I Half-Ass Chinese New Year

The idea was noble: Use my culinary school learnin’ to create a lovely Chinese New Year meal. And, then it just sort of fell apart. First, I was a few days late (making dinner on February 6 rather than February 3).

Then, I took some liberties with the recipes I chose. I wanted to make Buddha’s Delight, a typical vegetarian dish used by many to ring in the new year, but I couldn’t find some of the ingredients so I went with a more basic vegetable stir fry. Many Chinese New Year celebrations include fish as well. I had this wonderful fish recipe from school where you take a whole fish and slice it so that the insides are filled with hot, spicy goodness while the outside is covered in bacon. The head and tail is kept intact for presentation. It really is gorgeous. Then, I got to the store and didn’t like the looks of the whole fish, so I went with fillets and modified the recipe.

I was also going to make sesame balls, but I got entirely too lazy.

And, finally, I keep forgetting to check my fridge before heading to the store. I thought I had pot sticker skins, but I really only had egg roll skins.

So, with sincere apologies to Chinese people everywhere, I give you a white girl’s lame attempt at Chinese New Year.

Pork Pot Stickers

  • 1 lb lean chopped pork
  • 6 oz cabbage, chopped fine
  • 2 T ginger root
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t sugar
  • 1 T rice cooking wine
  • 1 T light soy sauce (NOT lo-cal, but light as opposed to dark)
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • ¼ t white pepper

Mix all of the above ingredients in a bowl. Let sit for a bit. This is your filling. If you can’t find ground pork, you can easily make your own by hacking at a boneless pork chop with a cleaver. (It’s a great stress reliever, trust me.)

Pot Sticker Dipping Sauce

  • 3 T Chinese black vinegar
  • 2 T light soy sauce
  • 2 t chopped chili peppers
  • 1 t chopped ginger root
  • 2 t chili oil

Mix together.

Results

Like I said, I forgot about not having pot sticker skins. So, these are pot stickers disguised as egg rolls. Still very tasty, but not quite the jau gok I had intended.

Pot stickers on a plate

Look like egg rolls, but taste like pot stickers

Law Bok Gow

Another dim sum item that is typically eaten around New Years.

  • 1 large diakon radish
  • 2 C rice flour
  • 1 C water
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 2 t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t white pepper
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 Chinese sausages, finely chopped (think Italian salami, but with a sweet BBQ flavor about the diameter of a Slim Jim)
  • Oil for greasing and frying

Grate the diakon. Squeeze out the extra moisture (it is really a very wet vegetable). In a different bowl, add the rice flour and slowly stir in the water to make a thick, but smooth batter. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Oil a loaf pan and pour in the batter.

Set a rack within a large stock pot. If you don’t have a rack that will fit, try placing metal biscuit cutters on the bottom. Pour in just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, but not so much that it will cover your rack. Place your loaf pan on the rack, start the fire and put the lid on the stock pot.

Steam your radish cake for an hour to two hours—replenishing water as needed. Like any cake, you want a toothpick inserted in the middle to come out clean. Remove the pan from the steamer.

Put the loaf in the fridge until cold. Invert the loaf onto a cutting board and cut into squares. Lightly fry each side of the square until golden brown.

Results

I’m not even going to dignify this with a picture. First, I didn’t let it chill long enough. (I am so impatient.) So, I couldn’t cut it into squares. Second, I over-fried the dollops of diakon. They tasted nice, but boy, were they ug-mo.

Vegetable Stir Fry with Szechuan Sauce

  • 4 oz bamboo shoots, sliced lengthwise
  • 6 oz water chestnuts, sliced in half (don’t get the kind in the can… once you have fresh water chestnuts, you will understand why they are in all stir fry dishes)
  • 6 oz straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed (these you can buy in the can)
  • 2 oz carrots
  • ½ oz dried cloud ears (I couldn’t find any so I used mixed fresh mushrooms)
  • 4 oz pea pods, remove the ends and the fiber down the center, cut larger ones in half
  • 2 oz red peppers

Sauce

  • 3 T Szechuan hot bean paste
  • 2 T Szechuan sweet bean paste
  • 2 T rice cooking wine
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T chili oil
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t sugar
  • 2 T corn starch

Make the sauce first by mixing the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Set it aside.

Heat a wok with a few tablespoons of peanut oil until it is very hot. Add the ingredients in the order listed above. After each ingredient, mix 3-5 seconds before adding the next ingredient.

After you add the cloud ears (or mixed mushrooms), add the sauce and cover the wok. Let cook for 2 minutes, uncover and add the pea pods and peppers. Then, cook for 30 more seconds. Serve over rice.

Results

The Szechuan region is known for it’s spicy cooking. And, this dish is a bit of fire in your mouth. It’s especially tasty the next day as leftovers.

Stir fried veggies in a wok

If you don't have a wok, you can use a large saute pan. Because home kitchens typically don't have the burners necessary for a wok anyway, the saute pan works just as well.

My Spicy Mess of a Fish

There is really no other explanation for this fish. I just kind of took what was a lovely recipe and modified it until it was… well, a spicy mess.

  • 2 white fish fillets
  • 3 T black bean sauce
  • 2 T ginger root, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small chili peppers, diced
  • 1 Chinese sausage, diced
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t sugar
  • ½ t white pepper
  • 2 T light soy sauce
  • 2 T rice cooking wine
  • 2 T sesame oil

Mix all of the ingredients together except for the fish.

Heat a sauté pan with some cooking oil. Lay the fish in it and throw the sauce on top. Cover and simmer until the fish is done.

Serve over rice.

Results

Holy cow, this was spicy. Next time, I’ll lay off the chili peppers. I don’t know what I was thinking. Flaming hot, that’s all it was.

Two fillets of fish in a pan

They look innocent, but they are really a spicy nightmare.

Nian Gao

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C milk
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • ¼ C vegetable oil
  • ½ t baking soda
  • 8 oz glutinous rice flour
  • ½ t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend with an electric mixer for at least 5 minutes—until you have a smooth batter. Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.

Pour batter into an oiled baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. It will settle as it cools.

Results

Paul loved it. I like a more savory nian gao–rather than the sweet. Call me snobby.

Chinese cake

Oh, did I mention the mountain in the middle? It settled down.

So, what did I learn? I’m never going to pass as a Chinese grandmother cooking old family favorites for New Years. I will keep trying though. (Cooking Chinese food, not impersonating Asian elderly women.)

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