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2020 year of the mouse: how and where to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Milan – Italian Cuisine

The year of the mouse begins on January 24th. How and where to celebrate, between Chinatown and the other Milanese restaurants

It is better to start looking at the fact that the Chinese New Year is not a minor holiday, given that as it was for Halloween and Christmas, it is expected to become a global holiday soon. In Milan, it is already a classic, thanks to the oldest Chinese community in Italy and the annual celebrations that animate via Paolo Sarpi and the surrounding area just on New Year's Eve. "In China, the New Year is the most anticipated event of the year and one of the most heartfelt holidays", explains the owner of the Gong Oriental Attitude restaurant, Giulia Liu. “It's like combining Western New Year and Christmas in one occasion. For this reason, families come together to share this moment of joy. It is considered such an important holiday that the Chinese who work or live abroad, and who can afford it economically, are not afraid of spending even very high amounts just to buy a plane ticket and go home. "

Chinese New Year

New Year's Eve in China, or Spring Festival, begins on the eve and this year falls Friday 24 January, but the celebrations will continue for 15 days, until February 8, the date of the Lantern Festival. For the Chinese this is the most important holiday, so deeply felt that it entitles you to three days of vacation. It's a big party with parades and fireworks, but unfortunately also the peak tourist period in Asian countries (and the most expensive).

Chinese horoscope: you are of the mouse sign

The Chinese horoscope is not broken down by months, but by years. Each sign is represented by one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Mouse, Buffalo, Tiger, Cat, Snake, Dragon … the year of the Pig is about to end and that of the Mouse will open. All born in 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984 and 1996 are of the sign of the Mouse – a zodiac sign that represents wisdom, being shrewd and a little calculating, almost engineers. Who was born under this animal (which is the first of the Chinese Zodiac, because according to the legend before the Buddha, shortly before his death, mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster had presented themselves , dog and pig, in this order) is a great communicator, intelligent and very clever, it is said that the mouse managed to get first in front of Buddha jumping on the back of the ox.

The parade in Paolo Sarpi

It is celebrated on the evening of the eve, with the traditional dinner, fireworks are expected in Asia, and then the next day we go to see the Lion Dance, the parade with what looks like a dragon to us. In via Paolo Sarpi the parade takes place on Sunday afternoon and all the various Chinese schools and associations in Italy parade between music and customs. Sunday 2 February we start at 14 from Piazza Gramsci (MM Lilac Jerusalem).

What is traditionally eaten

"Chi fan le mei you"? "Have you already eaten" ?: It is the most common welcome when you enter a house in China that is preparing to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Eve dinner is a party. Traditionally we eat fish and abound with food as a sign of good luck. Abundance in the northern Chinese countries is also underlined by the offer of children dim-sum (jiǎozi) closed in a sack: the more they eat on New Year's Eve, the more money they earn in the coming year. Their shape resumes that of the gold and silver ingots (Yuánbǎo) which served as currency in Imperial China: non-rectangular ingots, in the shape of a rod, but oval, like a small boat with bow and stern facing upwards . Traditionally the Jiǎozi are filled with minced pork, shrimp or vegetables, and must be served in parallel rows, and not in circles, because these represent the "don't go anywhere". In the countries of Southern China, instead, they are served cakes of the year or New Year's cakes, le niángāo 年糕, also called in Italian rice dumplings, since they look much more like dumplings than cakes. Traditional closing of a New Year's meal are the classics sweet rice balls, tāngyuán, which with their spherical shape represent the reunion of the family and being together on holidays. Moving on to fruit, oranges and mandarins are never missing on Chinese tables, whose round shape recalls the idea of ​​fullness, abundance and prosperity. In Chinese pastry shops there are sweet rice puddings that look like English puddings.

The menu is shared

In more "traditional" Chinese restaurants, the New Year's menu is served all over the table. You choose a menu of dishes, more or less rich, more or less long, which will arrive in the center of the table more or less all together. There is no first-second-side dish sequence and to party you need above all a lot of variety, more than quantity. The price is often set, which is € 150 or € 500, while the number of participants is free. A sort of buffet at the table – where the Florentine that comes sizzling with a bottle of red wine is the maximum of luxury. Or you opt for a special tasting menu, served all over the table. “In China today – explains chef Zhang Guoqing of the Bon Wei restaurant – people eat differently at the restaurant. The traditional dishes remain but only within the home walls or in a restaurant; when you go out to a certain level the recipes range between the ingredients, preferring valuable raw materials also from other countries, such as truffle and foie gras, further enhanced by the combination with large wines". To drink then look to the West, even with scotch whiskey, like Johnnie Walker who launches a new limited edition bottle for the Year of the Mouse.

But here's where to go to Milan to celebrate.

At Bon Wei, the contemporary tasting menu

Also this year the Bon Wei restaurant, which offers many specialties of the regional chinese cuisine, wanted to celebrate the Chinese New Year 2020 with a 10-course tasting menu created by chef Zhang Guoqing in combination with a selection of champagne and wines by Cuzziol GrandiVini. We leave the known patterns, without forgetting the legends of the past: it opens with the Golden Sand Soup, an invigorating soup with abalone bisque and salted duck egg yolk, which hides in its dense meat broth a shao long pao filled with crab, followed by the Yellow Grouper, oyster sauce and ba lung gua, a soft nest resting on Chinese courgette and lotus chips, with a delicately refined taste, and the spoonful of black Shao Mai with scallop and Xing Bao Gu, where the steam dim sum is placed on a sauce of Xing Bao Gu mushrooms, pepper and ginger. Then Huang La King Crab, or "spicy yellow" King Crab, Zhejiang-style lamian, rice and Foie gras – the emblem of Contemporary China conceived by chef Zhang. And still the Fior di Abalone, a very precious and less known mollusc in our latitudes, whose fleshy pulp stewed at least 18 hours goes well with the winter taste of broccoli. Finally, a single portion of dark chocolate and gianduia with a cherry and black cherry jelly named Hong Lao Shu: "The Red Mouse", designed by Bon Wei's new pastry chef, Sonia Latorre Ruiz.

Mu Dim Sum, for those who love Hong Kong cuisine

From 20 to 26 January, MU dimsum celebrates the anniversary with a special tasting menu, made up of the most traditional dishes of Cantonese culinary culture. The menu is made up of eight dishes, the lucky number par excellence, plus a dessert: dishes rich in tradition and symbolism, which from the tables of Chinese families arrive at the restaurant to wish a happy new year to all those who will have the pleasure of immersing themselves in the atmosphere of Hong Kong.
Each course was chosen for what it symbolizes, for its name or for its ingredients, and creates an auspicious taste path. It starts with the Xiao Long Bao Mapo, a red plate, the color brings good luck to the menu; continue among others with the crispy pork belly, a symbol of abundance and prosperity; stewed scallops, whose Chinese name means "May you add years to your already long life" or a dish with precious ingredients, sauteed rice with prawns and foie gras, for a wish to get double the expected harvest. To close the meal, you can choose between the "Cake of the year", whose Chinese name sounds like "best year", or the traditional rice dumplings, whose circular shape and pronunciation recall the concept of "being together".

Da Gong, special dumplings

“For us at Gong, cooking is first of all culture, therefore, also on the occasion of New Year's Eve, we want to revive the ancient Chinese traditions with a special dish: Rice dumplings, tofu cream, edamame, crispy bacon and kimchi powder. ”Explains Gong Oriental Attitude owner Giulia Liu. Among the most popular dishes for the Chinese New Year there are rice dumplings, which, according to ancient traditions, bring wealth and luck. For the Chinese New Year 2020, the Gong restaurant offers this "auspicious" dish that will remain on the menu throughout the year. The soft consistency of the gnocchi is combined with the creaminess of the tofu cream. To give character and flavor, the crispy bacon and, for a pleasantly sour finish, the kimchi powder (fermented cabbage with spices) is added. The vegetable part of the dish is given by the steamed edamame.

Bao in the tea room at Baokok

Bokok is a Cantonese tea room restaurant, a Hong Kong style cafe but in via Paolo Sarpi. The right place to enjoy dim sum, plates of Chinese and Asian fusion cuisine that the young chef (graduated from Brera) Michele Yang and his staff make according to traditional recipes and with a touch of unprecedented creativity in combinations and condiments. Bokok is also a bit of a library, with many books in Italian and Chinese arranged on the shelves, available to anyone who wants to devote some of his time to reading between a dim sum and a tea, freely stopping in the restaurant. For the Chinese New Year, two new special baos will be on the menu and will remain on the menu for the entire year of the Mouse starting from January 25th: Zi Shu Bao, a bao with purple potatoes and golden dust (Shu is the name of the mouse in Chinese. Purple is a color that brings luck and is synonymous with nobility, since it was the color of the city prohibit or the residence of the emperor (purple in Chinese is part of the name of the forbidden city) and legend has it that if a purple cloud was seen above the royal palace this meant the advent or birth of a great and powerful emperor. So eating the purple Bao brings good luck and the gold of the golden dust brings money) and the Char Siu Bao, a bao with pieces of marinated pork shoulder inside with soy, honey and ginger and baked in the oven, a dish among chef Yang's must-eat dishes. Eating pork means taking wealth, not just money but everything positive.

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Milan: a tavern to talk and taste good things – Italian Cuisine

Milan: a tavern to talk and taste good things

We have tasted some dishes for you at Le Api Osteria in Milan. Here are our impressions

I confess it: in my free time I always tend to go to the same restaurants, a little out of laziness a little because I need to get out of the discovery / research / criticism mood that has always characterized my work. But when a friend proposed us an after cinema The Api Osteria (it is written like that) which I had heard and read only well, I said yes.
Meanwhile, let's define the geographical area: Milan, zone XXII Marzo. After seeing Hammamet (where I assure you Pierfrancesco Favino who plays Bettino Craxi is monumental and I would immediately give him the Oscar), we sat in this small restaurant. Full glance, but not repulsive, not too noisy (to speak one does not need to read the lip), adequate light to see the dishes and the faces without feeling questioned, slightly subdued design (somewhat basic tables and chairs ). Menu along the right.

I order Vitello tonnato cooked in pink dot with cranberries soaked in grappa and fresh pear. Definitely good, meat with the right consistency, excellent flavor / tenderness ratio, the sauce has personality, the aroma of grappa is light while blueberries awaken the palate when you are getting used to the creamy consistency of the dish. My friends order creamed cod, artichoke cream and barigoule artichokes, Taggiasca olives and Venus puffed rice. Personally I never order cod because in the end it is always too salty. This is not the case and then the combination with the creaminess of the artichokes is a revelation. Pisarei (which are flour and breadcrumbs gnocchi) follow with prawns, bacon and lentil cream with rosemary. Applause for the bacon, crispy at the right point, the presence of rosemary that is known to be hard to manage is a little exaggerated. They are those ingredients that if you distract yourself invade all the other flavors. Closing: Caramel mousse, raw cut orange almond sauce with waffle. Very fine as an idea, all very fresh thanks to the presence of citrus, but also very much greedy. A nice dinner, suitable cost, € 85 for two and we also took seconds, plus there were several bottles of a Trentino chardonnay. Bravo lo chef Hide Matsumoto, already in the Davide Oldani brigade of the D’O restaurant in Cornaredo. Definitely someone who knows what he is doing and who cooks our tradition with the ability to broaden horizons without distorting the base. The only drawback: a slightly lukewarm service, without empathy, I lacked a little warmth (leapiosteria.com).

Iyo Aalto, the best sushi (and not only) above Milan – Italian Cuisine

Iyo Aalto, the best sushi (and not only) above Milan

In the Torre Solaria, in Porta Nuova, there is now a place worthy of the best Japanese in London or New York for location, kitchen, service, cellar. With a sushi counter and a restaurant where omakase and fusion are celebrated. We will tell you

The first thought that came to mind upon entering Iyo Aalto, the new club of Claudio Liu is that twelve years have passed since – 24 years old together with the brothers Giulia and Marco, who then became patrons in their turn – opened Iyo Taste Experience. A restaurant that season after season has grown to the point of entering the small great history of cooking: in 2015 it became the first ethnic cuisine venue to win a Michelin star, which it still maintains. For years, Liu – Italian of Chinese origin – felt the need to raise the level further and in love with Japanese cuisine, decided to focus on the theme with Iyo Aalto, teaches that in the name it combines the historical one with the location in Piazza Alvar Aalto, on the first floor of the Torre Solaria, the tallest residential skyscraper in Italy, with its 143 meters and 34 floors. "If they had asked me to decide where to open my second place, I would have chosen this corner of Milan," says Claudio. And it is difficult to blame him, considering that the square dedicated to the Finnish designer is already high compared to the street level and therefore from the windows of the new restaurant, the view is suggestive.

Large room, large cellar

The restaurant – like all the one of the Liu family – is very nice, designed by architect Maurizio Lai. A layout that is divided into 320 square meters divided between sushi counter, lounge, outdoor area, kitchen and the large wall-mounted cellar, which can accommodate up to 1,600 bottles from all over the world – with six different temperature zones – including those of Japanese spirits and whiskeys. Savio Bina, one of the best and most experienced Italian sommeliers, takes care of it. The references to the millenary tradition of Japanese catering alternate with contemporary elements and unprecedented design. Gray green porphyry and canaletto walnut wood dominate. The porphyry slabs with split finish, coming from the only quarry in the world of Trentino, make up the septum that separates the restaurant room from the sushi counter, visually distinguishing the two proposals. The wood covers the boiserie and the ceilings create a warm and sophisticated atmosphere. The details in glass, brass and natural leather characterize and enliven the rooms. Particular attention was paid to lighting project – where light becomes an important element of the story – to enhance the wood, stone and glass surfaces and create different light scenarios for each table.

Edomae zushi applies

The sushi counter is the fulfillment of a desire cultivated for a long time by the patron: to give life, in a symbolic place of New Milan, to a ritual that is found only in Japan: for a few close friends (eight, by reservation only) the spirit is celebrated dell 'edomae zushi, which has its roots in the Bunsei era (1818-30) or the final phase of the Edo period (which in Japanese means Tokyo). In the omakase edomae, the nigiri are prepared in front of the guest and served one at a time according to a progressive sequence of fatness and umami. It is a rich journey, which alternates between express sushi at intervals of authentic Japanese 'cooked cuisine', whether steamed or grilled robatayaki, which smokes silently behind the sushi master Masashi Suzuki and Luciano Yamashita. A rigorous ritual, which obeys fundamental factors such as seasonality, the daily selection of the finest fish, spasmodic attention to rice – which cannot be relegated to a simple complement – the intolerances and idiosyncrasies of each guest. We sat at the counter: for quality of food, care in preparation and creativity – after a few weeks of work – we are close to perfection. And the three hours fly between bites.

The chef is from Puglia (but from the world)

The second environment is a real one gourmet restaurant, with 38 seats, in which the boundless patrimony of Japanese cuisine is filtered by the Apulian chef Domenico Zizzi, a talent that the patron brought back to Italy after five years spent in Japan. The starting point are the products and the 'ways' of the Rising Sun, freely interpreted, through the experience gained alongside great names in the kitchen such as Joël Robuchon, Carme Ruscalleda and Heinz Beck, to create a kitchen without borders. There is a great deal of technical and research work on the raw material alongside it japanese products such as mentaiko, nagaimo, yuzukosho and wagyu a foods from all over the world like Spanish ñoras peppers, Mexican amaranth or Comacchio eel.

Cosmopolitan cuisine

The three tasting – Hitotoki (eight courses at 120 euros), Yasuragi (ten at 135 euros), Ukiyo (thirteen at 150 euros) – they express a linear and harmonious synthesis, true an increasingly cosmopolitan and interconnected cuisine, which from the heart of Japan moves towards Europe. And here too it is poetry: Scampi, apples and amaranth; Wagyu, aubergines, black garlic and yuzukosho; Dashi, 12 cereals and cucumber tsukemono; Anguilla, nagaimo and sansho; Nitrogen yogurt, nut crumble and meringue. Well done everyone, very good Claudio Liu: commitment, passion, class. With Iyo Aalto it's not just him to make yet another qualitative leap in an already remarkable career, but Milan that can boast a Japanese who lives up to London or New York.

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