Happy Chinese New Year!

 

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This weekend is the Chinese New Year, and celebrating it is a tradition that goes back to the Shang Dynasty ( 1766 B.C.E.- 1122 B.C.E). And although this year’s celebrations in China and Hong Kong will be curtailed somewhat due to current events, Toronto will be ringing it in in style.

All over the world people will be celebrating the Chinese New Year’s Eve in traditional ways, with feasts of fish dinners and dumplings, fireworks (to celebrate the arrival of the new year and to drive away evil), exchanges of little red packets of money (for good luck), and an all night vigil known as Shou Sui in which folks stay up to ward off the mythical beast, “Nian” (“Year”) which, legend has it, comes out to annoy and harm people. Luckily, Nian is afraid of the colour red, and he absolutely hates fireworks, so if you’ve set off some fireworks, and have lit some red lanterns you should be sitting pretty.

 

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In the Chinese calendar this is the year of the rat. The Chinese Zodiac is similar to the western zodiac in that there are twelve signs, but whereas the western zodiac has all twelve signs in one year, the Chinese zodiac has each sign reign as it were, for a whole year, so each sign comes up only once every twelve years. If you were born in 1948, ’60, ’72, ’84, ’96 or 2008 this is your lucky year! According to the Chinese Zodiac, if you were born under the sign of the rat you are clever, optimistic, energetic, kind, and content to live a quiet and peaceful life, making you liked by all, just like any good little rat.

And a clever little rat will have no difficulty this weekend celebrating the new year, an overtly social event, so you will want to invite friends and family over to your home. It is tradition that you do a good cleaning before the Chinese New Year to get rid of the old and welcome the new. So clean up the place, and decorate it with lots of red.

 

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For food, you will want to feast on steamed fish or Jiao Zi, the traditional Chinese New Year dumplings or maybe both. In Chinese tradition dumplings have special significance: In Chinese, dumplings (—jiǎo zi) sounds like 交子(jiāo zi) (Jiāo) means “exchange” and (zi) is the midnight hours. Put together, jiāo zi is the exchange between the old and new year. All dumplings should be wrapped at this time. By eating dumplings, you are sending away the old and welcoming the new.- chinesenewyear.net

 

dumplings send away the old and welcome the new

dumplings send away the old and welcome the new

 

Long noodles are also part of the feast, with different ingredients signifying different things:

  • Eggs:big and healthy family
  • Lobster:endless money rolling in
  • Shrimp:fortune and wealth
  • Roasted pig:peace
  • Duck:loyalty
  • Peaches:longevity
  • Tofu:happiness and fortune for the entire family
  • Fish:surplus and wealth (steamed)

 

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But if you want to add your own twist, try  serving your guests a platter of delicious fish nachos  or these amazing Chinese firecracker nachos And where there’s nachos there’s beer, right? So it might as well be a good Chinese pilsner like Yanjing,  a rice beer that is one of the top sellers in China, or the always popular Tsingtao, a lager made with good ol’ Canadian barley both available at the L.C.B.O.

Now if you’re looking for fun events that celebrate the new year, you might want to check out Markham Civic Centre tomorrow starting at ten a.m., for a Lion dance and martial arts demonstrations, and Pacific Mall will be showcasing handmade crafts and a variety of festival foods. No matter how you celebrate this weekend, we hope 2020, the year of the rat, is full of good fortune, good health, longevity and peace.  And a recipe for traditional dumplings by culinary genius David Chow, who says dumplings are a mainstay during his family celebrations. “As with all fantastic family recipes worth saving, our family has no official recipe,” he admits. “I tried to capture the recipe a few year back as best as I could from my Aunt Fung Mui Ho.” Although Mr. Chow rolls out his own pastry, he says store-bought wrappers work just as well.

Chinese New Year Dumplings (Jiao Zi)

16 Dumpling wrappers

1¾ pounds pork, ground

1½ cups finely sliced garlic chives

1 egg

½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper (or to taste)

¼ teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine

METHOD

Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Let the mixture marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (it can be made the night before). Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat with a bit of oil.

Make a small (1-inch) patty from a bit of the mixture and cook through. Adjust seasoning as required.

Place a round of wrapper dough in the centre of your palm. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of filling into the centre. Lightly moisten the edges of the wrapper with a wet finger. Fold the dough in half (like a taco) and press the edges together, crimping them (like a folding fan) from the middle to the edges. Place on a floured tray.

Bring a large pot with water to a boil. Place a few dumplings at a time into the pot and return to the boil. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until they are all floating. Drain and repeat.

Fry boiled dumplings quickly in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat with a few teaspoons of vegetable oil until golden brown. Serve immediately with a dipping sauce made from 6 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar mixed with 1 teaspoon sugar.

 

 

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