Stepping Out

East meets West

Bring on some good fortune with a Chinese New Year feast

Posted

Get out some red paper lanterns and usher in the Year of the Dog, which begins next week, on Feb. 16.

The Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival as it is known) is an ideal holiday for a family-friendly celebration. Tasty food and an animal theme are the leadoff to a good time for all.

Chinese New Year is all about wrapping up the old year and welcoming a bright future. Host your own version of a traditional New Year’s banquet; at the heart of all Chinese New Year celebrations, the reunion dinner brings family members and loved ones back together amidst a grand feast. Symbolism abounds: a whole fish for surplus and prosperity, a chicken for family togetherness and food aplenty to usher in abundance and wealth for the new year.

Ranking as the 11th animal in Chinese zodiac, Dog is the symbol of loyalty and honesty. People born in the Year of the Dog possess the best traits of human nature. They are honest, friendly, faithful, loyal, smart, straightforward, venerable and have a strong sense of responsibility, according to Chinese lore.

New Year Noodles

10 ounces Chinese noodles

1 clove fresh garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated/shredded

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons peanut oil

4 oz fresh Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced

3 cups fresh Napa cabbage, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1/2 cup fresh green onion, chopped

First, prepare the Chinese noodle according to the package instructions. This should take no more than about 3-4 minutes, as they cook quickly. Once they’re done, rinse with cold water and return to pot. Then, drizzle with sesame oil and toss to coat. This is to prevent the noodles from sticking. (Add a few drops of oil to the water the noodles are cooked in to help them not stick together.)

Then, in a frying pan or wok over high heat, add together chopped garlic, shredded ginger, red pepper flakes, and peanut oil. Heat for approximately 30 seconds, 1 minute until sizzling a bit, and you can smell the scents wafting through the air. Add the sliced mushrooms and cabbage. (After rinsing, the mushrooms should be soaked in warm water for approximately 5 minutes. Then remove from the water, remove the stems, and slice caps thinly to prepare for cooking.)

Stir all of the ingredients together in the frying pan until the veggies are slightly tender.

Remove the veggies from the pan, and pour into the pot of cooked Chinese noodles. Mix together slowly and well, making sure not to break the noodles. Return the mixture to the frying pan. Over medium heat, add in 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, and the green onions.

Turning frequently, ensure that the dish is completely coated in the soy sauce mixture. Remove from frying pan, and serve promptly.

Dumplings

3 pounds green leafy vegetable (shepherd’s purse, baby bok choy, napa cabbage, or Chinese chives)

1 ½ pounds ground pork (or ground chicken or beef, as long as it isn’t too lean)

! cup shaoxing wine

½ cup oil

3 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons soy sauce

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 cup water, plus more for assembly

3-4 packages dumpling wrappers

Wash vegetables thoroughly and blanch them in a pot of boiling water. Transfer them to an ice bath to cool. Ring out all the water from the vegetables and chop finely.

In a large bowl, stir together the vegetable, meat, wine, oil, sesame oil, salt, soy sauce, white pepper, and ⅔ cup water. Mix for 6-8 minutes, until well-combined.

To wrap the dumplings, dampen the edges of each circle with some water. Put a little less than a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold the circle in half and pinch the wrapper together at the top. Then make two folds on each side, until the dumpling looks like a fan. Make sure it’s completely sealed. Repeat until all the filling is gone, placing the dumplings on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Make sure the dumplings aren’t sticking together.

If you’d like to freeze them, wrap the baking sheets tightly with plastic wrap and put the pans in the freezer. Allow them to freeze overnight. You can then take the sheets out of the freezer, transfer the dumplings to plastic bags, and throw them back in the freezer for use later.

To cook the dumplings, boil them or pan-fry. To boil, simple bring a large pot of water to a boil, drop the dumplings in, and cook until they float to the top and the skins are cooked through, but still slightly al dente.

To pan-fry, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a non-stick pan over medium high heat. Place the dumplings in the pan and allow to fry for 2 minutes. Pour a thin layer of water into the pan, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow dumplings to steam until the water has evaporated. Remove the cover, increase heat to medium-high and allow to fry for a few more minutes, until the bottoms of the dumplings are golden brown and crisp.

Serve with soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, chili sauce, or other dipping sauce of your choice.