Today marks the start of Chinese New Year, the first day of festivities as the year of the ox turns into the year of the tiger.
While Chinese restaurants across the country will be celebrating with elaborate feasts, if you can’t get to one you’ll need a plan B. That might be a takeaway, cooking your own dishes, or it could also mean a trip to your local supermarket, where a wide range of Chinese-inspired snacks and treats are available.
This year, Marks & Spencer caused a minor internet storm with its Lunar New Year special, the panda bao. Despite it being the year of the tiger, the mushroom-filled baos are inspired by China’s national animal and have, reportedly, flown off the shelves.
We took a sample, along with a range of products, to restaurateur Amy Poon. If the name’s familiar it’s because she’s the daughter of Bill who ran the fabled Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant Poon’s in the 1970s.
Amy, now resurrecting the brand with a range of sauces and pop-ups (including a Chinese New Year celebration at London’s Mortimer House on February 9-10) was, it’s fair to say, sceptical. The majority of Chinese dishes, she explains, are best prepared just before eating, not sitting in the chiller cabinet of stores for days on end.
How would these premade wontons, spring rolls and more compare to the real deal? There was only one way to find out (and if they sound just too dismal, we’ve included a list of some stellar Chinese restaurants around the country too)…