Don’t put the party poppers away just yet. This Thursday is Chinese New Year, Year of the Sheep no less, and if ever you needed an excuse for a slap-up Chinese meal, this is it. Step away from the crispy duck and prawn toasts, though. Chinese New Year is traditionally a time to eat ‘lucky’ foods such as dumplings, fish, spring rolls, and niangao (Chinese New Year cake), all with ingredients rich in symbolic flavours. If you fancy trying more adventurous Chinese dishes this year, here are five great places to start. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
For seriously well-crafted Chinese eats Michelin starred Hakkasan spin-off HKK, in London. is serving a Culinary Journey Through China menu from now until 28 February, in celebration of the lunar New Year. Serving eight courses inspired by the country’s eight provinces, plus two exquisite desserts, expect “bitter fortune” cocktails, jasmine tea-smoked poussin and sheep’s milk mousse, pandan curd and caramelised puff rice.
For Chinese-style tapas from the north-east of the country, Edinburgh’s Chop Chop (a long-awaited Glasgow branch is due to launch in March) has a big local following. Served on simple wooden tables against chrysanthemum-yellow walls and bright red seats, the food here is casual and good value. Try the dumplings (boiled or fried), stir-fried green beans with chilli, lamb with cumin seed and, for dessert, peanut dumplings.
In Oxford, My Sichuan is a smart sit-down restaurant headed up by a team of Chengdu chefs. As the name – and the heritage – suggests you’ll find all the classic Sichuan specialities here, from chilli-laced hotpots to sizzling tofu and dry-fried beef. For the more adventurous there’s Fried pig’s intestines in soya bean sauce, Braised duck’s tongues or stir-fried sea snails.
If you prefer street food to linen tablecloths, book in for Mama Wang’s Chinese New Year supper club. The company’s founder, Jessica Wang, prides herself on “bringing regional Chinese food to the streets and dinner tables of London” via street food markets, pop-ups, supper clubs and cookery classes. Available at two separate North London venues – one on Thursday and one later in the month – at these special New Year events guests can tuck into a six-course sharing menu of dishes from across China; think hand-pulled noodles, pork, shiitake and water chestnut lettuce tacos and lamb and chive dumplings. Oh and lychee martinis.
Manchester has one of the most vibrant Chinese communities in the UK outside London so it’s little surprise that they city is also home to some impressive Chinese eats. Our top pick? The Portland Street branch of Red Chilli, a small northern chain that specializes in Beijing and Sichuan dishes. From now until 5 March it’s running a special Chinese New Year menu alongside its classic dishes. Look out for braised pig’s trotter with taro, black moss, Chinese mushrooms and garlic, steamed turbot with chopped chilli, ginger and spring onion and fried sliced Chinese New Year cakes.