- The Dish: Saffron money bags
- The Place: Ping Pong
What? It’s the Year of the Pig and restaurants will be decorated with traditional red lanterns, while new dishes will have been created to celebrate the occasion. The pig is associated with wealth, emotion and intuition.
Dim sum chain Ping Pong has curated a bespoke menu offering a selection of traditional dishes such as the saffron money bag, a steamed dumpling filled with Chinese leaves, shitake mushroom, carrot, fuzhu pumpkin seeds and flavoured with yellow bean sauce and chinkiang vinegar.
Other highlights include traditional pork dishes such as the Shanghai xiaolongbao, soup dumplings with pork and spring onion in wheat pastry with chinkiang vinegar and ginger and the chorizo spring rolls filled with Cantonese spices.
For dessert, the chilli taro cake will be available, which is a delicately sautéed taro cake served with spicy chilli mayo.
At the Four Seasons Hotel, its restaurant Mei Ume will welcome Chinese New Year with a specially crafted feast from head chef Tony Truong from February 1 to 16.
The menu will include a steamed dim sum platter, suckling pig and jellyfish salad, and golden crispy five spice pigeon. A dish of braised abalone, an Eastern seafood delicacy, will take centre stage, served with sea cucumber in oyster sauce. For dessert, Truong will present a Chinese New Year Cake or nian gao, traditionally made with glutinous rice to symbolise the promise of a better year.
Xu Teahouse also has a special Chinese New Year menu on offer from February 5-28, that is says is a little less traditional, with options like sweet potato and miso taro dumpling, fire cracker prawn rolls, black vinegar cockles, and fried peanut mochi.
Where? At Ping Pong, the Chinese New Year menu will launch on 29 January and will be available until 1 April across its eight London locations, which include Southbank, Soho, Covent Garden and St Paul’s.
At Mei Ume, guests will be invited to write their wishes on cards to hang on the wishing tree at the entrance. For those looking for an extra special celebration, the private dining room can be booked for a special feasting menu inspired by the Manchu Han imperial feast, one of the grandest meals ever documented in Chinese cuisine, which included more than 100 different dishes.
“Chinese New Year is the longest and most auspicious holiday of the Chinese calendar, symbolising new beginnings and also marking the start of spring – it’s my favourite time of year. At Mei Ume we wanted to capture that sense of abundance and hope for those celebrating in London,” said Truong.
Why? Because it’s a great excuse to test out new dishes and as you can see both high end joints to chains are getting in on the action. It means a restaurant can go as experimental as they want and if it’s a success among diners, it could be a worthy permanent menu addition.
Chinese food is also hugely popular among Brits. In 2017, it was the country’s favourite takeout with 179m servings ordered, according to NPD Group. A survey from Streetbees in November also found that Chinese food was the most common cuisine eaten out of home in the last six months in the UK.
As Ching-He Huang, a Taiwan-born, British-raised chef told The Telegraph: "True, authentic, traditional Chinese cuisine is making it to the fore," she said. "People are much more adventurous, have travelled, and are much more open minded. That has brought with it an appetite for true taste."