Fireworks, parades, and a feast of steamed and stir-fried vegetables, spring rolls, dumplings, whole fish, glazed chicken, and more mark Lunar New Year celebrations in China. At Milk Street, we take our inspiration from this holiday for a menu that’s as straightforward as it is delicious. The use of sweet rice flour gives a unique crispness and satisfying chew to our skillet-cooked Sesame Scallion Bread. Nearly any kind of noodle will work with our chili and scallion noodles recipe, made with a soy-vinegar sauce inspired by Fuchsia Dunlop, the author of The Food of Sichuan. Lastly, we layer bold spices and robust aromatics for no-sear Chinese Beef Stew With Chickpeas and Star Anise.
Sesame Scallion Bread
Makes 4 servings
This bread, known as zhima dabing—which means big sesame pancake—is similar to Chinese scallion pancakes, but is much larger and thicker and has a lighter, fluffier crumb. If you’re unable to find sweet rice flour with the baking ingredients, check the Asian food aisle for a white box labeled “mochiko” (the Japanese term for the flour). Don’t use regular rice flour in , its place, as it won’t produce the same texture. And don’t use pre-toasted sesame seeds, while the seeds brown deeply as the bread cooks; toasted seeds may end up scorched and bitter.
Chop the scallions by thinly slicing them, then running the knife over them a few times to further break them down. To make sure the scallions stay fresh, prep them toward the end of the dough’s one-hour rising time. Don’t worry if some of the scallions are exposed on the surface of the dough as you flatten it into a round.
1⅔ cups (217 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
¼ cup (40 grams) sweet (glutinous) rice flour (see note)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon honey
4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
4 tablespoons sesame seeds, divided
2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil
In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix both flours, the yeast, and 1 teaspoon of salt on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, whisk ¾ cup warm (100 degrees) water and the honey until dissolved. With the mixer on low, slowly pour the honey water into the flour mixture. Continue mixing on low until an evenly moistened dough forms, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and check the dough; if it feels wet or very sticky, add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Continue mixing on low until smooth, about 4 minutes. The dough should feel tacky but not stick to your fingers.
Coat a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil, add the dough, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 1 teaspoon of the remaining sesame oil. Turn the dough out onto the baking sheet and use your hands to press into a 12-by-9-inch rectangle. In a small bowl, toss the scallions with the remaining 2 teaspoons sesame oil, then distribute evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Starting from a long side, roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch the seam to seal. Roll the cylinder seam side down, then coil it into a tight spiral and tuck the end under. Using your hands, press the coil to slightly flatten, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, and press to adhere. Flip the coil and sprinkle the second side with the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Press and flatten into an even 10-inch round.
Add the grape-seed oil to a nonstick 12-inch skillet and swirl to evenly coat the bottom. Carefully transfer the dough to the skillet; reshape into a 10-inch round, if needed. Cover with a lid and let rise until it has about doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Place the covered skillet over medium heat and cook until the bottom of the bread is deep golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Uncover and, using tongs and a wide metal spatula, carefully flip the bread. Cook until golden on the second side, about 3 minutes. Slide the bread onto a wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Cut into quarters to serve.
Chinese Chili and Scallion Noodles
Makes 4 servings
While we preferred udon noodles, lo mein and even spaghetti are fine substitutes. A simple chili oil, made by infusing vegetable oil with red pepper flakes, can be adjusted to taste. To soften the bite of the scallion whites, we add them to the hot oil.
Don’t walk away while heating the oil. The sesame seeds can burn in an instant, and the red pepper flakes will blacken and become bitter. The seeds should be just turning golden, and the pepper should be pleasantly fragrant.
12 ounces udon noodles, lo mein, or spaghetti
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
¼ cup grape-seed or other neutral oil
5 teaspoons sesame seeds
1¼ teaspoons red pepper flakes
12 scallions, white and green parts separated, and sliced thinly on the bias
4 fried eggs, to serve (optional)
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, then drain. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil.
Set a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the neutral oil, sesame seeds, and pepper flakes, and heat until the pepper flakes are fragrant and the sesame seeds begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the scallion whites, then transfer the oil mixture to the bowl with the soy sauce mixture.
Add the cooked noodles to the sauce and toss. Add the scallion greens, reserving some for garnish, and toss. Divide among 4 serving bowls and top each with more scallion greens and a fried egg, if desired.
Chinese Beef Stew With Chickpeas and Star Anise
Makes 4 servings
We use beef shanks, as the bones contribute richness to the simple braise. Serve with steamed or stir-fried greens and rice or warmed flatbread.
Don't add all of the chickpeas to the pot with the beef. We add only half with the meat; with long cooking, these chickpeas soften, adding body to the braising liquid. We add the remaining chickpeas at the end so they retain their texture and contrast the tender beef.
2 pounds bone-in beef shanks (about 1 inch thick), trimmed
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil
6 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 bunches scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced, dark green tops cut into 1-inch lengths, reserved separately
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems minced, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately
4 star anise pods
2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns, ground
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
¼ cup soy sauce
Two 15½-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Heat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the lower-middle position. Season the shanks on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons black pepper; set aside.
Set a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the garlic, scallion whites, cilantro stems, star anise, Sichuan pepper, and five-spice powder. Cook, stirring frequently, until the scallions begin to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and 3 cups water, then add the beef shanks and half the chickpeas. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook until a skewer inserted into the meat meets no resistance, 1½ to 2 hours, stirring once halfway through.
Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the beef to a medium bowl. Remove and discard the star anise pods. When the shanks are cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-size pieces and return to the pot; discard the bones. Stir in the remaining chickpeas and cook over medium heat until the meat is heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Off heat, stir in the reserved scallion greens and cilantro leaves.
Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.