December 30th, 2016/ BY Nancy Johnson

Discover the hidden meaning behind a traditional Chinese New Year’s menu

As a gal who doesn’t like to miss a party or a feeding, I am getting ready to celebrate the Year of the Monkey.

All over the world, celebrations will begin on February 8 for the Chinese New Year. Themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity are symbolized throughout the 16-day festival which ends at the Lantern Festival, celebrated under the first full moon of the New Year.

New Year’s Eve Dinner, or Reunion Dinner, is the most important meal of the year, a time when Chinese families come together to celebrate. Whole fish and chicken, greens, spring rolls, dumplings, long noodles, sweet rice cakes, tangerines and oranges are consumed at the dinner for their symbolic meaning.

asian steamed cod

serves 4

The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for surplus. Whole fish is traditionally served at New Year’s Eve dinner for the promise of abundance in the new year. Here, fish fillets sub for whole fish in an easy-to-prepare steamed dish.

3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
4 cod fillets
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 scallions, sliced

In a large skillet, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar and ginger. Add cod. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until cod is cooked through. Garnish with scallions.

Match: I always like Gewürztraminer with Asian food.



baked spring rolls

makes about 10 to 12

Traditionally enjoyed during the Spring Festival (hence the name), spring rolls resemble bars of gold, symbolizing wealth in the New Year. Add mushrooms, bean sprouts and minced ginger to the filling if you’d like. Stir-fry with the cabbage mixture.

1/2 lb ground pork
2 tbsp canola oil, divided
1 tbsp chicken stock
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup cabbage, finely shredded
1 carrot, shredded
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
12 spring roll wrappers
4 tsp vegetable oil
Purchased sweet-and-sour sauce

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

In a skillet or wok, cook pork in 1 tbsp oil over medium heat until browned. Remove from heat and drain.

In a small bowl, combine chicken stock, oyster sauce and sugar. Set aside.

Wipe out skillet and add remaining oil. Stir-fry cabbage, carrot and scallions until softened. Push vegetables to the sides of the skillet; add reserved sauce to the middle of skillet and bring to a boil. Add the pork and mix through. Drizzle with sesame oil.

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water.

To wrap, lay spring roll wrapper in a diamond shape. Place 1 tablespoon of the pork mixture in the center of each wrapper. Coat all edges with the cornstarch mixture. Roll up wrapper and tuck in edges. Seal edges with the cornstarch mixture.

Arrange spring rolls in a single layer on a baking sheet that has been covered with parchment paper. Brush spring rolls with vegetable oil. Bake 25 minutes, or until hot and golden, turning once after 15 minutes. Serve with sweet-and-sour sauce.

Match: Serve with sparkling white wine.

chicken velvet

serves 4

Traditionally a whole chicken is served on New Year’s Eve to denote prosperity, wholeness and joy in the New Year. Roast a whole chicken for your Chinese New Year’s celebration and serve this easy-to-prepare dish on a busy weekday.

12 dried shiitake mushrooms
4 chicken fillets, cut into strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp sugar
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups cooked jasmine rice

In a small bowl, soak mushrooms in enough water to cover for 30 minutes. Scoop mushrooms from water with a slotted spoon, drain and pat dry.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the mushroom water, pouring water through a sieve to remove any grit. Using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, chop mushrooms.

Place chicken in a large skillet. Pour soy sauce over chicken, tossing to coat. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with sugar and sprinkle on chicken, tossing to coat.

Add mushrooms, reserved 1/2 cup mushroom water and broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Serve over rice.

Match: Try a buttery Chardonnay.

Chinese noodle soup

serves 4 to 6

A long life is wished for those who eat noodles or long leafy greens on New Year’s Eve.

8 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
4 cups leafy greens, such as baby bok choy or spinach
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 lb Chinese egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
Minced cilantro, for garnish

In a large sauce pot, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, greens, salt and pepper. Cook until greens wilt. Divide the noodles among 4 to 6 bowls. Ladle soup over noodles. Garnish with cilantro.

Match: A dry Riesling would work.



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