Eat rich, eat right for prosperous Chinese New Year
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Have your luck and eat it, too.
That's the philosophy behind traditional Chinese New Year's dishes, which are loaded with symbolic meaning auguring prosperity for the coming year.
AP Photo - - In the symbol-laden Chinese New Year meal, long noodles signify long life. Noodles take center stage in Tomato Beef Chow Mein.
Want to live long? Eat long noodles -- just be sure not to cut them.
Need a bit more in the bank? Serve fish, the Chinese name for which sounds like the word for surplus.
And don't forget dumplings, which also symbolize prosperity and are traditionally eaten late on the eve of the New Year.
The Year of the Rabbit starts with the big "reunion dinner" on New Year's Eve Feb. 2 this year a meal reserved for family and resonant with culinary customs.
Carolyn Jung, a San Francisco Bay food writer who blogs at (www.foodgal.com), remembers sitting at the table as the youngest of her family, and only girl, helping her mom fold dumplings by hand and "waiting eagerly for her to pan fry them or boil them so that we could dig in."
Chinese New Year is celebrated in many parts of the world that have sizable populations of Chinese immigrants, and other Asian cultures have similar celebrations. With so many people involved, the customs aren't uniform, though the hope for a prosperous new year is a constant.
The festival lasts 15 days, with some days set aside for visiting and other rituals. It wraps up with a Lantern Festival on the final night.
For Patricia Tanumihardja, who grew up in Singapore and is of Chinese and Indonesian descent, the holiday means eating pineapple tarts, which can take different forms but generally call for a luscious pineapple jam stuffed into flaky pastry.
"Every year that was the one thing I wanted to eat," says Tanumihardja, author of "The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook."
As a kid, Jung saw Chinese New Year as mostly about the food and the red envelopes filled with crisp dollar bills that are handed out to children. She spent the money and kept the brightly decorated envelopes, keeping them neatly stowed away in a drawer.
As she grew up, the holiday became more about family. These days she often makes her mom's tomato beef chow mein, a blend of east and west cooking styles typical in Chinese-American kitchens.
"I remember so many times peeking over her shoulder as she crisped up the noodles in the pan," said Jung, who would sneak noodles right out of the pan until she was shooed away.
The recipe isn't strictly orthodox New Year's fare, but the noodles symbolize the traditional wish for long life.
This recipe was handed down to Carolyn Jung by her late mother, May Jung. With its beef and tomato combination married to crispy Chinese noodles, it's a blend of cuisines. Jung has on occasion used heirloom tomatoes, something her mother would never have done. But the dish remains true to the traditions of the Chinese-American kitchen -- strong on flavor, but simple to prepare. The noodles make this a good choice for Chinese New Year, when eating long noodles is said to promote long life.
Tomato Beef Chow Mein
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (45 minutes active): Serves 4
For the meat
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 pound flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain
For the noodles
1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
For the sauce
4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, diagonally sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
4 large tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks
14-1/2-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with 1/2 cup cold water until dissolved
To marinate the meat, in a medium bowl mix together the sesame oil, soy sauce, baking soda and cornstarch. Add the steak and turn the pieces to coat evenly. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Once the steak has marinated, prepare the noodles. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 1 minute. Drain the noodles, then rinse them under cold water, then drain again. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl. Add the sesame oil and soy sauce, then toss well.
Heat two 12-inch nonstick skillets briefly over medium. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable or canola oil to each. When the oil is hot, add half of the noodles to each skillet. Cook, stirring often, until the noodles are crispy and lightly browned. Cover the pans and set aside.
Heat a large wok or nonstick skillet over high. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the beef and stir-fry until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the steak to a bowl, cover and set aside.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the wok. Reduce heat to medium-high, then add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Saute for several minutes, then add the fresh tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and ginger. Bring to a boil.
Slowly stir in the cornstarch mixture, then continue cooking until the sauce thickens. Add the beef, then stir in the noodles.
Recipe from Carolyn Jung of (www.foodgal.com)
Take a break from routine Chinese takeout
Spicy Hoisin Beef With Ginger-Soy Noodles
Start to finish: 45 minutes. Serves 6.
For the noodles
Two 9-ounce packages fresh egg noodles (sold alongside produce and tofu)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin, 2-inch long strips
3 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally
3 tablespoons soy sauce
For the beef
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 pound flank steak, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips across the grain
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons chili-garlic paste
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Sesame seeds, to garnish
To prepare the noodles, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Return the saucepan to the stove. Add the sesame oil and heat over medium-high. Add the ginger, bell pepper and scallions. Saute for 1 minute, then add the noodles and soy sauce and toss well. Cover and set aside.
To make the beef, in a shallow bowl stir together the cornstarch and five-spice powder. Toss the steak strips into the mixture until thoroughly coated.
In a deep skillet over high, heat the oil. Saute the steak strips until crispy, browned and cooked through, turning occasionally, about 3 minutes. Drain off any excess oil. Stir in the hoisin, chili-garlic paste and rice wine vinegar.
Serve the beef over the noodles. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Clams Stir-fried with Black Bean Sauce
Start to finish: 30 minutes. Serves 4.
2 quarts water
30 medium-sized clams, scrubbed with a stiff brush to remove sand and grit
For the sauce
2/3 cup chicken stock
1-1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of white pepper
For the stir-fry
3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons peeled and shredded ginger
2 tablespoons julienned garlic
3 tablespoons black bean sauce
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green scallion tops
In a large wok set over high, bring the water to a boil.
Add the clams and allow the water to return to a boil. This will take 4 to 5 minutes. The clams will begin to open. Move them about with a spatula to help the process along.
As the clams open, remove them to a waiting dish to prevent them from becoming tough. Continue until all of the clams have opened (discard any that do not open). Set the clams aside. Discard the water and wash and dry the wok and spatula and reserve.
To make the sauce, in a small bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, sugar and white pepper. Set aside.
Heat the wok over high for 40 seconds. Add the peanut oil and, using the spatula, coat the wok with the oil. When a wisp of white smoke appears, add the ginger, garlic and black bean sauce, then stir to mix well for about 1 minute, or until the garlic releases its fragrance.
Add the clams and stir to mix for 2 minutes. Make a well in the center of the clams. Stir the sauce, then pour it into the well. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the clams are thoroughly coated with the sauce.
Turn off the heat and transfer to a heated dish. Sprinkle with the cilantro and scallions.