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8 delicious Chinese New Year meal kits for feasting at home

From dumplings and roast duck to slow-braised feather beef and vegan banquet boxes, celebrate with these culinary delights 

Kate Ng
Friday 12 February 2021 08:27 GMT
<p>Our testers cooked, roasted, steamed and ate their way through boxes to bring you these top picks&nbsp;</p>

Our testers cooked, roasted, steamed and ate their way through boxes to bring you these top picks 

Chinese New Year is right around the corner, and according to the Chinese zodiac, it’s the year of the Ox. Usually, those who celebrate will be planning the all-important family reunion dinner, held on the eve of Chinese New Year, and scheduling visits to relatives in the following days, preparing red envelopes to be handed out, and more get-togethers with family and friends. It’s a joyous, colourful time filled with food, drink, chatter, and memory-making.

But with the UK – and large swathes of the world – still under lockdown to limit the spread of coronavirus, it’s likely that many people who celebrate will be unable to hold big family reunions or travel home for the festive season.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a Chinese New Year feast, whether it’s to be shared among members of your household or on your own to eat while you hop on a Zoom family reunion. 

Our reviewers cooked, roasted, steamed and ate their way through (endless) boxes of meal kits to bring you the best Chinese New Year feasts to make this year special.

Nearly all kits feed between two to six people, but if you’re feasting as an individual, don’t fret. We’ve provided tips on how to stretch out a box, what to do with leftovers, and if all else fails, dividing portions into tupperwares and knocking on your neighbour’s doors to offer them some of your feast is a great way to spread some cheer.

Read more: 9 best woks to make a speedy stir-fry with

You will need a bamboo steamer for many of the dishes, which is offered as a separate purchase by some of our picks, or easily purchased on Amazon. Top tip – if your bamboo steamer comes with liners, be sure to brush those liners with oil before placing any dumplings on top of them. 

If not, they will stick to the liner and tear the skin of the dumplings when you try to pick them up, which can only lead to disappointment and sadness. Trust us. Alternatively, use non-stick baking paper instead.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. 

My Neighbours The Dumplings The Chinese New Year box

The Chinese New Year Box from my Neighbours the Dumplings, a family-run dumpling house and sake bar based in Hackney and Lower Clapton, is a gift that keeps on giving. Stuffed to the brim with enough food to feed between two to four people (although it could definitely feed up to six people), you’ll be spoiled for choice with this box. Everything is delicious, homely and prepared with care, and will warm even the most homesick of hearts.

Some of the dishes are more interactive than others – with the pork and prawn dumplings, the filling and wrappers are provided and you can wrap them yourself according to the instructions given before boiling them and eating with the comforting fish broth provided. Everything else is easy to prepare by steaming, pan frying or heating in the oven.

The box includes: eight pieces of pork and prawn won tons with pak choi and a light fish broth; four pieces of potato and truffle glutinous rice ham sui gok dumplings; eight pieces of prawn har tau; mock tea leaf salad; six pieces of vegan turnip cake; duck pancake kit with six pieces of flatbread for rolling; steamed fillet of stone bass; lo mai gai sticky rice with chicken and dried shrimp; steamed cake with banoffee and hazelnut sauce and coconut custard; four pieces of black sesame and coconut mochi.

All dishes come with sauces, seasonings and garnishes, and the box also includes a jar of chilli oil and a bottle of black vinegar for dipping. My Neighbours the Dumplings are delivering this box across the UK, and it is available to order now. The first delivery date is 11 February for local orders and 12 February for both local and nationwide orders. The last delivery date for this box is 19 February.

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Pezu raw dry aged Cantonese roast duck by Rice Guys

This was likely the best tasting roast duck our reviewers have ever had, hands down. Some of our neighbours were lucky enough to try some, and have agreed wholly with that statement. Made by Rice Guys, which has been creating delicious staple Chinese dishes since 2017, this whole marinated and dry aged duck easily feeds up to six people. You can even stretch it beyond just the meat – our reviewers used the carcass and herbal aromatics stuffed into the duck to create a broth which was then used to make duck congee and duck noodles.

Preparing the duck will take a little bit or organisation. First of all, make sure it’s entirely defrosted. If you plan to order it early and keep it in the freezer until Chinese New Year, be sure to defrost it the night before. Then, once it’s completely defrosted, the duck must be air dried for between two to six hours. The longer it is dried, the crispier the skin will  be – although our reviewers found the skin to be delightfully crispy even after just a two-hour air-drying period. You can pat it dry with a kitchen towel before leaving it to air dry to help it along.

It then goes into a hot oven for just under an hour. Roasting this duck is idiot-proof, so even if you accidentally put it in breast side down (instead of breast side up like the instructions tell you, but you’ve never roasted a whole duck before like our reviewer and have no idea which side that is), it will still cook beautifully. Be sure to put a tray below to duck to collect the fat as it drips off – and save this fat, as it can be used to cook plenty of other dishes. Carve or chop, and serve with steamy jasmine rice and any chilli-based condiment you have lying around.

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Luban Kitchen Chinese New Year family banquet

This Liverpool-based Chinese restaurant’s Chinese New Year offering is a proper feast with seven dishes, each amounting to two full servings. It will feed between four to six people – however, as the dishes are likely to arrive still frozen, you can squirrel a couple of them away into the freezer to be defrosted and cooked at a later date.

Our favourite dishes were the Chinese mushroom and pak choi dumplings, which are vegetarian-friendly and the Jiang beef slow-braised feather blade of beef which is so tender it falls apart immediately. Good news for vegans – Luban also offers a vegan banquet box (£45), which includes yin and yang hot and sour soup, faux duck pancakes, mapo tofu and noodles. Our reviewers especially enjoyed the faux duck pancakes, which are made with cherry wood roasted jackfruit, and the mapo tofu.

Each dish comes with a simple instruction card on how to reheat the food as well as the timings required, so you can serve everything at the same time and make the most of the feast. If you are planning to keep some things frozen, be sure to keep the cards for the corresponding dishes so you can refer to them later.

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Wun’s Tea Room Chinese New Year feasting kit

Plenty of luck and prosperity fills this feasting kit by Wun's Tea Room, created by the team behind Bun House. The restaurant is based in London’s Soho, but delivers delicious steamed buns, dims, and this Chinese New Year box nationwide. It serves two people, but the box is so generous that our reviewers easily stretched its contents out over two days – which just meant more deliciousness for longer.

To start, you get the lo hey luck toss, a traditional must-have dish for ethnic Chinese communities celebrating the new year in Southeast Asia. It is also known as yee sang, yusheng or lo sahng, depending on where you are and what dialect you speak – no matter what you call it, the dish is united in its symbolism for abundance, prosperity and luck. Its many components (oolong-cured salmon, pomelo, crispy rice, crispy noodle, julienned vegetables, pickles, and a yuzu vinaigrette) are assembled on a round dish and then tossed as high as you can. It’s messy, lucky and delicious.

Also included in the box are Wun’s signature sugar skin iberico char siu pork, which was hailed by food critic Jay Rayner as an essential food, as he wrote: “I need this in my life.” The pork is melt-in-the-mouth fatty, and the best part is that if you can’t finish the generous portions given, keep what’s leftover to be diced and added to a fried rice the next day. Thank us later.

The other standouts in this feast are the sauces. The malt ponzu tahini dressing for the lettuce salad side dish is a revelation, as is the Canton salsa destined to be eaten with the Hainan poached chicken thigh and fragrant rice. It is well worth the price, which also suggests this box is both lucky and prosperous – the number eight is considered an auspicious number by the Chinese – and our reviewers can vouch for that.

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Alta Foods mix and match your own box

Alta Foods’ meal pouches make a great alternative to full-on feasting boxes for individuals and couples who can’t quite commit to the abundance of food offered by our other picks. Being able to choose from a selection of hot and cold Asian dishes made by your favourite restaurants to create your very own Chinese New Year (or any time of the year) feast, and Alta Foods provides the perfect platform just for that.

Limited edition dishes for the festive season are available, including Chinese turnip cake (lo bak go) and sweet rice cake (nian gao), both made by Dumpling’s Legend in London’s Chinatown. The latter is a very traditional dish served during Chinese New Year to celebrate growth and progress. It is sliced and pan fried so it is crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, with sweet coconut and caramelised brown sugar flavours to round off a meal.

Our reviewers especially enjoyed the Vietnamese-style beef tenderloin cubes from Goldfish Hampstead, which is a delicious, peppery dish made with tender pieces of meat. The Dongpo braised pork belly by Dumpling’s Legend is also highly recommended as it melts in the mouth and tastes phenomenal. Vegetarian dishes are also available, such as the mapo tofu and marinated aubergine in chilli, garlic and ginger.

Prices for Chinese dishes start from £5.50 up to £15, so you can create a meal box that fits within your budget. They are extremely easy to prepare as you can simply pop the bag straight from the freezer into a pot of boiling water for around 10 to 15 minutes, and Bob’s your uncle. Serve with steamed or fried rice, noodles or anything that tickles your fancy. 

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Dishpatch Alter Iizakaya feast

Vegans, this is one for you. Alter is a fully vegan brand founded by chef Andy Hogben, who previously worked in the kitchens of Andrew Wong, Som Saw and Dabbous. As a result, this box is quite different – it draws from Chinese, Indonesian and Indian influences to bring together a unique experience that is flavoursome and refreshing. The box feeds two, but can easily be stretched to fulfil a meal the next day.

We were pleasantly surprised that the Izakaya pickles resembled Indonesian rojak – which is also commonly found in Malaysia and Indonesia. Rojak is a sliced fruit and vegetable salad served with a sweet and spicy dressing. Alter’s Izakaya pickles are tangy, sweet and every so slightly spicy, making it a fresh starter or palate cleanser, whichever way you’d like to eat it.

The poached silken tofu in bamboo sauce is also delicious, especially when paired with the Sichuan cold soba noodles. Be generous with the sesame seeds provided as it adds a lovely flavour to both dishes. If by the time you’ve looked through the menu and decided one thing needs to be saved for the day after, we recommend saving the Xi-an-style knife cut noodles for a delicious lunch.

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Old Chang Kee Singapore laksa meal kit

Searching for an alternative to the usual Chinese fare? Look no further than Old Chang Kee’s Singapore laksa. There is nothing quite like a big, warming bowl of laksa, mouthwateringly fragrant and perfect on a cold February night. Rice noodles, beansprouts, prawns and tofu come together in a milky, shrimpy, coconutty soup that smells like heaven in a bowl, and the addition of sambal chilli paste provided by Old Chang Kee in this kit is a must. The umami kick is simply a work of flavour art.

The kit is simple and easy to prepare, and unlike all of our other kits, will actually feed just two people. If you think, surely you can stretch it to say, three people – don’t. You won’t want to share. Our reviewers loved how comforting this bowl is, and will be especially good for chasing homesick blues away for our Southeast Asian readers.

Old Chang Kee is best known for its curry puffs. Nearly every culture has some type of food-wrapped-in-a-pastry, whether it’s a Cornish pasty or a samosa. The curry puff is Southeast Asia’s version of this, and Old Chang Kee’s huge curry puffs are full to bursting with different types of filling and make an excellent breakfast or lunch. Our reviewers especially enjoyed the signature chicken curry puff with egg and the beef rending puffs.

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Makan Malaysia Yee Sang and Chinese New Year snacks

If Chinese New Year for you is defined by the prosperity or luck toss salad and endless snacks, Makan Malaysia has got you covered. The dish is especially known among Chinese Malaysians and Singaporeans, but is practically unheard of in other Chinese-populated regions such as Hong Kong. But Makan Malaysia, based in Reading, is determined to give yee sang the recognition it deserves as a Chinese New Year staple.

The components of this dish consist of raw fish, pomelo, shredded carrots and vegetables, plum sauce, peanuts and sesame seeds, and fried wonton skins for crunch. Each carries its own symbolism, such as abundance, good luck, prosperity, good fortune, wealth and so on. They are piled high on a platter and tossed as high as you can get it – the messier the platter ends up being, the more abundant your luck will be! Our reviewers would recommend putting down some plastic or paper sheets for easy clean-up though.

You can also add a jar of pineapple tarts and peanut cookies to the yee sang order on Makan Malaysia’s site, which are highly common snacks to have for visitors during Chinese New Year, or simply for yourself to scoff as they are really moreish and tasty.

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The verdict: Chinese New Year meal kits 

The feasting box from My Neighbours the Dumplings is superb and worth every penny; our second pick for a major spread is Wun’s Tea Room Chinese New Year Feasting Kit, which is packed with delicious food and is lots of fun to eat. Alta Foods is an excellent alternative if you wish to tailor the dishes you want more, and if you’re just after the snacks, Makan Malaysia will be your go-to.

For more great at-home meals, read our guide to the best DIY kits to buy from your favourite restaurants during lockdown

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