Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
Miss J

Chinese New Year

Recommended Posts

Miss J   

It looks like a gathering at my flat is going to coincide with the first day of the Chinese New Year, and I'd like to observe the event as far as my cooking/sourcing skills will allow.

Does anyone have any suggestions for food, ingredients, or serving? I'm open to both traditional and "nouveau" ideas. So far I'm leaning towards doing a more "Euro twist" approach, but that's probably more about not knowing where to start rather than trying to avoid real Chinese dishes. I've been toying with the idea of kicking things off with lychee martinis, lotus root crisps and Sichuan peanuts, but that's as far as my thinking has gone.

Does anyone know if peach blossoms smell/taste of anything? Or for that matter, where I'll be able to find them in London in February? :wink:


Edited by Miss J (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cabrales   

Traditionally, cherry blossom stalks tend to be utilized for decorative purposes (with connotations of good fortune and luck, etc.) The Japanese do have cherry blossom sake, although that item is very seasonal and I have never sampled it. Cherry blossoms are somewhat fragrant. However, I am unsure they have wide acceptance as a cooking ingredient.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kikujiro   

Who better to answer that question than the FoodTV Network?

(I hope someone who knows more chips in. I just remember various cakey things. I'm sure you could preorder these from an appropriate Chinese bakery. Save you time.)


Edited by Kikujiro (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Miss J   

Me too - I'm starting to move on to thinking about doing something more traditionally Chinese (and most likely Sichuan, thanks to the reliable Ms Dunlop) but I still don't have much idea about what symbolic foods I can take advantage of. So far I've found out that kumquats are a good bet, as well as the little cakes you've mentioned. And I've also found that technically I shouldn't cut up anything on the day, but I suspect I'll have to turn a blind eye to that one...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jinmyo   

Rice slices (tteok).


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cabrales   

Miss J -- You could purchase some special Chinese cakes (not really cakes) in London's Chinatown. The two most common types are (1) white turnip (rough translation into English sounds, "law bak go", which is available at a number of London dim sum places year-round), and (2) a sweet, brown-looking version ("leen go"). These are available as largish circular "cakes", and have to be sliced. For the latter version, dip it into a beaten egg mixture before it is fried. It tastes largely of sugar, and is not particularly interesting (except arguably for its elasticky texture).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steam boat always fun - good way to use that fondue set/random camp stove you never thought you'd need.

The alternative would just be to get everyone together for a mutha jiaozi (dumpling-making) session in the afternoon. The advantage is there's plenty of time to chat and no need to do any cooking. Is not that hard, either, once you have the knack (although round-eye dumplings do tend to look like something the cat dragged in at first.

It's very traditional for everyone to sit round making these sort of dumplings at new year (at least in the north - the southerners are probably busy catching cats, dogs, snakes or whatever they consider apposite). The shape of the dumpling is meant to resemble a gold ingot - symbolising prosperity. The more you eat the more prosperity you will have in the new year.

cheerio

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Taiwanese tradition for a Chinese New Year feast must include:

Dumplings (for wealth)

Celery (for work)

Oranges or Kimquat (also for wealth)

Noodles (Sang Mein for longevity)

A big fish steamed in ginger, rice wine and scallions. You can eat one side, but you can't flip it over. This way you will always have food in your house.

Sweet Rice Cakes (nien gao)

Sesame or peanut crunch candy.

and a house decorated with plum blossoms for good luck.

Have fun!


Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Akiko   

Thank you Bond Girl, that's very interesting!

Jon, what's steam boat?

Does anyone know if the Chinatown in London celebrates Chinese NY with special menus and parades as well as those firecracker things everywhere?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Miss J   

There's usually something going on. The London Chinatown website is here.

There isn't anything about this year's festivities yet, but they usually start listing events around a week before everything kicks off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cabrales   
Long-life noodles (sang mein), yu-sheng and jai are standards at our house for lunar new year.  

regards,

trillium

What are yu-sheng and jai?

I believe trillium's reference to jai is to a primarily-or-all-vegetarian dish. Typically, over the New Year, it contains, among other things "fat choy" (not formal translation) -- a black vermicelli-thin seaweed or vegetable material (?) -- and might contain certain limited non-vegetarian items (e.g., dried oysters, which are pronounced "ho see", sounding like "good things"). The vegetable dish will usually have Chinese black mushrooms, and have a brown-colored sauce. "Jai" generically can refer to Buddhist vegetarian cuisine when used in certain contexts. However, that is not the New Year's reference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Miss J   

A Chinese-Canadian friend in Toronto emailed me this last night:

"Decorations for any chinese new year, the colours are rich with red and

gold. Any golden colour fruit, such as tangerines, kumquats, and red

apples are good. For chinese tradition, there is always a very red and

fancy candy box with a lid (usually round with partitions inside). Inside

would contain candied lotus nuts, candied coconut, candied ginger, red and

black melon seeds, etc. All of these candied items can be found in

chinatown as new year approaches. Also inside would be two red money

envelopes contain a little money (5 quid in each for example) for good luck

(not to give away but just part of the candy box) It symbolises that with

the candy you are offering your guests, you are spreading good luck and good

fortune, wishing them a new year that is sweet, happy & prosperous."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you Bond Girl, that's very interesting! 

Jon, what's steam boat?

Does anyone know if the Chinatown in London celebrates Chinese NY with special menus and parades as well as those firecracker things everywhere?

Otherwise known as steamboat - where you have a heater and a pot of boiling water/stock in the middle of the table and everyone dips in raw ingredients to cook at a minute

then devour with dipping sauce - I prefer peanut with a raw egg yolk beaten in

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
trillium   
Long-life noodles (sang mein), yu-sheng and jai are standards at our house for lunar new year.  

regards,

trillium

What are yu-sheng and jai?

I believe trillium's reference to jai is to a primarily-or-all-vegetarian dish. Typically, over the New Year, it contains, among other things "fat choy" (not formal translation) -- a black vermicelli-thin seaweed or vegetable material (?) -- and might contain certain limited non-vegetarian items (e.g., dried oysters, which are pronounced "ho see", sounding like "good things"). The vegetable dish will usually have Chinese black mushrooms, and have a brown-colored sauce. "Jai" generically can refer to Buddhist vegetarian cuisine when used in certain contexts. However, that is not the New Year's reference.

Yep, I was being lazy and just using the generic term for Buddhist vegetarian (really is vegan) food, but I meant a particular dish that appears around the lunar new year-- bak bo jai which is eight treasures vegetable dish (um, something might be getting lost in the translation). The things you put in it are pretty optional I think, but it should add up to eight, which sounds lucky. Ours usually includes cloud ear, shitake, ginko nuts and fat choy (again because saying it sounds lucky). Some Cantonese versions include dried seafood like oysters, but others think it should be a dish that doesn't have any animal products in it. Eating dead animals or their products on the new year isn't auspicious for some, but others like how oysters sound when you say it and they figure fish doesn't count as meat.

Yu sheng is something traditional amongst Singaporean Chinese and probably Malaysian too. It's a tossed raw fish salad, fish (yu) sounds like excess, which is something you want and sheng is life. Everybody is supposed to toss it at the same time with their chopsticks shouting (or toasting, I guess) "loa hei", which means to mix it up but also sounds like prosper more. From an outsider's viewpoint, a lot of these dishes seem to me to be tasty and have puns which are for prosperity, luck, abundance, etc. and that are why they're eaten at new year. We skipped yu sheng while we lived in Chicago because it was harder to find good sushi grade fish.

It's kinda like xmas and thanksgiving rolled into one and as a kid is pretty cool because you get to eat all these treats you don't usually get (like fried foods and soft drinks) and you get bao, money the married people hand out in little red envelopes.

regards,

trillium

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Rhea_S   

Lots of round items such as the deep-fried sesame mochi balls filled with red bean paste. I seem to think this had something to do with wealth. Cantonese friends always had fatty roast pork or a whole suckling pig.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Miss J   

Thanks everyone for all the suggestions. I've taken them, weighed them up with my sanity and ability to turn things out of my kitchen at a decent clip, and have come up with the following meny. Any final thoughts/suggestions/warnings you may have are appreciated...

Drinks & nibbles: lychee martinis (made a few this weekend, and found them pleasant but lethal - they're best when on-the-edge-of-freezing), strange-flavour peanuts (already made, and probably the best batch I've managed so far), mochi with sesame stuffing (I'll be sure to warn people about the choking issues...)

Cold dishes: (all to be prepped earlier in the day, except for the beef which can be done tomorrow)

Long beans with fresh ginger sauce

Red peppers with sweet & sour vinegar

Beef with tangerine peel and chilies

Hot dishes:

Steamed whole fish, Sichuan style

Red-braised belly pork (to be done Friday and reheated on the day)

Whatever-greens-I-happen-to-find-on-the-day stir-fried with garlic

Long egg noodles with sea flavours

Jasmine tea

Candied kumquats, sesame candies, candied soursop

This should leave me with only two last-minute stir-fry dishes, although the final prep for the fish and steaming will take around 10 minutes as well.

Well? I've done all of these dishes before and have done a similar-ish large menu on one occasion, so know that the steaming/braising/cold dishes combo will make it manageable. Any last words of advice before I go in? :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kikujiro   

You forgot to invite me, but it's okay to just send a taxi round with my food and drink. The only problem is transporting the drinks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      We are all used to unami now. Maybe it's time to consider gan. Particularly found in teas, but also in other foods. An interesting article from a great magazine.
       
      Going, going gan
    • By liuzhou
      I’m an idiot. It’s official.
       
      A couple of weeks back, on another thread, the subject of celtuce and its leafing tops came up (somewhat off-topic). Someone said that the tops are difficult to find in Asian markets and I replied that I also find the tops difficult to find here in China. Nonsense. They are very easy to find. They just go under a completely different name from the stems – something which had slipped my very slippery mind.
       
      So, here on-topic is some celtuce space.
       
      First, for those who don’t know what celtuce is, let me say it is a variety of lettuce which looks nothing like a lettuce. It is very popular in southern mainland China and Taiwan. It is also known in English as stem lettuce, celery lettuce, asparagus lettuce, or Chinese lettuce. In Chinese it is 莴笋 wō sǔn or 莴苣 wō jù, although the latter can simply mean lettuce of any variety.

      Lactuca sativa var. asparagina is 'celtuce' for the technically minded.
       

       
      Those in the picture are about 40 cm (15.7 inches) long and have a maximum diameter of 5 cm (2 inches). The stems are usually peeled, sliced and used in various stir fries, although they can also be braised, roasted etc. The taste is somewhere between lettuce and celery, hence the name. The texture is more like the latter.
       
      The leafing tops are, as I said, sold separately and under a completely different name. They are 油麦菜 yóu mài cài.
       

       
      These taste similar to Romaine lettuce and can be eaten raw in salads. In Chinese cuisine,  they are usually briefly stir fried with garlic until they wilt and served as a green vegetable – sometimes with oyster sauce.
       
      If you can find either the stems or leaves in your Asian market, I strongly recommend giving them a try.
    • By Duvel
      “… and so it begins!”
       
      Welcome to “Tales from the Fragrant Harbour”!
      In the next couple of days I am hoping to take you to a little excursion to Hong Kong to explore the local food and food culture as well as maybe a little bit more about my personal culinary background. I hope I can give you a good impression of what life is like on this side of the globe and am looking very forward to answering questions, engaging in spirited discussions and just can share a bit of my everyday life with you. Before starting with the regular revealing shots of my fridge’s content and some more information on myself, I’d like to start this blog and a slightly different place.
      For today's night, I ‘d like to report back from Chiba city, close to Tokyo, Japan. It’s my last day of a three day business trip and it’s a special day here in Japan: “Doyou no ushi no hi”. The “midsummer day of the ox”, which is actually one of the earlier (successful) attempts of a clever marketing stunt.  As sales of the traditional winter dish “Unagi” (grilled eel with sweet soy sauce) plummeted in summer, a clever merchant took advantage of the folk tale that food items starting with the letter “U” (like ume = sour plum and uri = gourd) dispel the summer heat, so he introduced “Unagi” as a new dish best enjoyed on this day. It was successful, and even in the supermarkets the sell Unagi-Don and related foods. Of course, I could not resist to take advantage and requested tonight dinner featuring eel. Thnaks to our kind production plant colleagues, I had what I was craving …
      (of course the rest of the food was not half as bad)

      Todays suggestion: Unagi (grilled eel) and the fitting Sake !
       

      For starters: Seeweed (upper left), raw baby mackerel with ginger (upper right) and sea snails. I did not care for the algae, but the little fishes were very tasty.
       

      Sahimi: Sea bream, Tuna and clam ...
       

      Tempura: Shrimp, Okra, Cod and Mioga (young pickled ginger sprouts).
       

      Shioyaki Ayu: salt-grilled river fish. I like this one a lot. I particularly enjoy the fixed shape mimicking the swimming motion. The best was the tail fin
       

      Wagyu: "nuff said ...
       

      Gourd. With a kind of jellied Oden stock. Nice !
       

      Unagi with Sansho (mountain pepper)
       

      So, so good. Rich and fat and sweet and smoky. I could eat a looooot of that ...
       

      Chawan Mushi:steamed egg custard. A bit overcooked. My Japanese hosts very surprised when I told them that I find it to be cooked at to high temperatures (causing the custard to loose it's silkiness), but they agreed.
       

      Part of the experience was of course the Sake. I enjoyed it a lot but whether this is the one to augment the taste of the Unagi I could not tell ...
       

      More Unagi (hey it's only twice per year) ...
       

      Miso soup with clams ...
       

      Tiramisu.
       

      Outside view of the restaurant. Very casual!
      On the way home I enjoyed a local IPA. Craft beer is a big thing in Japan at the moment (as probably anywhere else in the world), so at 29 oC in front of the train station I had this. Very fruity …

       
      When I came back to the hotel, the turn down service had made my bed and placed a little Origami crane on my pillow. You just have to love this attention to detail.

    • By liuzhou
      One of my local supermarkets recently installed a sesame seed pressing facility and is now producing sesame oil and sesame paste. Their equipment toasts and extracts the oil and the residue is turned into the paste. Of course, I bought some of each.
       
      I have only used the oil so far. It tastes and smells more intensely than any I have bought before. The aroma also seems to last longer in a dish.
       

       
      These are the white seed versions. They also do black seed oil and paste which I haven't bought yet.
       
      Neither has any brand label - only a bar code on the back so that the check-out staff can deal with it.
       
      I am sorely tempted to try this recipe from Carolyn Philips for celtuce with sesame oil, paste and seeds. I'll let you know how I get on with this or any other recipe. Suggestions welcome, as always.
    • By liuzhou
      I think you’ll see in a moment why I didn’t just post this on the Lunch! topic. It was exceptional. An epic and it has been an epic sorting through the 634 photographs I took in about three hours. If I counted correctly, there are only 111 here.
       
      Like so many things, it came out of the blue. I was kind of aware that there was a Chinese holiday this week, but being self-semi-employed I am often a man of leisure and the holidays make little impact on my life. This one is in celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 duān wǔ jié) and although it features nothing boat-like, it was festive and there is a dragon link.
       
      It started with this invitation which appeared on my WeChat (Chinese social media) account.
       

       
      Longtan (龙潭 lóng tán) means Dragon’s Pool and is more of a hamlet. It is about an hour’s drive north of Liuzhou city. I’d never heard of it and certainly never been there, but a friend of a friend had decided that a “foreign friend” would add just the right note to the planned event. I’ve seen many pictures of such “Long Table“ lunches and even attended one before – but this one was different and I was delighted to be invited.
       
      So, I was picked up outside my city centre home at 9 am and the adventure began. We arrived at the village at 9:45 to be met by the friend in question. He led me to what appeared to be the head man’s home, outside which was a large courtyard with a few men sitting at a trestle table seemingly finishing a breakfast of hot, meaty rice porridge washed down with beer or rice wine. I was offered a bowl of the porridge, but declined the beer or rice wine in favour of a cup of tea. After downing that and making introductions etc, I was left to wander around on my own watching all the activity.
       
       

       

      Rice Porridge
       
      Here goes. I'm posting these mostly in the order they were taken, in order to give some sense of how the event progressed.
       

       
      These two men were the undisputed kings of this venture, organising everyone, checking every detail, instructing less  experienced volunteers etc. It was obvious these men had been working since the early hours. and their breakfast was a break in their toil. There were piles of still steaming cooked pork belly in containers all over the courtyard.
       

      Some of this had been the meat in the rice porridge, I learned.
       
       

      This young lad had been set to chopping chicken. Not one chicken! Dozens.
       

       

       

       

       

      Entrails, insides and fat were all carefully preserved.
       
      In the meantime, the two masters continued boiling their lumps of pork belly. This they refer to as 五花肉 - literally "five flower" pork", the five flowers being layers of skin, fat and meat.
       

       

       
      Another man was dealing with fish. Carp from the village pond. He scaled and cleaned them with his cleaver. Dozens of them. 
       

       

       

       

       
      And all around, various preparations are being prepared.
       

      Peeling Garlic
       

       

      Gizzards and intestines.
       

      More Pork . You can see the five layers here.
       
      to be continued
       
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×