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Try Asian meals during Chinese New Year

Try Asian meals during Chinese New Year
Try Asian meals during Chinese New Year
Suetta Tingler

Food scientists tell us the Japanese introduced them, the Chinese popularized them and the Americans eat them. For many of us, the anticipated ending to a Chinese meal is a fortune cookie, our destiny wrapped in cellophane.

Chinese food has long been a family favorite. One of my first adventures after returning to Harrison County was to go in search of an Asian supermarket along Gilmore Avenue in Louisville. My husband, Ken, and I have long been fans of exploring diverse ethnic areas. This same interest has led us to wander the Chinatown districts of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Toronto, Canada, and London, England. As for attempting to cook Chinese recipes at home, I don’t hesitate to try. I feel lucky to have had an Asian friend who was a terrific international cook to encourage me to purchase my first wok.

February celebrates the Chinese New Year, the most important and longest holiday for the Chinese and where celebrating a family dinner, referred to as “family reunion,” is the central, most important event.

For more than 3,500 years, a classification system known as the Chinese zodiac assigns a select animal along with its believed attributes to represent each year in a repeating 12-year cycle. 2022 is the Year of the Tiger.

In Chinatowns across many parts of the world, the sound of firecrackers will usher in the happiness of the holiday while ridding it from the sadness and evil spirits of the past. Homes are thoroughly cleaned to sweep away bad luck. Windows and doorways are decorated in red paper lanterns. It’s important to put away all brooms on New Year’s Day so not to sweep away the incoming good luck. Bowls of tangerines and vases of fresh cut flowers are displayed to symbolize good fortune and prosperity.

People are called upon to reconcile grudges, pay debts and to visit the elderly. Buying new shoes and getting haircuts must take place before — never during — the New Year celebrations to avoid bad luck. The wearing of red-colored clothing is said to bring good luck; black and white just the opposite. It’s a time to express peace and happiness.

In addition to feasting on fish, duck, chicken, pork and sweet pastries, the Chinese kitchen is the center of many interesting superstitions. Fowl is cooked with heads, tails and feet as well as fish with eyes to symbolize abundance and togetherness during the New Year. Noodles represent longevity and are not to be cut unless when eaten; otherwise, a life could be shortened. In fact, the use of knives and scissors is not allowed on New Year’s Day. Perhaps, the most serious of the superstitions is never to eat squid or calamari during holiday celebrations in fear of being fired from your job during the incoming year.

Hints and tips:

•Principle rule of Chinese cooking is to have everything ready before beginning.

•The best woks are made of carbon steel; electric and those lined in nonstick coating are not usually good investments.

•No wok? Use a deep-sided cast-iron skillet.

•No Chinese noodles? Substitute spaghetti or linguine.

•It’s easiest to slice meat thin when slightly frozen.

If tired of the same old menu and fast food has become a bore, then get your chopsticks ready to dig into these “easy to make” Asian recipes.

HOT AND SPICEY
BROCCOLI BEEF

1 bunch fresh broccoli
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic (Oriental food aisle of grocery)
1 teaspoon toasted peppercorns, crushed
1 pound flank steak
6 tablespoons peanut oil
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin
1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 (8-ounce) can bamboo shoots, drained
Hot, fluffy rice
Cut broccoli into small flowerets. Rinse with water and drain. Combine soy sauce, sherry, water, chili paste and peppercorns. Cut meat into thin slices against grain and marinate in soy mixture at least one hour. Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in wok; stir-fry onions until tender. Remove. Stir-fry broccoli in 2 tablespoons hot oil for one minute. Cover with lid, steam 2 to 3 minutes. Remove. Drain meat, reserving marinade. Stir-fry meat in 2 tablespoons hot oil 5 to 7 minutes until browned. Add cornstarch to reserved marinade; cook in wok, stirring until it boils and thickens. Add broccoli, onions and bamboo shoots; stir and heat through. Serve with rice. Add more chili paste if “hotter” taste desired.

The best fried rice dishes are made from cold, long grain leftover rice. Feel free to add or substitute vegetables (red bell pepper, baby corn, broccoli, raw carrot, frozen peas).

SHRIMP FRIED RICE

1/2 cup peanut oil
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Chinese cabbage, finely chopped
1/2 cup water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
3 cups cooked rice, cold
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cups cooked, shelled shrimp (or substitute equal amount of chicken, roast pork or scallops)
2 tablespoons butter
4 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Salt and pepper
In a wok, heat 1/4 cup oil until very hot but not smoking. Add scallions, cabbage and water chestnuts; stir-fry for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup oil and stir in rice, soy sauce, sesame oil and shrimp; cook for another 5 minutes, adding more oil if necessary. Melt butter in a separate skillet. Mix together eggs and milk; pour mixture into skillet and scramble. Mix into fried rice. Adjust taste with soy sauce, salt and pepper. Serves 4.

CRAB RANGOON

1 (6-1/2-ounce) can crabmeat, drained and flaked
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 package wanton skins
Oil for frying (peanut oil is good)
In a bowl, combine crabmeat, cream cheese, onions, garlic powder, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Place about 1 teaspoon of the mixture at the center of a wanton skin wrapper. Fold to form a triangle. Moisten its edges with water and press to seal. Heat oil to 375 degrees and deep-fry the filled wantons until golden brown. Serve with commercial hot mustard or sweet and sour sauce.

TAPIOCA WITH
SAUTEED NECTARINES

3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups milk
2 large nectarines, slice each into 20 wedges
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Combine tapioca, sugar, 2 tablespoons honey, salt, eggs and milk in a saucepan and whisk to combine. Let stand, without stirring, for about 5 minutes. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a full boil. Transfer to a medium bowl set over a bowl of ice water. Let stand to cool, stirring occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat remaining honey in a skillet over medium heat. Add nectarine wedges and sprinkle with ginger. Cook until fruit is just tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Divide pudding among 4 dishes and spoon nectarines over. Garnish with mint if desired.

Bok choy is a popular green veggie in Chinese cuisine, ranking among the top three fruits and vegetables considered superfoods. It is packed with plenty of healthy nutrients that include vitamin A, calcium and vitamin C for your heart, bones, skin and more.

BOK CHOY

1 pound washed Bok choy
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup broth
Olive oil
Salt and pepper or soy sauce to taste
Chop Bok choy and garlic cloves; sauté in broth for 4 minutes. Toss with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper or soy sauce to taste.

CHINESE NEW YEAR COOKIES
(“The Cotton Country Collection”
Monroe, La., Junior League)

1 (6-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate bits
1 (6-ounce) package butterscotch pieces
1 (3-ounce) can Chinese noodles
1 (7-ounce) can peanuts, salted
In double boiler, melt chocolate and butterscotch pieces. Mix in noodles and nuts. Drop by teaspoons on to wax paper. Chill. Makes 4 dozen.

Food for thought: Those born in the Year of the Tiger are courageous and active people who love a good challenge and seek adventure in life. They are ambitious, enthusiastic, self-confident with a sense of justice and commitment to help others.

GOOD FOOD,
GOOD MEMORIES

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