinese New Year Recipes Chinese New Year Recipes
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Maralyn Hill - Learn more about The Epicurian Explorer and her Books at
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