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Perfume Illuminated : Happy Chinese New Year!



This week brought us the Chinese Year of the Tiger and today Roxana and I are celebrating with some fabulous flavors and fragrances that will bring all of the festivities of the Chinese New Year to your home. The Chinese New Year or Spring Festival began this year on February the 14th and depending on which province your living in the festivities can go on for awhile!  If you’ve spent time recently in any of our wonderful Chinatowns you wouldn’t have missed the excitement. Decorations with the theme of “Happiness ,Wealth and Longevity” are everywhere and everything is bathed in a beautiful red, the color that the Chinese associate with happiness , prosperity and abundant good luck!

All over China families buy beautiful presents for each other as well as gorgeous decorations for their homes, clothing and abundantly wonderful food. Hours are spent with entire families from the youngest to the eldest thoroughly cleaning their homes to sweep out  any residue of bad luck so that the coming New Year will be prosperous and wonderful for all who reside there. 

The spectacular displays of colorful dragons, paper lanterns and lights are fiery and fanciful and the delicious festival food that is available  in the shops and restaurants during this fabulous holiday is sublime. The Chinese New Years Eve feast is incredible and filled with delicious dishes made from exotic vegetables laced with duck, chicken and pork.  The desserts are exceptionally rich, sweet and very extravagant.  The partying goes on until the wee hours of the morning when firecrackers and fireworks light up the sky and the children finally go to bed. Several hours later they’re awake and excitedly wishing their parents a Happy New Year! Gifts of money wrapped in pretty red paper envelopes are then given to the children with kisses and blessings for a wonderful New Year!


I personally love the warm spicy flavors that make up the sumptuous Chinese New Year foods so I decided to create a couple of my own feast dishes to enjoy.  Both of them use a ginger syrup that I’ve created out of the Chinese 5 Spice Blend that I buy from Penzey’s spices as well as the Pink Peppercorns and utterly delicious Roasted Szechuan pepper salt that they sell. The Five Spice blend is sumptuous and incredibly fragrant, a perfectly balanced blend of Cinnamon, Star Anise, Anise seed,ginger and cloves.  After I give you the recipe for the syrup we’ll enjoy a spicy ginger martini made with the Five spice syrup and then we’ll move to the showpiece of the evening ,  an Eight Treasure rice pudding made with coconut milk and dried fruit! The Eight Treasure rice is a traditional New Years festival dish although it can be found year round at weddings and at different restaurants.  Its traditional name is Babaofan and it’s generally a molded dessert made from very glutinous rice and bean paste and studded with 8 different types of fruit and nuts chosen for their jewel like qualities. Mine is a rice pudding, mostly because that’s the way that I wanted it! I’m warning you up front…this is not a dish for counting calories. It’s very rich, but as a reward for a virtuous week there isn’t anything more sublime!

To make the Five Spice Syrup you will need:

1 bottle of Izze Apple soda

4 tablespoons of Ginger Marmalade

1 teaspoon of pink peppercorns

1 tablespoon of Chinese Five Spice Powder

4 shakes of Roasted Szechuan Pepper Salt

Put  all ingredients into a saucepan pan and bring them to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. It will all boil down into a  delicious syrup, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and bottle until needed.


Cocktails first?    Why of course!

To make this delicious Five Spice and Ginger martini you will need:

I jigger of Ketel One vodka (or whatever you like)

I Jigger of Patron Citronge   or if you can’t find it, Grand Marnier will work well in it’s place.

A splash of Orange flower water

A splash of Blood orange bitters

One tablespoon of the Five Spice Syrup

Place all of the ingredients into a shaker with some ice made from branch water and shake until really cold. Strain it all into a chilled martini glass that you’ve garnished with a pretty piece of Thai basil and a peeled orange slice. I loved gilding the lily with a chopstick threaded with some crystallized ginger. My husband pronounced it “Mysterious with a very seductive floral taste”.  It’s very sweet so it’s definitely a fun drink to enjoy with dessert!


Making the Eight Treasure Rice pudding isn’t as complicated as you might think. It’s actually a bit like making risotto, but with coconut milk and water! The end result is beautiful , delicious and very satisfying and you actaully get a different flavor and texture in every bite. I stopped short of using chocolate chips in mine although it was really very tempting. Definitely next time!


You will need:

1 cup of white rice- I used Arborio

1 can of coconut milk- don’t go for the low fat stuff here- use the  700  calories  a can version!

3 cups of water

1 and a half tablespoons of Chinese Five Spice Powder

3 tablespoons of Palm sugar (more if you want it sweeter) Palm sugar is the dehydrated sap of the date palm tree. Its delicious, a bit like butterscotch!

Put the rice into a saucepan and turn on a medium heat, toasting it lightly. Then add the whole can of coconut milk and begin to whisk it gently , not stopping as the rice begins to absorb the milk. As you need it add the water and keep whisking. It will eventually all absorb leaving you with a yummy creamy rice pudding.  Then add the palm sugar, Five Spice powder and stir.

Now add 8 special fruits or nuts of your choice! Today I used diced fresh mango, raisins, chopped dried mango, dried cherries, chopped crystallized ginger, chopped pistachios, chopped almonds and chopped maraschino cherries mixed with orange peel.  (that’s actually  nine but who’s counting!)

Put into individual serving bowls and drizzle a bit of the Chinese Five Spice Syrup over the top but be careful!  A little bit goes a long way!


To complete your  evening how about some wonderful Tiger Eyes? This really excellent instructional video shows you how to create one of the hottest eye looks ever in honor of the year of the Tiger!

Now, head on over to Roxana Villa's Illuminate Journal to enjoy her musings 

on the exotic fragrances of the Chinese New Year

Pictures of Ginger Martini and 8 treasure rice courtesy of Beth Schreibman Gehring

PIcture of San Francisco Chinatown courtesy of: 

PIcture of Chinese 5 Spice Courtesy of:



Delightful !
Many fine wishes to you and yours, baby ;-)


I like that fierce little red lion next to the ginger martini!

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