Monday, February 15, 2010

Chinese New Year of the Tiger

Chinese New Year 4707 Year of the Tiger began with the New moon falling on the 14th February 2010. Having the first day of the new year on the Western Valentines' Day, posed both a lucky break for those of us single ones, and a little tricky for those in a pair. At the end of the day though, Chinese New Year won out......

There are a whole variation of stories about the origins of the Lunar Year and why it is celebrated the way that it is, how the horoscopes of the 12 animals came about and why they are ordered such. Stories, that perhaps are a little too long to post here, considering that they change from village to village. Whichever way you know it, Chinese New Year is a time of celebration for the year past, thinking good thoughts and sending good vibes out for the year ahead for good health, lots of wealth and wishes coming true.

Auspicious peonies, the queen of flowers and peach blossoms symbolise fertility and ensures you are lucky in love. Lanterns light your way and firecrakers scare off evil spirits. Fresh flowers attract love and success and lollies sweeten your mouth and heart. Handing out red packets to children filled with money ensures that the luck is returned to you many times over.

Red is the lucky colour, so everywhere you look this week, its likely the Asian people you see....will be in some shade of red! The New Year is all about families gathering together as it is the longest annual holiday in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

And when Chinese families gather.....there is always food..... and lots and lots of it!

First out of the wok, is our family's famous radish cake. Made from a mixutre of glutinous rice, preserved meats, white radish, dried shrimp, shitake mushrooms and topped with sesame, spring onions and fried onions. It is a dish that is said to ensure that all the working people in the household all get promoted in the new year. This common dim sum dish (you normally see it sliced into small slabs and pan fried till crispy), is notoriously difficult to make at home as you literally spend hours and hours dicing and chopping the filling to be mixed with the batter. Once you have done that, you then have to individually steam each batch before waiting for it to cool, slice and pan fry before eating!!

Then of course there is the most famous and loudest Chinese New Year dish - the Lo Sang! A relatively new tradition (as in, less than 5 generations ago) started in South East Asia. Originally made with white fish, the popularity of salmon has somehow caught on. I think some commercial vendor along the line somewhere figured a red coloured fish would be more auspicious....

I dont remember eating this dish as a little girl - as the trend perhaps hadn't made it to Australia yet, but now I can hardly imagine Chinese New Year without it.

Lo Sang Salmon Sashimi Salad

for the salad:
White radish
Fuji Apple
Iceberg lettuce
Fresh ginger
Pickled ginger
Sweet pickled cucumber
Spring onions
Crunchy bits (cornflakes, toasted twisted doughnuts, croutons, fried wonton wrappers)
Sashimi grade salmon or other fish as desired

for the sauce;
sour plum sauce
lemon juice
sesame oil
soy sauce

for the red packet (seasoning)
crushed peanuts
sesame seeds

Mix sauce ingredients to taste. For 6- 8 people you will need about 1/2 to 3/4 a jar of sour plum sauce. Add ingredients spoon by spoon to your preferred taste
Slice all salad ingredients as finely as possible and arrange on a large plate (alternate colours)
Place sliced sashimi on top of salad and brush with sesame oil
Add crunchy bits around the sashimi
Finally place the filled red packet on the side

To serve, open red packet and empty on salad. Pour over sauce. Toss with gusto and devour!

Kong Hei Fatt Choi (Gong xi fa cai)!! Prosperity to all for the new year!

Our family's tradition is that as close to new year day as possible, we always go to my Aunt & Uncle's house for a huge meal. It's a tradition that we all treasure, and as the 'kids' grew up and with work and study taking us to all corners of the world, every year, all of us, make the effort to gather home for this special meal. This past year, has seen many trials in our family, more so than the usual, however, all was forgotten as we heralded the new year with extra enthusiam.

After a grand meal that included Uncle's renowned roast pork belly with crispy crackling, crayfish, dried oysters and dried black moss (yes, it's a delicacy), Buddha's delight, fish cakes and curry chicken, all washed down with several bottles of Penfolds 389. We then moved on to more food - dessert!

Fresh fruit, a divine chocolate & peanut icecream terrine, cake truffles, layer cake and coconut konyaku jelly. My contribution was these not so little cake truffles made in the shape of the very lucky golden orange.... inspired by the very talented Bakerella

Wishing you all a very prosperous, lucky, happy New Year of the Tiger!

The Lunar year lasts for 15 days. And so..........the party continues!

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