Dinner With A Couple Of Little Rats And Roosters

Dumplings and Ribs

Dumplings, Sweet and Sour Sauce, Soy Dipping Sauce and Chinese Spare Ribs Braised in Soy Sauce

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that the ponytails were fired up about Chinese New Year. My oldest daughter was working on writing a short play about it and was talking non-stop about how great it was to be a rooster (her Chinese zodiac animal). Meanwhile my youngest daughter was counting down the days until the Chinese New Year parade at school.

Don’t you love the way children find such joy in learning new things?

We really want to encourage and embrace this interest the girls have in different cultures and traditions. So, I bought them each a children’s book about Chinese New Year on my way home from a business trip and decided that we would celebrate it too.

Soon after that I asked my colleague Amanda if she could recommend a few authentic Chinese dishes. But she didn’t just provide me with some ideasβ€”she surprized me with a very large carrying case full of all the essentials for a Chinese New Year celebration: decorations, candies, sauces and noodles. I was blown away by her generosity!


Some of the treats from Amanda: crunchy peanuts, candies and Korean crackers.

However, we did encounter a set-back. At the last minute, my husband was asked to go to an important work event on Feb. 1oth. But after Amanda’s kind gesture, there was no turning back. Close friends Carolyn and Glen agreed to join the girls and I for our celebration. With two young daughters the same age as the ponytails, it would mean an evening with two little rats and two roosters (according to their Chinese zodiac animals of course)!

Armed with a great dumpling recipe from Amanda, I set out to research some other ideas for our feast. Two bloggers came to mind immediately: Norma from Garden to Wok and Sissi from With a Glass. Norma teaches cooking classes and has written two cookbooks: My Students’ Favorite Chinese Recipes and Wokking Your Way to Lowfat Cooking. An avid gardener, she also keeps her loyal readers up-to-date on the adventures in her garden with regular Harvest Monday posts. Based in Switzerland, Sissi has a flair for creating innovative recipes that are inspired by her love of a diverse range of cuisines, particularly Asian and Hungarian cuisines. I met Sissi in the early days of blogging and I’ve been a fan of her site ever since.

When I saw Sissi’s Chinese Spare Ribs Braised in Soy Sauce I knew that I had to make them. They looked sticky and fall-off-the-bone good. Well, I can tell you that they didn’t disappoint. Best. Ribs. Ever. OMG, you must make these ribs. The flavour combination of the dark soy sauce, star anise and cinnamon is really incredible. However, you MUST use the dark soy sauce (which I had never used before) because the regular soy sauce simply will not achieve the same result. The dark soy sauce is thicker and more intense in flavour than regular soy sauce.

Sissi’s Chinese Spare Ribs Braised in Soy Sauce

I also returned to Norma’s Shrimp Stir-fry recipe that I’ve made a number of times with great success, but I used snow peas in place of the asparagus this time. This dish went really well with the Chinese noodles that Amanda gave us. Best of all, it’s a low-fat recipe!

Shrimp and Snow Peas

Norma’s Shrimp and Snow Peas Stir-fry

I also found inspiration from the online version of one of my favourite magazines, House & Home. The lemon sauce for this chicken is nothing like the version that you get at a restaurant or with your favourite take-out. You’ve got to try this Lemon Chicken recipeβ€”the flavour is just amazing.

Lemon Chicken

Almond cookies are a traditional way to end a Chinese New Year celebration and kids love them. The texture of these cookies was spot on with what I’ve had in restaurantsβ€”they had a bit of a crunch but still melted in your mouth. Next time I make them I’m going to play around with the recipe, as I prefer not to use shortening in my baking.

Almond Cookies

And what celebration would be complete without a live performance? Our two adorable roosters and rats entertained us with original songs such as: We Are the Roosters; Sweet Love and a rap song entitled Hurricane.

Two Rats Performing

Two cute “rats” ham it up.


Rockin it out with the rats and the roosters!

It was a night of great food, with great friends. In fact, we had so much fun that I think this just might become an annual celebration for us. Now I just need to find a way to repay Amanda’s generosity. Any suggestions?

Recipes from Our Chinese New Year Celebration

Sissi’s Chinese Spare Ribs Braised in Soy Sauce

Norma’s Shrimp With Snow Peas Stir-Fry

Lemon Chicken from House & Home Magazine

Sissi’s Baked Wonton Crisps and Sweet and Sour Sauce from Chow.com

Almond Cookies from Canadian Living

Pork Dumplings

Adapted from Amanda’s recipe

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 package of dumpling wrappers

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Mix all ingredients (except dumpling wrappers) well in a large bowl.

Place a level tablespoon of filling in the centre of each dumpling wrapper. Moisten edges with water. Fold in half and pinch together to create a pouch that seals in the mixture. Alternatively, you could use a dumpling or ravioli maker as I did that automatically seals each dumpling. I did need to double check each dumpling and pinch any spots where it wasn’t completely sealed by the ravioli maker. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.

Steam the dumplings for 10 to 12 minutes. (Use a pan/wok of boiling water and bamboo baskets for steaming.) Alternatively you can boil them in water for 5 to 6 minutes. They can also be fried afterwards (but I didn’t do this).

For the dipping sauce, mix the soy sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl. Serve with the dumplings.

Prep work

Thanks to Sissi’s suggestion, I used my ravioli maker to make the dumplings.


  • I followed a tip from Sissi and used a ravioli maker to make the dumplings. It worked really well. You could also use a dumpling sealer, but I didn’t have one.
  • I used 2 kg of pork ribs, so I tripled Sissi’s recipe for Chinese Spare Ribs Braised in Soy Sauce. Be sure to cut the ribs into individual portions as this is key to the success of the recipe. However, I didn’t cut the ribs in half vertically as Sissi did and I was still happy with the results.

43 Comments on “Dinner With A Couple Of Little Rats And Roosters”

  1. What a great cultural treat for all the girls. The rats and roosters are having a ball.The food looks delicious. Thanks for the recommendations.

  2. Everything looks so enriching and delicious my friend πŸ˜€
    New experiences with food rock!


  3. A_Boleyn says:

    It looks like you and the littles had a great time.

    The entire menu is a winner. I want to be invited next time to enjoy the food and the musical portion of the evening. I never thought of using my ravioli/pie maker to seal the dumplings. Definitely something to make on my next cooking weekend. The lemon chicken looks great. All the recipes for this dish I’ve seen have been so complicated.

    Happy New Year from a (not-so) little monkey.

  4. The Life of Clare says:

    What a lovely celebration! Love that you encourage your girls to try everything!

  5. Saskia (1=2) says:

    Amazing post Barb. The spare ribs and dumplings look incredible, but it’s the lemon chicken that is calling my name! Have bookmarked it. That was my favourite take-out meal as a child (and I still secretly love it). The ponytails and their friends are hilarious.
    PS. What a lovely colleague you have.

  6. Norma Chang says:

    That’s was quite a feast you had, congrats on a fun and successful evening. The little “rats” and “roosters” sure hammed it up.
    How wonderful that your ponytails find joy in learning new things and you encourage and embrace this interest the girls have in different cultures and traditions.
    Thanks for the shout out.

  7. Tandy says:

    I keep going back to salivate over those ribs. What a great way to learn about other cultures πŸ™‚

  8. Eva Taylor says:

    Wow, they do look incredibly tasty Barb. With two very dependable recommendations, yours and Sissi’s, I will definitely have to try these, and I think I do have ribs in the freezer! Norma also has very tantalizing recipes on her blog, so many tasty things to choose from.
    How generous of your friend to give you all the trinkets to celebrate Chinese New Year so well! My sign is the Rabbit, can you believe it? And speaking of rabbits, why don’t you give your generous friend a kit for Easter egg painting and other Easter trinkets? Now I’m going back to review the recipes again, particularly the lemon chicken, that one looks like I could easily incorporate it into our weeknight repertoire. The dumplings look great too…so many tasty treats to try.
    The ‘rats’ and ‘roosters’ look like they had a blast, I bet Kevin was very disappointed not to be able to attend your celebration.

  9. Wow! You had quite the spread and I’m sure the kids really enjoyed your celebration! The ribs with the dark soy sauce look delicious!

  10. ChgoJohn says:

    What a feast you prepared, Barb! Everything looks so fresh and appealing, just like good Chinese food should. And what a show to end the evening, costumes and all! It looks like you all had a great time, though too bad your DH missed out on the fun. That’s just another reason to have another celebration next year. πŸ™‚

  11. A wonderful feast indeed! Happy Chinese Zbew Year, as it runs for the rest of February I can say that and it’s not too late! The red pocket candies are a big favourite here and (as you can only eat them) once a year, I’m still having my fill!

    Your banquet looks amazing! Glad to hear it’s so much fun, you’re considering an annual thing too πŸ™‚

  12. Haha such cuties! I remember doing things like this when I was a kid. What an incredible spread πŸ™‚

  13. Natalie says:

    Such an amazing variety of foods! It all looks so good but those ribs especially are making me hungry!!

  14. Ahh man this whole post has my belly rumbling. What an awesome collection of food, yum yum! Cool rocking rats too =) Made me giggle!

  15. Ali says:

    What a great evening you had! I love that your girls are learning about Chinese New Year…things might be different now, but I don’t remember learning anything about CNY until I was well out of school! It’s great to be so multi-cultural…and one of the best things about it is the food! Great recipes, I know my DS would love those ribs especially (he became quite fond of ribs during our time in Canada!).

  16. What a fun sounding evening with delicious food and entertainment.

  17. petit4chocolatier says:

    I love it!! What a wonderful feast! Looks like a lot of fun too πŸ™‚
    Everything looks so tasty! Over the top delicious!!

  18. Sissi says:

    Barb, I’m honoured, I’m moved, I’m almost speechless. Two recipes from my humble blog on during such a magical feast? I’m really thrilled to learn you have loved the ribs and the baked wonton chips. Especially the ribs looked so unappetising on my blog… I am surprised you have believed my words and tried them anyway! Yours look so much better! Dark soy sauce is a category on its own isn’t it? Now I will be dreaming of ribs all weekend… (Too late… I have already bought the weekend meat supply!). Thank you so much for all the kind words about me and my blog. I’m really touched and flattered.
    Your friend is such a thoughtful, wonderful person… All the food, of coursing including the delicious dishes you have prepared, seems extraordinary. Thanks to the performance you must have had lots of fun! Thanks for sharing these magical moments with us! How about offering her a different ethnic cuisine-based gifts?
    PS I have never checked what Chinese sign I am! I must do it know.

  19. Charles says:

    Oh, lemon chicken – that wonderful dish which I’ll never get to eat (well, at least not in a family setting). I slaved away over a stove, I made a delicious dish – I loved it to bits… my wife declared it vile and foul and has informed me that she’ll never eat it again… sigh 😦 It wasn’t this recipe though… just something I hashed together myself, I still greatly enjoyed it though!

    The other dishes look fantastic – I remember Sissi’s post on the ribs and how wonderful they looked. What a great evening you all had – food and song and fun!

  20. What a wonderful, fun evening! It never ceases to amaze me how excited children are to learn new and different things. It is so important to bring up our children open minded and tolerant of all races and religions. My son had a great time when he did his “holidays around the world” unit.
    The ponytails had a blast I see, good food and great entertainment, what better way to celebrate! Food looks great too!


  21. Alex says:

    Brilliant! πŸ˜› Oh, and I gave you a Liebster award on my blog! Congratulations and have a great, fantastic, wonderful weekend!

  22. thehungrymum says:

    What a feast πŸ™‚ Home-made dumplings are *the* best.

  23. Oh, the kids are beyond adorable. And that looks like a proper feast, delicious!

  24. That was really a celebration and fantastic dishes worthy of the Chinese New Year! Everything looks so delicious, Barb and those ponytails and friends…uh, I mean rats and roosters, are adorable. What a nice friend to give you those great and festive items to inspire and round out the party. πŸ™‚

  25. Kristy says:

    Oh my gosh! Our kids would get along so well Barb. I have two little performers on my hands as well. They put on a show for us today in fact. Miss A is also a rat! She was very proud of that fact the past few weeks. They too had learned about the Chinese New Year at school and were both very excited. You made a great themed meal. I love the idea! πŸ™‚

  26. I agree with the sentiments about your girls trying different things. Seems like so many kids make an incredible fuss, so it’s neat that they’re so open to it all. I myself don’t have children, but I have definitely introduced friends who were hesitant to try something, to things that they ‘thought’ they hated. My boyfriend…hated brussel sprouts until I asked him to try them the way I make them; they are now one of his favorites. Another friend had it out for goat cheese….until i whipped up an appetizer that she went nuts for.

    Now…that stir fry you’re showing…I am DEFINITELY going to have to try that:) I could eat shrimp for dayyyyyyssss. πŸ™‚ It all looks delicious! πŸ˜€

  27. Great little round up of Chinese dishes and I love the look of those Chinese Spareribs. Fall off the bone delicious. Xin Nian Kuai le! Take care, BAM

  28. Sammie says:

    Wow I love how you celebrated cny and encouraged your little girls to embrace different cultures! That’s a feast you prepared there! Haha I can’t help but feel a little guilty for not really cooking up for the new year! Lol

  29. This was just the best post to read tonight.. I just LOVED that you did this for your girls, they’ll never forget a single minute of that night! And your photos of them, my goodness, they’re so adorable:) I’m going to have to try these dishes, maybe not all at once, but one at a time so I don’t get stressed out! You’ve really pulled off a great menu! xx

  30. the braised spare ribs really looking good…
    try to add some chinese five spice and szechuan peppercorn….

  31. easycraftsforchildren says:

    I have nominated you an award please check out my blog.

  32. Dina says:

    Excellent! Good fun reading as well! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  33. Fabulous – love Chinese food! Looks like a fun evening πŸ™‚
    Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I am just copying your lemon puppy seed cake recipe for a weekend treat!

  34. laurasmess says:

    Thanks for taking a look at my blog lovely… I just wanted to make an actual comment to let you know that your recipes, stories and photography are beautifully honest and heartwarming. You’re fast becoming one of my favourite bloggers πŸ™‚ I look forward to sharing more recipes and stories as the year progresses! x

    • What a lovely comment Laura…you’ve certainly made my day. Thank you for dropping by and your comment. I popped by your blog quickly tonight, as I’m desperately trying to get caught up on my correspondence and “family coordination” now that we’ve just returned from vacation. Glad to have found you — I can see that you are a wonderful writer and I look forward to sharing recipes and stories with you also.

  35. You have a great adventurous cook! Nice!

  36. Sorry to flood your comment section! What I meant to say is “You have a great adventurous cooking spirit!” πŸ™‚

  37. […] friend Barb made an incredible feast for Chinese New Year, she had so many delicious things it was really difficult to choose just one. But when I saw the […]

  38. A_Boleyn says:

    I dropped in from Eva’s lemon chicken post (again) to salivate over your Chinese New Year’s menu. So many great dishes.

    PS: Even though I always thought I was born in the year of the monkey, it turns out I’m very near the turn of the previous year and am actually a SHEEP! Oh the humiliation. πŸ™‚

  39. […] friend Barb made an incredible feast for Chinese New Year, she had so many delicious things it was really difficult to choose just one. But when I saw the […]

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