By Sara Medlicott,
Welcome to the Year of the Monkey!
This year, Lunar New Year fell on the 8th of February, but if you missed it, don’t worry you’re not too far behind. In China, the full week is considered a holiday and the Lunar New Year Season will continue until February 22nd. On that day, all festivities culminate in a Lantern Festival which represents the end of the season.
There is still time to celebrate by cooking Chinese food, and we have a great selection in the library to get you started. If you are addicted to Chinese food, here are a few suggestions that are traditionally served at Lunar New Year.
Dumplings are prepared to bring in wealth and treasure, but be sure you are making them properly. Too few pleats purports poverty and a sauerkraut filling can imply a difficult future. However, filling your dumplings with cabbage and radish will bring fair skin and a gentle mood. Arrange your finished dumplings in lines rather than circles that way your life will go forward, not go around in circles.
However you prepare them, be sure to make a lot because the more dumplings you eat, the more money you will make throughout the year. In the Lucky Peach Cookbook, 101 Easy Asian Recipes, Peter Meehan offers clear and simple “Dollar Dumpling” instructions with several different fillings and the essential sauce. Says Meehan on Sauce, “Sauceless dumplings are like crying-on-the-inside kind of clowns: They look the part but something important is missing.” This book is a great jumping off point for anyone new to Asian cooking. There are recipes representing many different countries all with clear instructions and ingredients that are easy to find.
Another auspicious way to start your year off right is with another dim sum favorite, spring rolls. Spring Rolls are served as a wish for prosperity because they look like gold bars. Traditionally a portion would be left as temple offerings before being eaten at home. My Grandmother’s Chinese Kitchen: 100 Family Recipes and Life Lessons by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo includes not only a great spring roll recipe, but a whole chapter including the history and myths of Lunar New Year in her family and of course many more recipes to create a feast.
No Lunar New Year feast is complete without fish. This is because the Chinese word for fish sounds like surplus. The fish should always be the last dish with some left over and it should not be moved after being placed on the table. The two people who are seated facing the head and tail of the fish should drink together for good luck. One of my favorite Chinese cookbooks contains a classic Lunar New Year fish recipe. In the beautiful The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco, Cecilia Chiang tells her fascinating life story and illustrates each phase with recipes. Her Steamed Black Bass with Ginger and Green Onions is a Cantonese preparation perfect for finishing off the banquet.
Wondering what to serve with your meal? Chinese Wine of course! The popularity of the documentary Red Obsession has the wine world buzzing about China. What better occasion to learn more than Lunar New Year? Chinese Wine: Universe in a Bottle by Li Zhengping covers the history, varieties, legends and rituals around wine in China. So read up to make your selection, then pour up for those lucky folks staring at the fish platter.
We have these and many other excellent books focused on Chinese cooking. So stop by the library and pick up everything you need to eat, drink and be merry!