$40 Dinner Party - Chinese New Year

Chef Kim and I are back with our next $40 dinner party. As always, we are providing you with the menu, recipes, photos, and grocery list to host your own 3-course dinner party for 6 people, and everything can be purchased for under $40.
3 courses, 6 people, 40 dollars, no kidding!

This time, we've created a menu in celebration of Chinese New Year (January 31st). We had several things in mind that we wanted to make, and after hearing from a friend about her family's favourite dishes for Chinese New Year, we were ready to get cooking! (Thanks for the help, Chantal!)

Once we actually got in the kitchen, we realized that this menu has more food than any previous $40 Dinner Party....and guess what? It was the least expensive one yet! With lots of leftover ingredients to save for another day, this entire dinner party came to just $34.80!

Baked Sesame Wonton Chips

1 package of wonton wrappers
1 egg
1/4 C Sesame Seeds
Sea Salt

Cut wonton wrappers in half to make rectangles, as pictured. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Whisk egg in a small bowl, and brush over wonton wrappers. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and sea salt. Bake at 350` for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. {Chef's Tip: These can be prepared the day before and stored in an air-tight container.}

Vegetable Spring Rolls

12 sheets of rice paper
1 C coleslaw mix
1 C bean sprouts
1 C grated carrots
1/4 C green onions
1/4 C frozen corn (optional)
1 can bamboo shoots, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch knob ginger, grated
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tblsp soy sauce

Combine all ingredients (except rice paper) in a large bowl, and stir well to combine. Dampen rice paper, and allow to rest on a clean dry surface. Place approximately 1/3 C of filling on each piece of rice paper.

I talked Kim into giving you a demonstration of how to roll a spring roll:

Scallion Pancakes (from The Kitchn)

1 1/4 C flour
1/2 C warm water
1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped

Mix flour with water until it forms a smooth dough. Knead by folding the dough over and pressing down repeatedly. Do this until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Rub oil on the ball of dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Divide dough in to 2 equal portions. Oil the back of a large baking sheet. Roll dough into an extremely thin rectangle. Brush top of dough with oil, and sprinkle with green onions and salt. Beginning on the long edge, roll up tightly (as if you were making cinnamon buns).

Once fully rolled, coil the dough like a snail.

Roll coiled dough into a round, flat pancake. Repeat with remaining half of dough.

Lay the pancakes (one at a time) in an oiled pan over medium heat. Cook for 2-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Cut into wedges to serve.

Szechuan Green Beans

1/2-3/4 Lbs Green Beans
1 T oil
2 dried chiles (Use 3 if you like it really spicy, or 1 if you are a little scared)
1 clove garlic, minced

Blanche green beans by cooking in boiling water for a couple of minutes, until they turn a bright green. Remove from boiling water and immediately plunge into a large bowl of cold water to stop them from cooking. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large pan, and add dried chiles. Stir together and let it pop. {Chef's Tip: Adding chiles to the oil first is infusing the oil, which will really increase the flavour of this dish.} Add green beans all at once. Stir constantly, warming the green beans and tossing with the flavoured oil. Add a pinch of salt and the minced garlic clove. Stir until very fragrant. Drizzle with a little sesame oil, and remove from heat. {Chef's Tip: Generally add sesame oil at the end of cooking. Heating sesame oil for too long can lose some of the trademark flavour.}

Sesame Chicken (Adapted from Budget Bytes)

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
1 can bamboo shoots, drained
1 C (+/-)  bean sprouts
1/2 C soy sauce
1/3 C water
1 1/2 Tblsp sesame oil
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C rice vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
3-inch knob (+/-) ginger, grated
1/3 C sesame seeds (plus more for serving)
2 Tblsp corn starch

Combine all ingredients for sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Cook chicken for 3-4 minutes until fully white and starting to brown. Add bean sprouts and bamboo shoots. Stir to combine. Make a well in the centre of your pan, pushing the chicken and vegetable mixture towards the sides of the pan. Pour sauce mixture into the centre. Stir the sauce quickly until it thickens, then mix with remaining ingredients. Remove from heat. Serve sprinkled with additional sesame seeds

Vegetable Fried Rice 

1 egg
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 C grated carrot
2 C coleslaw mix
2 C bean sprouts
3 Tblsp oil, divided
2 1/2 C (+/-) cooked rice
1 clove garlic, minced
2-inch knob ginger, grated

Whisk egg, soy sauce, and sesame oil together. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tblsp oil in a large pan. Add carrots, bean sprouts, and coleslaw mix. Stir to warm and soften. Make a well in the centre of the pan, pushing all the vegetables towards the edges. Pour 1 Tblsp oil into the centre and top with rice. Stir the rice into the oil (without mixing in the vegetables) to warm and toast the rice. Add garlic and ginger, then stir all ingredients to combine. Make a well in the centre of the pan again, and add the egg mixture. Scramble egg. Once cooked, stir to combine with rest of the rice and vegetable mixture. {Chef's tip: Cilantro or Thai basil would be a great addition at the end of this preparation.}

Steamed Sponge Cake

4 eggs, divided
1 C sugar, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Whisk egg yolks with 1/4 c sugar. Set aside. Sift flour and baking powder together, and set aside.

Beat egg whites until frothy. Gradually add 3/4 C sugar and vanilla. Beat until very stiff. Fold egg yolks into whites. Fold flour mixture into egg mixture until combined. Pour into a lightly greased 8-inch square pan. Place the pan on a rack in a pot or wok of boiling water. The water should just reach the rack. Cover and steam for 30 minutes, or until firm. May be served hot or cold.  {Chef's tip: Since steaming a cake is not the most common method, why not prepare this dish in front of your guests and serve it warm? Share the experience of steaming the cake together.}

Grocery List
1 bag coleslaw mix (an easy way to ensure evenly shredded cabbage)
1 bag bean sprouts
1/2-3/4 Lbs green beans
1-3 dried chile peppers
2 bunches scallions
1 pkg wonton wrappers
1 pkg Rice Paper
Sesame seeds
2 cans bamboo shoots
Soy sauce
Rice vinegar
Sesame oil
3Lbs boneless skinless chicken breast

Pantry List
Baking powder
Frozen corn

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