Happy Chinese New Year- by Yasmin Ballingall

So far 2021 has just felt like a continuation of 2020, right? More of lock-down, bad weather and sad news reports. I think I can speak for everyone when I ask: ‘where’s the reset button?’

Well Friday 12th of February may provide some hope that we can all reset again and look to a more prosperous year. This is the date of Chinese New Year 2021, the year of the Metal Ox- which aptly symbolises strength and determination and metal symbolises stability and longevity.

If you were born in 1973, 1985, 1997 or 2009 though, watch out! This is your zodiac year and perhaps really unlucky for you (if you believe the ancient Chinese astrology).

Luckily, MetMunch are at hand to bring some tasty relief, whether this is your year or not. We have gathered some great and wholesome traditional Chinese New Year dishes that will be sure to get this lunar year to a good start!

Don’t worry about not being able to go out in lockdown- going out (namely for women) is thought to bring bad luck for the coming year. You can also forget about sweeping or laundry because they are also Chinese taboos on this day… oh well can’t argue with tradition!

At GrowMeatFree, we have also considered the Chinese bad omen of ‘blood and killing things’. So as always, all of our recipes are cruelty-free:

‘A Chinese’ doesn’t need to be a foodie curse word; you can replicate your favourite Chinese take-away dishes, easily and much healthier at home. There are so many great Chinese vegetable-based dishes worth trying, this is just a small sample of the dim sum, main and dessert recipes.

My Version

I tried out these recipes with a ‘smacked cucumber’ salad and they were an instant hit with the full family. They range from really easy- with matcha nice cream needing only three ingredients- to a bit more prep-time aka. the spring rolls. But if you feel like trumping the shop-bought versions, they’re worth the time.

Though simple, my favourite recipe is the sticky aubergine. A perfect blend of caramelised umami flavours, this dish somehow combines soft, chewy and crunchy and is perfect with rice or Chinese cabbage. I rolled the aubergine slices in panko crumbs (just because they were in the cupboard) so my dish had a Japanese influence. This is not necessary, but if you want to try it- it adds a real crunch! Try to only lightly stir-fry your veg so as to keep their freshness, colour and firmer texture.

Sweet & Sticky Aubergine Slices

But you can always cleanse your stir-fried palette with a refreshing clean matcha nice cream for dessert. If you’re new to the nice cream phenomenon, it is incredibly quick and simple. As is a vegetable stir-fry and fried rice, which for this reason is a family go-to in our household. But I loved experimenting with the lighter versions by replacing white short-rice for cauliflower rice and Udon noodles for ‘zoodles’- which is spiralised zucchini (courgette). I have been long-term fans of these substitutes to subtly add another vegetable to the dish and ditch the simple carbs. Both cauliflower and courgette are much quicker to cook as well- just add it to the rest of the stir-fry veg and cook in minutes! Better yet, courgette can be replaced for sweet potato or cucumber and carrot for a cold salad. So if you don’t own one already, a spiralizer is definitely worth adding to the Christmas list.

However, sometimes you can’t beat the classics. These are definitely modern twists you perhaps wouldn’t find in every Chinese household. My family still prefer the traditional white rice and noodles. What are your thoughts? Got a good cauliflower rice recipe? Have you ever tried zoodles or any of its spiralized counterparts?

So, to wrap up this day of new beginnings, snap open a fortune cookie and look to the future. Onward and upwards or in Mandarin: ‘Bùbù gāoshēng’ (‘boo-boo gaoww-shnng’) which means: ‘A steady rise to high places!’