Chinese New Year Feast

For the latest Chef on a Shoestring challenge, we invited Chef Patricia Yeo to prepare dishes that will help ring in the Chinese (lunar) New Year - the year of the ram. Yeo is the executive chef at two New York restaurants: Pazo and AZ. She recently published her first cookbook, "Cooking from A to Z."

We gave her $60 to create a special Chinese New Year holiday menu for six: Sashimi with sizzling garlic and lime sauce (raw fish is symbolic of good fortune); hot and sour soup with seven treasures (odd numbers are considered lucky in Chinese astrology); and whole steamed fish in soy-ginger broth with mushrooms and Chinese sausage (fish symbolizes togetherness and abundance).


Sashimi (sah-SHEE-mee): Sliced raw fish that is traditionally served with condiments such as daikon, ginger root and wasabi. You should buy sushi-grade fish because you are serving this raw. Yeo explains that raw fish is symbolic of good fortune.

Sambal (SAHM-bahl): Popular through Indonesia, Malaysia and Southern India, sambal is a multipurpose condiment. Its most basic form is sambal oelek (a simple mixture of chiles, brown sugar, and salt). Chef Yeo uses it to add a little spice to her dish. If you can't find it, she would suggest Tabasco sauce, but it won't be quite the same.

Porgy (POHR-gee): Chef Yeo is using porgy for her whole fish recipe. Porgies have a firm, low-fat flesh with a delicate mild flavor. They're available fresh or frozen and they are suitable for almost any method of cooking.

Mung bean noodles: This noodle is made from dried mung beans, which are ground into flour. Mung bean is a small bean with yellow flesh and a skin that is normally green but sometimes yellow or black. It's commonly used to grow bean sprouts. Mung beans are used widely in Chinese and Indian cuisine. Unlike other beans, they don't need presoaking. They have a slightly sweet flavor. Chef Yeo is using the noodles in her soup. Noodles are symbolic of long life and prosperity.


Sashimi with Sizzling Garlic and Lime Sauce
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Yeo says cool, silky fish with a hot, fragrant dressing is one of her favorite food creations. It's elegant and simple to make. The hot oil just takes the raw edge off the fish, while releasing all the scent and flavor of the garlic, soy, and lime. The bits of cucumber, apples, and greens are easy additions that provide even more lively contrast. Raw fish is symbolic of good fortune.

Sashimi Ingredients:
12 ounces sushi-quality fish filets, preferably fluke, yellowtail (hamachi) or tuna
1 tablespoon soy sauce or 2 tablespoons soy-lime vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
freshly grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 limes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tart apple such as Granny Smith, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup baby salad greens

Make the rice: Heat the oil in a deep pot over high heat. When it ripples, add a few grains of rice. When the rice bubbles and begins to brown, the oil is hot; add the remaining rice and stir well to break up the grains (small clumps are okay). Fry until golden brown, then strain. Season with salt and pepper.

Make the sashimi: Slice the fish very, very thinly and divide the slices on serving plates. (The recipe can be made up to this point and kept refrigerated up to 1 hour in advance. Tightly wrap each plate with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly against the surface of the fish)

Just before serving, sprinkle the cold fish with soy sauce. Heat the canola oil in a small saucepan until very hot. Add the garlic and cook, swirling the pan, until just golden. Turn off the heat and whisk in the lime zest and juice. Taste for salt and pepper and drizzle the hot mixture over the fish. Sprinkle each serving with apple, cucumber, baby greens and a spoonful of crisped rice.

Serve immediately.

Soy-Lime Vinaigrette Ingredients
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 small pinch sugar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola oil, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sambal

Whisk all the ingredients together and taste. Add more canola oil if the mixture seems too salty or citric.

Whole Steamed Fish in Soy-Ginger Broth
With Mushrooms and Chinese Sausage

Yeo says steamed fish is a staple of Chinese home cooking. While each family has its own food traditions for the new year, most feasts include a whole fish. Because the sound "yue," or fish, is represented by the written character meaning "more than enough," the fish symbolizes togetherness and abundance. The fish is never fully eaten, signifying that the family will always have more than enough food. Serve this on top of fluffy rice to absorb the liquids.

Broth Ingredients:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup of fish sauce
1/2 cup plum wine
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, minced
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced

Broth Method:
Combine all the ingredients for the broth and stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside. The broth can be made in advance and kept refrigerated up to one week.

Fish Ingredients:
2 (about 4 inch square) blocks soft tofu, cut into 2-inch wide strips
2 whole fish (such as snapper or porgy) about 1 pound each
3 plum tomatoes, finely diced
2 Chinese sausages cut into matchsticks (you can use salami instead)
2 knobs Szechuan mustard cut into matchsticks
10 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
2 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced into rings
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
cilantro sprigs, (not springs) for garnish

Fish Method:
Remove the gills and guts from the fish. Cut deep slashes into the side of the fish.

Set up a large bamboo steamer or improvise one using a large pot with a tight-fitting lid: Pour one inch of water into the bottom of the pot. Place one or more small heatproof dishes (such as ramekins) in the bottom to prop up the baking dish.

Arrange the tofu in a single layer in a baking dish small enough to fit in the steamer. Arrange the fish on top of the tofu. Evenly sprinkle the tomatoes, sausages, mustard, mushrooms, scallions and ginger over the top.

When ready to cook, bring the water in the steamer to a boil. Drizzle 1/4 cup of broth over the top of the fish and place the dish in the steamer. Cook about 20 to 25 minutes, until the fish in the middle of the dish flakes slightly under pressure (you'll have to move the aromatics aside to press the fish.) Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro sprigs. Pass the remaining broth at the table.

Basic Rice Ingredients:
2 cups raw rice

Rice Method:
Place rice in a large heavy saucepan and cover with water about 3/4s of an inch. To test it, let the rice settle, then rest your fingertip on top of the rice. The water should come up to the first joint of your middle finger. Do not salt. Bring the rice and water to a boil over high heat. Stir well, reduce the heat to as low as possible, and cover tightly. Let cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let rest, undisturbed, 10 minutes more. You can set aside the rice at this point; depending on the temperature of your kitchen and the weight of the pot, it will stay hot for up to one hour. When ready to serve, fluff with a pair of chopsticks.

Hot and Sour Soup with Seven Treasures
Makes 8 to 10 servings

Yeo says she can't remember a time when she didn't have a passion for hot and sour soup. As a chef, she says, hot, sour, earthy, smoky, sweet, and spicy flavors had a profound influence on her. She says if you prefer to add other "treasures," such as bamboo shoots, feel free to add them; but remember that odd numbers are always luckier in Chinese astrology!

Black vinegar, made from sticky rice, is a precious seasoning in the Chinese kitchen, but Yeo says she gets good results when using balsamic vinegar as a substitute.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup minced ginger
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup minced garlic
3 quarts strong chicken stock
16 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and halved lengthwise
1 cup mung bean noodles
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms (remove and discard the stems)
1/2 cup thinly sliced sugar snap or snow peas
1 cup bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
1 cup water chestnuts, diced
2 eggs
1 cup Chinese black (Chinkiang) vinegar or 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sambal, or to taste
Fish sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely shredded scallions, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over high heat. Add the ginger, shallots, and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Just before serving, add all the remaining ingredients and simmer until the shiitake mushrooms are cooked. Add fish sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. In a separate dish beat the eggs and then drizzle into the simmering liquid. Taste for sambal (the "hot") and vinegar (the "sour"). Serve hot, sprinkled with shreds of scallion.

Shredded Chicken Ingredients:
1 entire chicken breast or 2 chicken breast cutlets
4 cups chicken stock

Bring stock to a boil. Remove skin breast and place them in the stock and simmer about 15 minutes until tender. Remove from heat and let cool in stock. Once it is cooled, you can shred it easily.