CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (WDVM) — It’s been said that the best way to learn about a new culture by exploring their food and at 9 Dragons in the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is gearing up for Chinese New Year with traditional dishes eaten during the celebration.
Chef Kin Tsoi is the head chef of 9 Dragons and has been cooking since he was 9 years old. He explains that one of the signature dishes of his restaurant, the whole fried rockfish, is getting a tasty twist for the Lunar New Year. He also says that the celebration does not follow the Gregorian calendar like the United States but rather follows the seasons.
“Chinese New Year is the start like the first day of spring for the Chinese calendar, to celebrate for next new year: be healthy, wealthy, and happy,” Chef Kin explained.
Chef Kin says that new years dishes can vary in the different regions of China but a whole fried fish can often be seen on the table during the celebration feast. He explained that his cooking is influenced by Southern Chinese flavors as he is a native of Hong Kong. He also says there is a special significance behind his choice of whole fried fish for the Lunar New Year celebrations.
“Anything they [eat to] celebrate Lunar New Year for dinner, it has to be – everything has to be whole. It’s not like chopped-up filet or something. It be like start to finish,” Chef Kin explained.
While this dish only takes a few ingredients, Chef Kin says you don’t have to worry if you aren’t too keen on frying a whole fish at home. He explained that while he deep-fries the fish whole in his kitchen at 9 Dragons, others are known to pan-sear or steam the fish. He also says that any type of fish can be used for the dish, it just has to be cooked whole.
When preparing the entre for diners at 9 Dragons, Chef Kin cuts slits into the sides of the fish and seasons both sides. He then coats the fish with dried water chestnuts, which he says can be substituted for corn or potato starch at home. He makes sure to coat every part of the fish including the slits on the filets before deep frying for 10 minutes.
He then makes a sauce with brown sugar, soy sauce, and Asian cooking wine and preps his toppings: fresh Julienned, or matchstick, ginger, scallion, and red Bell peppers, which is a new addition for the Lunar New Year as the color red is lucky in Chinese culture.
Chef Kin says that while it only takes 10 minutes to prepare in his professional kitchen, home cooks can expect the whole dish to come together in 30 minutes.
If you don’t feel like whipping up these dishes in your kitchen, you can always support your local Chinese restaurant for Chinese New Year. The Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races will be kicking off the Chinese New Year celebrations this Sunday, January 31st, with a traditional dragon dance at 7:00 p.m., and a concert at 8:00 p.m.