Is Food Safety in Your Chinese New Year Fortune?
February 19 marks the start of Chinese New Year. This is a centuries-old occasion when Chinese families come together for special meals, fireworks and gift giving.
During this holiday, “lucky food” will be served which is believed to bring good fortune for the coming year. The most common Chinese New Year foods include dumplings, fish, spring rolls, and fried sticky rice cakes.
Because 2015 is the year of the goat, let’s cover how to prepare it.
Preparing Goat Dishes
- Refrigerate the meat as soon as possible when you get home from the grocery store. Use whole cuts of meat within 3-5 days or ground goat meat in 1-2 days.
- Cook goat steaks, chops and roasts to a minimal internal temperature of 145 °F, with a 3-minute rest time, and ground goat meat to 160 °F, as measured by a food thermometer. If you use goat in a stir-fry or stew, it is important to test the temperature of multiple pieces of meat. Meat pieces are usually not uniform in size, and therefore have different cooking times.
- For safety and quality, allow full cuts of meat to rest for at least 3 minutes before carving or eating.
- Cooked goat meat can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and 2-6 months in the freezer.
- For additional information on preparing goat, see Goat: From Farm to Table.
Dumplings are also very popular during Chinese New Year. These often contain meat in their filling, and if handled improperly can become unsafe. Therefore, you should observe the following food safety tips when purchasing, preparing or cooking meat dumplings.
- When purchasing pre-made dumplings, read the storage instruction to be sure you can keep them properly. Some come frozen and others should be refrigerated.
- When cooking dumplings on your own, remember to cook them thoroughly until the internal temperature reaches at least 165 ˚F. Check multiple dumplings so you have a representative sample of the items you are cooking
Chinese Hot Pot or “Chinese Fondue”
With this cooking method dishes are prepared in a metal pot placed in the center of the table, during large family gatherings. The pot is filled with simmering stock and all the ingredients are added and cooked in the broth. It’s a fun experience and everyone around the table has a chance to cook if they wish to.
After preparing a broth, bring your pot to a steamy simmer. Slowly add thinly sliced chicken, beef, pork or lamb, these will cook in the broth and absorb flavors quickly. Other items you can cook in your hot pot are dumplings; meatballs or leafy vegetables, mushrooms, seafood (fish/shrimp ball, fish cakes, to name a few), and noodles.
When you’re cooking in a hot pot, cook one batch of items at a time. Add your thickest pieces last, and when these reach 165 °F, all meat, poultry slices or seafood are safe to remove from the hot pot. Do NOT add new raw items while still cooking an earlier batch. You should cook one batch of items completely, including all vegetables, and remove all items from the hot pot before starting new food items.
If meats are sliced too thinly, it’s not easy to measure their internal meat temperature, so they should be cooked until steamy hot. Thick pieces will allow you to take their internal temperature, and when these reach 165 ˚F thinner slices and other items in the pot should be safe (if placed in the pot before the thick piece).
Use separate dishes for raw and cooked items to prevent cross-contamination. If raw eggs are used, be sure they are safely cooked until firm (never runny).
Happy Chinese New Year!