News and links – Chinese New Year edition

Happy Chinese New Year! Gung hay fat choy! Tonight is the eve of the new year, and when I think of new year I automatically think of food. If you are interested in celebrating the Year of the Rabbit, here are a couple of interesting links for you.

Chinese New Year 2011

by Leticia L, on Flickr

And if you want to see what I get to eat during this time of year, check out this series of posts from a couple of years ago: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

Enjoy the new year! I know I will, if I can manage to roll myself out of my chair after all that food.



Chinese New Year – part 4

The last part of my second Chinese New Year dinner was made up of chicken braised with shiitake mushrooms (a.k.a. dried black Chinese mushrooms that were re-hydrated) and black moss, as well as some BBQ eel for the fish dish (sorry, no pics of the fish). I had no hand in making this, except for eating it with great pleasure.

Braised chicken with mushrooms and fat choy black moss

Braised chicken with mushrooms and fat choy black moss

The moss was always something I loved eating as a kid as I always found it fascinating. The stuff basically tastes like a less salty seaweed, has a texture similar to vermicelli, and looks like hair. It also absorbs liquid really well, so when placed into a soup or braised stew, the flavours are all soaked up into the moss. Authentic black moss should actually be a very dark green, not black. If it’s black, it’s fake. Chinese usually eat the moss during new year celebrations because it’s called “fat choy,” which in Cantonese is very close to the words for prosperity and riches (as in the new year greeting Gong Hei Fat Choy).

I’m somewhat troubled by the Wikipedia page about fat choy. Apparently it’s the cause of erosion and desertification in the Gobi desert and Qinghai plateau. And some doctors in Hong Kong came out with a report saying that eating fat choy may lead to the development of degenerative diseases. I’m not 100% convinced about the medical report as it’s only one study and people have been eating this stuff for hundreds of years. The environmental impact troubles me though. We may not eat it again after we finish the packages that I bought last Friday.

Also, why are the mushrooms generally more well known in English using the name shiitake? They originated in China, not Japan. Curious. I’ve wondered this about daikon too. Maybe I’m thinking about it too much. 🙂

Anyway, I hope you had a lovely Chinese New Year. I know I did.

Chinese New Year – part 3

The second recipe that I tried from Fuchsia Dunlop‘s Land of Plenty, was a green bean dish. This doesn’t necessarily have any specific meaning for Chinese New Year, but I thought it would be an interesting one to try. The fresh green beans at the grocery store were unfortunately in horrible shape, and I had been so frustrated by the crowd at T&T on Friday that I didn’t end up buying any vegetables from there, so instead I ended up using some frozen green and yellow bean mix that I had lurking in my freezer.

Haricots verts in ginger sauce

Haricots verts in ginger sauce

The taste was much lighter and cleaner than the lettuce, and I think I preferred this dish over the previous one. I did screw up a couple of times on this simple recipe. Unfortunately my knife skills suck (I probably need to take a cooking class at NAIT), and I did not slice the ginger finely enough. I also really overdid it with the amount of ginger. Whoops. I think if you wanted to, you probably could even reduce the amount of ginger listed in the recipe as the raw ginger taste is pretty strong.

One change I made to the recipe was that I doubled the amount of vinegar so that all the beans were nicely coated and had a bit of tang to them. I would also recommend making the sauce a little earlier and letting the ginger soak in the liquid for a little bit, so I moved the order of the directions. Continue reading

Chinese New Year – part 2

For Chinese New Year, there are a number of traditional foods that you are supposed to eat to ensure prosperity, good fortune and wealth for the coming year. These include items such as fish, oranges and chicken.

This is the first year I have volunteered to contribute to the meal, and I decided to test two recipes from Fuchsia Dunlop‘s Land of Plenty, a Sichuanese cook book. The first was a lettuce dish; the Cantonese word for lettuce sounds close to “rising luck and fortune.”

I couldn’t find my sesame seeds… and I was lazy and dumped everything into a bowl, then went ahead and mixed the sauce and lettuce. Tasted fine, but made for a lousy photo! A really, really lousy photo. This would be a good dish for someone who loves the taste of sesame. I found it a little rich for my taste however, and would probably use less sauce on my lettuce if I made it again. The second recipe will be in my next post.

Lettuce in sesame sauce

Lettuce in sesame sauce

Continue reading

Chinese New Year – part 1

Chinese New Year food

Chinese New Year food

Tonight is Chinese New Year eve, and I went to a family dinner. Managed to take a quick shot of some of the food that was eaten this evening. Missing from the photo was roasted duck, a dish of whole steamed fish, a dish of stir-fried shrimp and sugar snap peas, a dish of stewed lotus root and pork, and soup similar to shark’s fin soup but using pollock as a substitute for the shark’s fin.

Pictured from the top left, counter clockwise:

  • poached chicken (broth was used to make the soup)
  • sesame balls and deep fried pork balls
  • spring rolls
  • homemade deep fried shrimp and fish balls

Oh my poor, poor diet!

Next, the food I’m making for dinner #2.