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1 hr Chinese New Year Dinner

5 dishes + 1 soup.

One of my fondest memories is having Chinese New Year Dinners with my family. My grandma would go shopping weeks ahead of time to get the best ingredients. My mom and dad would spend a couple of days preparing. My sister and I would become general nuisances first class so we can be bribed away with treats. Chinese New Year (CNY) when done right, is loud, fragrant, colourful, uninhibited.

Today I am going to show you how to hyper-pack all that into one hour, on a Friday night, between 6pm-7pm and still have time to tuck in your toddler.

Name: CNY Dinner

Difficulty: 10 out of 10 This is not for the faint of heart.

Time: 1 hour (Shopping and cleaning not included)

The Process: Organization is KEY!!! You need to plan for four dishes and one soup (the bare minimum for a meal to be considered homey.) My four dishes are: baked red snapper fillet (must have fish dish), dumplings (must have), stir-fried rice cake (must have), Stirling strip loin steak (traditionally we boil the meat in broth, but grilling is WAY faster). My soup is egg drop soup with tofu and crabmeat.

  1. marinate the steak and dust the fish with egg yolk, spices and bread crumbs. Set aside. Soak all your veggies and garnishes. Set aside. Lay all your pots and pans out. Lay out your best chef’s knife and cutting board. Make sure your garbage is empty; your hands are clean; your apron on; mittons ready; your toddler is watching Netflix. (6:06PM)
  2. I start on the soup first because it can be kept warm. Saute onions and garlic in oil until brown, add cubed tofu and sliced shiitake mushrooms, pour in organic chicken stock, bring to boil, pour in scrambled egg while stirring, add crabmeat and turn off heat. 1 down, 4 more to go. (6:15PM)
  3. Stir fry next. I boil a pot of water to blanche the veggies so they take less time to cook. Shredded carrots and halved bok choy goes in for 7 minutes with a bit of salt. Meanwhile my large wok is browning more garlic, ginger and onions with lots of oil. A handful of sliced pork goes in the wok with some salt and pepper and quartered mushrooms. Cook till 70% then take it out. Add in the rice cake (I like Korean ones because they don’t stick together) fry for 5 minutes and add the blanched veggies. Cover for 5 minutes and let the rice cake fully cook. Stir in the meat and mushrooms. Turn off the heat. 2 down, 3 to go.(6:35PM)
  4. Turn on the BBQ outside, Come back in, put the fish fillet and the frozen dumplings on baking sheets. Spray with oil and bake in oven for 25 minutes on high. 3 and 4 down, 1 to go. (6:40PM)
  5. Go back outside with your steak, lay the meat on the grill set timer for 4 minutes per side (VERY Important! You don’t need a piece of charcoal in your life right now).(6:48PM)
  6. Come back in and check on the fish and dumplings. Ask your sous chef to make a dipping sauce, plate the rice cake, bring over the soup and get plates ready for the other dishes. Set the table if you have time.(6:52PM)
  7. Get back out there and flip the steak. Come back in and continue to set the table and bring the drinks while you are at it. Give toddler a 5 min. warning on turning off the TV.(6:56PM)
  8. Turn off the BBQ, pick up the steak and put it in the oven for 10 minute on medium high to cook the inside more. Plate the fish and dumplings.(7:01PM)
  9. TV off, sound dinner bell, get everyone to sit down to admire your creation. Steak is trailing 5 minutes behind but people can start on dinner.(7:06PM)

Elapsed Time: 1 hour 6 minutes.

So there you have it! With practise you can do it. Many thanks to my best sous chef Toby who keeps me rolling in my kitchen and in life. Just watch your fingers around knives and hot handles. Enjoy the food and good times. GongXiFaCai (May prosperity be yours)!

Post Note: The Chinese have the tradition of remembering our love ones who passed away. We setup an extra chair and space around the CNY dinner table. We gather the best pieces of food and put them in a bowl with a pair of chopstick. We thank them for being part of our origin story. We celebrate our time on earth with them in our hearts.

There is ALWAYS a place for mama.

Post post note: We also give out red envelopes to our children during the holidays. It is filled with money and treats. We call this YaSuiQian (money to keep you from getting older). A symbolic way to keep our children being our kids forever.

Red Envelope for our daughter.


Thank you for letting me share some ideas with you. Click “Follow” or “Share” buttons if you want more good things. Leave a comment to share your view with my readers.

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  1. So beautiful Zen, I always admire your technics and timing when you prepare a wonderful meal. You are very much like a musician writing a new song with your instruments finding each note and orchestrating the final cut with precision and harmony.
    Wishing you 3 a wonderful Chinese New Year full of Happiness, Good Health and Lots of Love.

    Missing you all
    Papa Luc

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Luc for admiring our meals virtually. I became a good chef by staying open to all things and having a desire to learn and improve. In fact it is the only way to live a full and exciting life.


  2. When did this turn into Zen’s cooking hour.
    While I agree with Lucas that your technique and care for your cooking is beautiful and delicious, I miss the deeper inquiries into Zen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank for the comments. Yes I do enjoy cooking and good food and I believe all roads leads to Rome. Meaning much of life’s truth can be discovered through everyday activities, such as cooking, gardening, building and the like. That being said I am working on some more deeper inquiries into the philosophies of life. So please stand by. Cheers.


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