Kitchn Love Letters

The Surprising Pieces of French Bakeware I’m Using for Chinese New Year … and Beyond

published Jan 26, 2022
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My favorite festival on the Lunar Calendar is slowly making its way around again. The Chinese New Year lands on February 1 this year and so that means a huge New Year’s Eve feast on January 31 must be prepared and enjoyed with friends and family to ensure a safe, happy, and prosperous year ahead. Although the core of the holiday is to wish and bestow a prosperous and fruitful 2022, I have to confess that, for me, Chinese New Year celebrations all boil down to eating.

As an ABC, a term affectionately given to people who grew up in Australia with Chinese roots, I have always been proud of my Asian heritage. After the December holiday eating period of sugar cookies, cinnamon-spiced cakes, and turkey, I love ringing in the Chinese festive period with umami-rich, slow-braised dishes and other great Lunar New Year recipes eaten throughout the month of January until the big day: New Year’s Eve.

There are some steadfast rules when celebrating the Lunar New Year. Focusing on the culinary aspect of the festivities, families prepare their favorite recipes which are meant to bring good luck, fortune, and immense wealth to all. Fish, pork, lobster, and lots of vegetables — each have their own auspicious meanings to all those who indulge. So, as you can imagine, there is a lot of food prepared for the New Year’s Eve feast.

Credit: Michelle Tchea

Rather than pulling my hair out in preparation for the dinner party (hosting more than 12 friends and a hungry Chinese family), this year will be slightly less stressful because of my favorite French crockery that I use all the time.

A staple in French households, ceramic cookware has long been used to make casseroles and stews. The material helps the dish stay warm, which is great during the winter and also adds to the slow-cooking process required for tender meat stews. My ceramic bakeware comes with a lid, so instead of wrapping root vegetables in foil and having my beets bleed out all over the oven floor (which I can tell you from experience is hard to clean up!), I simply place all my vegetables in a ceramic dish, add a small splash of water or white wine, and put a lid on it. My vegetables steam slightly from the water and come out tender — remaining “juicy” with all their natural flavors.

Credit: Michelle Tchea

My love for ceramic bakeware extends beyond roasting vegetables: I also use it to make banana bread and basically all my cakes now. For Chinese New Year, yes, and the rest of the year, too.

Credit: Michelle Tchea

For Chinese New Year, I’m drawing on my love of ceramic bakeware and using yet another French technique to cook my quintessential Chinese New Year foods. Sticky radish cake is a must-eat dish for Chinese New Year, with the radish loosely translated to mean reaching higher and better in life for the new year. Making radish cake takes a lot of time, with the cake being steamed for hours to help achieve a tender and almost bouncy texture to the cake.

Rather than steaming up my tiny kitchen and using the stovetop (which I need to make three other Lunar New Year slow-braised meat dishes), I’m making my traditional radish cake in my French terrine mold in a bain-marie in the oven. The slow bake and steam from the heat of the oven as well as the tight-fitting lid of the ceramic dish make for a seriously delicious radish cake. After testing the recipe a few times already, I’m quietly confident this Chinese New Year feast will be a breeze. Happy New Year! 新年快樂!

Do you have any ceramic bakeware? What do you use it for?