Happy Chinese New Year!
The Chinese New Year of 2020 falls on January 25th (Saturday), and the festival will last to February 8th, about 15 days in total. 2020 is a Year of the Rat according to Chinese zodiac. Each of the 12 years in the Chinese zodiac is represented by an animal bearing characteristics that are believed to be imbued to people born that year. In the case of the rat, that means individuals born during that 12-month period will be defined by their energy and optimism. The Years of the Rat include 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032…and onward. Though people consider the rat not adorable, it ranks first on the Chinese zodiac signs.
As we start to celebrate Chinese New Year today, it got me to thinking how much I enjoy Chinese food. Even though I don’t eat it regularly, what better way to celebrate than to sample some Leeds-based Chinese Restaurants and cook some dishes inspired by the distinct spices and flavours of Chinese cuisine.
In my opinion there aren’t enough choices of Chinese Restaurant in Leeds City Centre but there are definitely some superb ones! Here are my top 3 that I would recommend any Chinese food lover to give a visit;
Mans Market – Hip, modern Chinese Bar & Restaurant in Leeds City Centre, serving AMAZING delicious food with a bit of a twist. I couldn’t fault my experience here at all. This restaurant gives a kind of Street Food/Underground Canteen vibe and the experience as a whole is something slightly different to dining at your classic Chinese Restaurants around Leeds (I won’t spoil the fun). I can’t wait to go back and eat here to be honest and would recommend to any Chinese food lover. A very rare overall rating of 10/10! Check out my full review here.
Tattu – Fantastic food and cocktails, a real dining experience, but a small fortune! In summary the food and service here was really good. It’s not just a “here’s your food enjoy” type of meal, select dishes come with theatrical presentation using dry ice. Prices are top range for what it is, but there are set menus that are priced from £20 (lunch) to £80 (evening) per person. I would definitely recommend experiencing a meal here, if only once, you won’t be disappointed. Check out my full review here.
Red Chilli – The proof is in the food at this classic Chinese Restaurant based at Millennium Square, serving a vast range of both very traditional Chinese cuisine and the more “English-Chinese” dishes, that are all delicious. The banquet for 2 people (£25pp), the food was immense and felt like it was never-ending!! It definitely could have fed 4 people easily. Overall the food was great, the service was polite enough and very organised but no real interaction, the place is a little bit dated, however was busy for a Monday night and I think that proves how good the food is here. Check out my full review here.
As well as eating out a lot recently to be able to share the above with you, I have cooked some really yummy Asian inspired dishes that I wanted to share the recipes of with you! These are easy to make meals and very tasty. Please do share any photos/comments with me when you follow these recipes and I’ll be sure to share on my social media!
Sweet & Sour Pork – This recipe was inspired by Joe Wicks Lean in 15 but tweaked to taste.
- Coconut or Olive oil
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 red pepper, finely sliced
- 1 pack mange tout
- 3 x pork steaks/chops, sliced into 1cm thick strips
- Long grain rice (microwave pouch)
- 3 tbsp red wine
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 3 tsp toasted sesame oil
- Handful of cashews
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander, to serve – optional
- Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over a high heat. Add the onion, pepper and mange tout and stir-fry for a few minutes until the veg just starts to soften.
- Throw in the pork strips and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes, by which time the vegetables should be softening and the pork virtually cooked. Check by cutting into one of the larger pieces of meat to make sure there are no raw pink bits left.
- Add the cashews to the stir-fry and cook for a minute.
- Cook your rice in the microwave, following the packet instructions.
- Reduce the heat under the wok or frying pan a little and pour in the vinegar and let it bubble up, stirring to combine. Turn off the heat and stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil.
- Pile up the hot rice on your plate, top with the sweet and sour pork and finish with a sprinkling of chopped coriander, if using.
Crispy Asian Pepper Chicken – Inspired by a Gousto recipe but added to, to taste.
- 4 chicken thigh fillets
- 2 garlic cloves
- Honey (25g)
- 1 fresh lemongrass
- 1 red chilli
- 2 shallots
- 80g sugar snap peas
- 130g basmati rice
- 1 hoisin sauce sachet (40g)
- 15ml rice vinegar
- Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- Tsp chilli flakes
- 10g cornflour
- Boil a kettle. Bash the lemongrass with a rolling pin and cut the stem down the middle lengthways. Remove the tough outer layers (keep them for later!) and chop the softer inner core finely.
- Add thebasmati rice, 300ml cold water and the outer lemongrass layers to a pot and bring it to a boil over a high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to very low and cook, covered, for 10-15 min or until all the water has absorbed and the rice is cooked. Once cooked, remove from the heat and keep covered until serving.
- While the rice is cooking, pat the chicken thigh fillets dry with kitchen paper and slice them into strips. Add the chicken strips to a bowl with the cornflour and 1-2 tsp pepper (freshly ground is best!) and the chilli flakes, then toss to coat them evenly – this is your pepper chicken.
- Heat a large, wide-based pan (preferably non-stick) with a generous drizzle of vegetable oil (with enough to coat the base of the pan) over a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the pepper chicken and cook for 5-7 min or until crispy and golden and cooked through (no pink meat!). Transfer the cooked chicken to kitchen paper, season with salt and set aside until serving – this is your crispy pepper chicken. Wipe the pan clean and reserve it for later.
- Cut the red chilli in half lengthways, de-seed (scrape the seeds out with a teaspoon) and chop ﬁnely. Peel and finely chop (or grate) the garlic. Peel and slice the shallots finely.
- Return the reserved pan to a medium-high heat with a drizzle of vegetable oil. Add the chopped lemongrass inner stem[s], garlic, shallot and chilli (can’t handle the heat? Go easy!) and cook for 2-4 min or until starting to crisp, then add the sugar snaps and cook for a further 2-3 min.
- Combine the hoisin sauce, rice vinegar and honey in a bowl. Add the hoisin mixture to the pan and mix with the ingredients. Cook for 1-2 min or until sticky.
- Add the cripsy chicken back to the pan to warm through and to coat with the sauce, then serve with rice and sprinkle over any leftover hoisin sauce and toasted sesame seeds.
Well, enjoy celebrating the Chinese New Year. I would love to hear from you if you have been inspired by me to visit one of the above Restaurants or cooked one of the above meals, or both! Share your photos with me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy munching 🙂