Peter’s mother gave me two porcelain New Year dolls as part of their wedding gift to us. I thought that they looked silly when I first saw them and have grown to love them over the years.
It is rare that the whole family is free for Chinese New Year celebration. The girls are off from school for President’s Week, and Peter took time off because originally the whole family was traveling to the East Coast this week. Peter went to play golf and Angela went out with friends (see her account of her little adventure at the end of the post) when Audrey and I stayed at home and cooked our New Year feast.
The first must-eat food for Lunar New Year is dumplings. Audrey and I had fun making our own 100% whole wheat dumpling wrap today. This way we don’t feel as guilty pigging out.
Handmade Dumpling Wraps Ingredients:
4 cups of 100% whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pour 3 1/3 cups of flour and eggs in a large mixing bowl and leave it in the sink. Turn on tap to have a steady drip while using your hand to mix – swirl in one direction – until the dough is firm but can be kneaded. Turn off tap. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
In batches, roll the dough into cylinders and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Use the remaining dry flour to prevent pieces from sticking together. Make little dough balls and then use a rolling pin to make the wraps. The key is to turn the dough with one hand and roll as you turn.
If this sounds all too labor intensive, there are always the store-bought wraps!
Check out “Chinese New Year Potstickers” for the rest of the dumpling recipe.
The second must-eat food for Lunar New Year is fish. Fish sounds the same with the word “abundance” in Chinese. Usually people buy a live rock cod to steam with ginger and scallion, but I suppose every Chinese family wanted one today and they were all sold out. I bought a beautiful piece of Chilean Sea Bass and used my favorite marinade.
I also made braised pork for nostalgic reasons. This was a dish that I looked forward to having at every New Year’s Eve when I was growing up in Shanghai.
Braised Pork with Fresh Bamboo Shoots and Shiitake
1/2 cup cooking wine
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark soy sauce (or you can use all light soy sauce)
3/4 – 1 cup water (you may not use all of it)
1 1/2 to 2 pounds pork shank
4 boiled eggs
5 large dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked soft, drained and quartered)
2 winter bamboo shoots (peeled and tough part removed)
1 pack stringed tofu (from Chinese market, see photo)
1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, crushed
2 inch cube peeled ginger, crushed or sliced
2 star anise
1 tbsp. brown sugar or molasses
1 tbsp. canola oil
Heat the oil in a wok on high.
Put in peppercorns, garlic, ginger, star anise, sauté until aromatic.
Add cut pork shank to be seared at all sides.
Add bamboo, shiitake and boiled eggs.
Pour in soy sauce, wine, water and sugar and turn the fire to low.
Cover and stew for 2 hours.
For the two vegetarians in the house, I made a seared tofu with brown rice medley.
Seared Tofu with Brown Rice Medley
Brown Rice Medley Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
A pinch of salt
2 1/2 water
1/2 teaspoon dark rice vinegar
4 teaspoons canola or peanut oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
4 large dried shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
1 cup snap peas
1/2 red pepper (thinly sliced)
1/3 cup sliced scallions, divided
Soak the dry shiitake mushroom in a bowl in warm water for 1 hour. Save 1/4 cup of the water but discard the sediment at the bottom of the bowl.
Cook the brown rice with 2 1/2 cups water, a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
In a sauce pan heat 2 teaspoons cooking oil on medium high, sauté half of the ginger until aromatic, add the sliced shiitake mushrooms and give it a few good stir. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and 1/4 cup reserved mushroom water. Bring it to boil and lower the heat to let simmer. The mushrooms are done when sauce is reduced and thickened but not burned.
In the meantime, in a wok or frying pan heat up 2 teaspoons oil on medium high and sauté the remaining ginger until aromatic. Add snap peas and red pepper and stir for about 1 1/2 minutes. Pour shiitake mushroom sauce and 1/3 cup of scallion in the pan and stir for 1/2 minutes.
Mix in the cooked brown rice and turn off the stove.
Miso Tofu Ingredients:
12 oz. firm tofu, sliced
1 tablespoon miso paste
1/4 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
2 tsp canola or peanut oil
Spread miso paste on the tofu using fingers. Heat the oil in a nonstick pan and pan sear the tofu on medium high for about 3 minutes on either side or until tofu slices are slightly browned.
Serve tofu on a bed of rice medley.
Here is Angela’s little adventure:
To celebrate the eve of the Lunar New Year, my friends and I went out for lunch. We normally spend our free time in the Marina. Some may complain about all the yuppies in the area but I see nothing wrong with their presence, especially since I love the restaurants and stores that are targeted toward yuppies. They may be strange and overpriced, but they’re fun for window shopping.
Today we decided to go to the Castro and the Mission, where I normally do not venture. We went to a restaurant called Starbelly and then spent a few hours at Dolores Park, where I witnessed several people ingesting illegal substances and one woman emptying her bladder at the top of a hill. I have lived a rather sheltered childhood, so I was mildly disturbed by what I saw. I suppose it’s always important to be exposed to a diverse range of experiences. I am a very rule-abiding person so it was difficult to watch people violate open container laws and vandalize public transport vehicles without reporting them. At least Starbelly was good. I had a dried pea and quinoa patty and a gingered butternut squash soup with pepitas.
After returning from my little adventure, I came home to find a nice Lunar New Year dinner and some shipments of clothes that I’ll be reviewing in the next few days. Gung hay fat choy!