Chinese New Year Celebration At Chi Kitchen London
Chinese New Year also known as the Spring Festival fell on 16 February in 2018 welcoming the year of the Earth Dog. It is celebrated by a quarter of the world’s population of Chinese origin. The celebration lasts for 15 days and reaches its grand finale with the Spring Lantern Festival or Chap Goh Mey (in the Hokkien dialect), literally means Fifteenth Night where families will have another big feast.
The Spring Festival falls on different date each year based on the Chinese Lunar calendar. It is a religious and social festival where families reunite on Chinese New Year Eve to have a sumptuous feast of auspicious dishes notably whole steamed fish and noodles to symbolise prosperity and longevity accompanied by other meat and vegetable culinary delights traditionally eaten at such occasion. It is also the time to honour domestic deities especially the Kitchen God who has been sent to earth by the Emperor of Heaven to look after the health and welfare of the household.
Let The Feast Begin
To celebrate the Chinese New Year, Chi Kitchen at the flagship store of Debenhams in Oxford Street held a special festive lunch hosted by Ping Coombes, its Executive Chef Consultant. Coombes is the winner of MasterChef UK 2014 in which she showcased her innovative skill in marrying authentic Malaysian cuisine with a contemporary and clever twist that sealed the deal for her. She brings her special epicurean prowess to the tables of Chi Kitchen London.
This 68-seater bijou restaurant is the perfect pit stop for shoppers at the store to embark on a culinary journey of Asia featuring Malaysian, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese cuisine. The welcoming atmosphere with a show kitchen and a champagne bar is designed to reflect the five cosmic elements of fire, water, wood, metal and earth that harmonise the atmospheric energy of a room.
The celebratory lunch was fully booked as the crowd of mostly western clientele came to experience the joy of celebrating a festival from a different culture. The five-course menu was a condensed version of a typical Chinese New Year feast starting with the most auspicious Lo Sang or Prosperity Salad of a bonanza of julienne of carrot, daikon, lettuce, cucumber; pomelo; strips of crispy wanton; seaweed; matchsticks of fried yam and slices of raw salmon.
Chi Kitchen takes pride in its presentation of food and this auspicious salad was beautifully laid out in a pretty row on a long table where the guests were invited to have a communal toss of the salad with a plum sauce dressing with crushed peanuts and a sprinkling of five-spice powder. The ritual was for the guests to toss the salad high in the air with chopsticks to invite good fortune and prosperity into their lives. Traditionally diners would shout “lo hei” while tossing the salad which means “bring on good fortune” in Cantonese. It was a fun interactive gesture for the guests to participate in this tradition.
The Celebratory Menu
The main course featured steamed monk fish with asparagus topped with chilli and garlic sauce with a touch of dried shrimps. It was an unusual choice of fish for steaming on such occasion. Normally it would be whole seabass but with a boneless fleshy texture, monk fish was perfect to be served en masse on this occasion without risking their patrons choking on fish bones. This was accompanied by stir fried tiger prawns with a piquant flavour of black pepper sauce with just a hint of sweetness to zing up the taste sautéed with shimeji mushrooms, cucumber and onions and garnished with a sprinkling of crispy ginger. The vegetable dish came in the form of stir fried broccoli with shitake mushrooms and tofu in a light sauce to deliver that fresh taste to offset the heavier sauces of the monk fish and tiger prawns thus balancing the ying and yang of flavour so ubiquitous in Chinese cuisine.
The meal concluded with a Yuzu Cheesecake topped with fresh passion fruit served with Mandarin sorbet to cleanse the palate. Yuzu, a fragrant citrus fruit used in some Asian cuisine in the east is the latest darling ingredient in many western chefs’ culinary repertoire just as the recent western discovery of the word “umami” which loosely means “delicious savoury taste” in Japanese and is the buzzword for quite a few chefs now to describe their food.
It is customary to give guests Mandarin oranges during Chinese New Year as the word for oranges “kum” in Cantonese puns with the word “gold”, so it symbolises giving gold or good fortune to your guests. Big fat oranges were handed out to all the guests at Chi Kitchen to take home with them all the good fortune that the Earth Dog would bring to their lives. Gong Xi Fai Cai – live long and prosper.
Chi Kitchen is at 334-348 Oxford Street London W1C 1JG on the ground floor of Debenhams. Opens from 7.30am till 11pm Monday-Saturday and 11.30am – 10pm Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner Tel: 020 3841 6888 Watch out for dates of Ping Coombes’ Breakfast Club at Chi Kitchen
Discover the culinary world of a MasterChef winner Ping Coombes
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