Gong Hey Fat Choy!
The Chinese New Year has many traditions but, not surprising, my favorite is the Dinner. The New Year’s Eve dinner is probably the most important dinner for the family. It’s kind of like thanksgiving dinner; where traditions prevail and families come together sometimes from miles around. During dinner whole fish is always served to symbolize togetherness, shrimp for abundance, long noodles for long life, chicken for wealth, buns and pot stickers for good luck. The table will set with bowls of oranges and tangerines for wealth and good fortune and apples for peace.
Once a number of years ago I invited to a friend’s families house for New Years dinner. An privilege I didn’t want to take lightly. Oh and it was a potluck! So I wanted to make something that would travel well and would be easy for me to make. So I brought my version of Bang Bang Ji Si (棒棒鸡), or Bang Bang Chicken. I love this dish- its easy, delicious and I just like to say Bang Bang.
This dish is from Leshan, a town in Sichuan region that is well known for its quality chicken. It is said that name comes from cooks who would use the back of a cleaver to smash the chicken meat to break the fibers, so that it would be easier to shred. The sauce can be made ahead and this is a particularly great way of using leftover cooked chicken.
Pairing with a spicy Szechuan style chicken dish like this can be a precarious endeavor. But there is one wine that will not only pair well with spiciness of the dish but the rest of the dinner as well: Riesling. Riesling is generally lighter and lower in alcohol, German Rieslings in particular (Kabinett especially) are higher in acid, making these wines very food friendly, widely versatile and particularly suited for the style of the cuisines of China and Asia.
2012 Schloss Schönborn Kabinett “Pfaffenberg” Rheingau $19.99
91 pts Wine Spectator – This features a concentrated ripeness to the dried apricot, pear and lemon curd flavors. Notes of butterscotch and honey lead to hints of white chocolate on the juicy finish. A rich and expressive style. Drink now through 2020.
Schloss Schönborn is the oldest estate in Germany (1349) and one of the oldest in the world, continuously owned by the same family, (27 generations). For over 660 years the Schönborn’s have practiced sustainable vineyard practices, in parallel with a philosophy of producing great wines. The estate owns over 50 hectares (125 acres), of vineyards throughout the Rheingau. It is the only estate in the region with 38 single vineyard holdings and is a founding member of the Rheingau VDP!
Schloss Schönborn‘s Pfaffenbergis a Monopole or single vineyard wine. Pfaffenberg just may be the most famous Erste Lage (German equivalent of First Growth)-classified site in the Rheingau. The Pfaffenberg is truly a classic wine!
Bang Bang Chicken – Bang Bang Ji (棒棒鸡)
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 English cucumber, cut into matchstick-size strips
6 scallions, Sliced thinly
1 each Red pepper, Julienne
1 teaspoon roasted Sichuan peppercorn
2 tablespoons sesame seed paste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 – 2 tablespoons hot chili oil, or 1 – 2 teaspoons chili paste
Optional garnish: toasted sesame seeds, reserved scallion julienne
1) Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook chicken in water for 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Drain. When cool enough to handle, whack chicken with a rolling pin until it can easily be pulled apart with your fingers.
2) Peel cucumber, and cut into matchstick-size strips. Julienne Scallions and red pepper.
3) Whisk sesame seed paste, soy sauce, black vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and hot chili oil or chili flakes together in a small bowl.
4) Arrange cucumber matchsticks and six shredded scallions on a serving plate. Place chicken on top. Sprinkle with Sichuan peppercorns and pour sauce over salad. Garnish with reserved scallion shreds. Yield: 4 servings.