Happy New Year – Chinese Style0
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
In every month there is a reason to celebrate or recognize a particular occasion. Among February’s holidays is the Chinese New Year, which falls on the 16th of the month this year. There are 12 animals represented in the Chinese zodiac and this year it is the Year of the Dog. The Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year because it is based on the moon, so it’s called the lunar calendar. A Chinese New Year always falls on the second day of the new moon after the winter solstice. There are 7 “lucky foods” to be eaten during the 16-day festival, with each one having a different meaning. Among the most common delectable choices are dumplings, fish, and spring rolls. For instance, eating fish means increased prosperity; dumplings and spring rolls bring wealth; tangyuan (sweet rice balls), family togetherness; good fortune fruit, fullness and wealth; niagao (glutinous rice cakes), a higher income or position; and longevity noodles bring happiness and longevity. So what’s not to like about eating delicious foods with so many unique promises?
When our children were young we taught them to try many different foods over the years. To make meals interesting when I cooked Chinese food, I served tea in the tiny handle-free cups used in Chinese restaurants. It was served in an Asian-designed teapot with a bamboo handle. My family’s favorite dish was Niu Ju Chin Jow (beef with green peppers, served with rice) an easy recipe I discovered decades ago in my international cookbook.
This recipe serves four. While cooking the beef and peppers, cook your rice so it is ready when this part is finished. I use a wok, but a large frying pan is also fine to use.
1 pound thinly sliced lean beef
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 medium green peppers
6 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
Mix beef with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, cornstarch and pepper. Seed peppers and cut in julienne strips. Fry in 3 tablespoons of oil. Remove from pan, add remaining oil and fry beef until redness disappears. Add peppers, salt and remaining soy sauce. Note: chicken, pork or shrimp can also be used instead of beef.
In closing, here is the Cantonese greeting used on New Year’s to wish everyone “Great Happiness and Prosperity” — Gong Hey Fat Choy (pronounced Gung Hey Fah Choy).