Of all the winter holidays, Lunar New Year is among the most thrilling for foodies. Some prefer to dine out on traditional dishes like tender poached chicken, while others are keen on celebrating by cooking at home. In the latter camp is Andrew Zimmern, the celebrity chef whose love of Asian food is well-known in culinary circles. You might already be familiar with some of Zimmern's holiday-ready recipes — like his Super Bowl Snackadium or addictive sticky wings — but the chef's Spring Festival fare is beyond compare. Tasting Table recently caught up with the Food Network star ahead of his appearance at the South Beach Wine & Food Fest, and we can't stop thinking about his Lunar New Year menu.
This Lunar New Year, Zimmern's spread will be heavily inspired by Sichuan cuisine, with a spotlight on spicy hot pot selections. "We're doing a Chengdu-style hot pot with 40 different ingredients to dip into it," he tells Tasting Table. "I actually just did the [Lunar New Year] menu, and it's been a couple of years since the main course was a Chengdu-style hot pot." If you're looking for a little inspiration for your Spring Festival spread, you've come to the right place. Zimmern's tried-and-true menu picks, from homemade bao to platefuls of juicy pomelo, are just what you need to get the party started.
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The Ingredients Inside Andrew Zimmern's Homemade Hot Pot
Though Andrew Zimmern's dabbled with other dishes in the past, he keeps coming back to hot pot as the star of his Lunar New Year spread. Selecting dozens of ingredients may seem a bit daunting if you've never served hot pot before, but he's here to put those fears to rest. "It sounds like a lot, but it's actually not, because there's cabbage, onions, carrots, tofu, beans sprouts, and three different types of Chinese greens. Right there, you've got ten or 11 [ingredients,]" he tells Tasting Table. Zimmern also includes several types of fresh protein for guests to indulge in. Aside from chicken and beef, he'll serve up tempting seafood like shrimp, fish balls, and king crab. From there, he tops things off with miscellaneous sides, including mushrooms and pickles. "That's why I love a hot pot. You just put piles of things on wooden sticks," he says.
The "Bizarre Foods" host draws inspiration from his travels to create a stellar banquet. "I do it the way they do it in Chengdu, where you go into restaurants and you pick, and then they pile your ingredients on a tray. Everything's on the skewer, and then you dip it in," Zimmern explains. And the importance of serving the right dips can't be overlooked. "We'll have a seasoned chili and cumin salt to dip into a few liquid sauces, [and] some really fiery hot chili condiments — some chili bean paste, a miso dipping sauce," he shares.
How Andrew Zimmern Completes His Festive Lunar Feast
With the hot pot taken care of, Andrew Zimmern focuses his attention on other mains. "We'll definitely be doing homemade sheng jian bao, which is a bread-y soup dumpling, if there is such a thing. It's very popular in Shanghai, [and it's] one of my favorite types of dumplings," says the chef. The regional Chinese food is typically stuffed with a gelatinous pork filling, then pan-fried for a chewy, crispy exterior. Another staple of Zimmern's Lunar New Year menu is cold sesame noodles, though he'll also make Singapore rice noodles at his son's request this year. "Then, we'll probably have cold, marinated, spicy cucumbers, and big piles of fruit for dessert," he tells Tasting Table.
On the subject of dessert, he has an important tip for Lunar New Year newbies: Pick your produce ahead of time. Zimmern orders fruits, like champagne mangoes and Asian pears, in advance from his local Asian market to swerve potential shortages. "Then we'll just plug in with other stuff. Usually lychee is there, [and] rambutan, if they're in decent shape," Zimmern tells us. Yet, there's one fruit-platter pick he just can't live without. "I happen to be a huge pomelo lover. It's so acidic, it's perfect to have after a big meal like that," says the chef. But if you can't find Zimmern's favorite this time of year, simply swap it out for grapefruit. It's actually a hybrid of pomelo and sweet orange, making it a decent substitute.
Don't miss Andrew Zimmern at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival from February 22-25.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.