I always feel homesick at this time of the year and I wish I could celebrate Chinese New Year with my family in Macau! Because on this special day, and in the next 10 days, we and most of the Asian people around the world will be gathering with family and friends, celebrating the ‘Year of the Ram’ with lots of good wishes, and needless to say, delicious food with symbolic meaning, yes, we can be superstitious, but in a good way of course 🙂 !
Just thinking about it makes me long for some hearty food that we usually eat in Chinese New Year! I remember my mother would cook a reunion dinner (with all family members get together) on new year eve, the menu usually consisted of steamed chicken served with ginger infused oil (represents prosperity), braised pig trotters with dry oysters and mushroom (represents strength and wealth); steamed whole fish with spring onion and ginger served with sweet soy sauce (represents abundance), monk’s vegetables – mixed vegetables and Mong bean noodles cooked in fermented tofu (represents harmony), pan-fry rice cakes, mochi-glutinous rice dumplings in sweet soup (represents togetherness), and these are just some of the tasty dishes we eat during the New Year celebration, and there are still plenty more.
I will not imagine myself cooking all these dishes for New Year, but I do miss some of the flavours that remind me of home. So I created this recipe – braised pork ribs with chestnut and shiitake mushroom – based on my childhood memory with the addition of my favorite spices to elevate the overall taste. I love this dish because it is hearty, rich with a compact flavour: sweet and licorice from the star anise and clove, savory with an umami undertone from the oyster sauce and tamari, the whole taste and texture combination of the meat, the chestnut, the mushroom and the spices work so well together that, this dish absolutely deserves to be the star of the New Year celebration!
- 650g pork ribs (ask your butcher to cut them into small pieces for you)
- 250g pre-cooked chestnut
- 160g fresh Shiitake mushroom
- 1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 sticks spring onion (2 sticks for cooking and 1 for garnish), cut into 4-5cm pieces
- 1 piece thumb size ginger, cut into thick slices
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 3 cloves
- 4 black pepper corns
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce (plus more to taste)
- 1 tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 750ml water
- vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. corn starch, dissolved in 2 tsp. water
Blanch the ribs in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water, set aside.
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a heavy bottom sauce pan or casserole, fry onion, spring onions and ginger on medium heat until onions start to soften. Add ribs and brown them for about a minute. Pour in the water and all the other ingredients, except the chestnut and mushroom, in the casserole and bring to boil.
Turn down the heat to low when boiled, let it simmer for an hour with the lid on. Check and stir occasionally during cooking. After one hour, the meat should be tender but not too soft. Add the chestnut and mushroom to the ribs and turn the heat up to medium and cook for another 15 minutes without covered.
The sauce should reduce by half after the 15 minutes, taste and season with more tamari if needed. Then slowly drizzle the cornstarch mixture to the casserole and stir continuously until the sauce is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and add the remaining spring onion pieces to the ribs. Transfer the content into a serving platter and serve with steamy jasmine rice.
Happy Chinese New Year! ‘Gung Hei Fat Choi’!