Friday, February 4, 2011

My Chinese New Year's Eve Feast

Happy Chinese New Year! Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous Year of the Rabbit =) 恭祝各位, 新年快樂! 心想事成!身體健康!That's not a direct translation at all, but much like going into a Chinese restaurant and seeing the specials written only in Chinese, only the people that can read Chinese will have the luxury of understanding what I wrote haha~

Wednesday night was Chinese New Year's Eve. Every year, my Mom would cook a very extravagant meal, a menu full of delectable Chinese dishes. We never go out to a restaurant for Chinese New Year because we enjoy wining and dining in the comfort of our own home. But of course this is only possible because my Mom is such a brilliant cook (see my post here dedicated to my Mom's crazy cooking skills). 

My family is not traditional nor superstitious. As in, we do not decorate our house with Chinese New Year decorations or do any rituals, ever. We actually do not do much at all during Chinese New Year besides getting together and eating. We haven't bought Chinese New Year candy in ages so I was pretty surprised when I saw this in the kitchen the other day:

Mom bought it at T&T, probably to make it feel more like Chinese New Year in the house. I must say that is one sad looking candy box though; the sesame chips in there has absolutely nothing to do with Chinese New Year (they are sold as snacks at T&T all year around). The picture below is an example of how a traditional Chinese New Year candy box should look like:

But whatever. When we were living in Hong Kong I remember we can never finish the stuff in the box anyway, even weeks after the New Year; a lot of the stuff in there is way too sweet for our taste. It also doesn't help that my family don't snack much in general.

What we do eat every year is pudding. My mom sometimes makes them and sometimes buy them. This year, she made the Water Chestnut Pudding (馬蹄糕) and bought the New Year pudding (年糕) and Turnip Pudding (蘿蔔糕). Mom pan-fried these for us after we came back from shoveling snow =)

For dinner, my brother and my sister-in-law came over, and so did my boyfriend. Altogether there was 6 of us. Do you think 4 bottles of wine is enough? =P

Like I said, my family is not traditional. So our Chinese New Year's Eve dinner actually did not have a lot of the traditional dishes that you may find in a typical Chinese New Year's Eve dinner. According to, a Chinese New Year's Eve dinner should include the following dishes:
  • A whole chicken, including head and feet - it symbolizes a proper beginning and end to the year;
  • Clams or scallops - their shape is similar to ancient Chinese coins;
  • Any dish featuring lettuce - the word for lettuce, saang choy, sounds like the word for "growing good fortunes";
  • Lobster - it represents life and energy;
  • Rice - it symbolizes well-being and good fortune;
  • Spring rolls - their shape is reminiscent of ancient Chinese money, which would represent wealth for the coming year;
  • Dumplings - also shaped like ancient Chinese coins. Some families choose to cook dumplings late at night, through the midnight hour to symbolize bringing prosperity and luck into the new year; and 
  • Fish with its head and tail intact - 'fish' in Chinese is "yu", which sounds like the word for wish. Also fish swim in pairs, so it represents marital bliss.
While these are supposed to be eaten on New Year's Day:
  • Savory Chinese pudding - taro root cake or turnip cake, served in the morning for breakfast. Cakes are molded in a round pan to symbolize wholeness;
  • Buddha's Delight - a vegetarian dish featuring bean curd, cellophane noodles, cabbage, and Chinese mushrooms; and
  • Sesame balls - it is believed if you eat these sesame balls your fortunes will also expand. Also, the stickiness of the food represents the cohesiveness of the family.
Holy crap that's a lot of food. It seems like we already messed up by eating the pudding for lunch on New Year's Eve.  My point is, our dinner had some dishes from the list, but not others. My Mom basically made dishes that we all love to eat, without much thought as to what is supposed to be eaten. And you know what? That is totally fine by us.

The dishes below were all made by my Mom.

Winter Melon Stuffed with Dried Scallops - I love winter melons because they have such a light taste. My mom used some expensive, high quality dried scallops which were soft and packed with scallop flavor (I know that may sound weird or redundant, but you will be surprised how a lot of cheap dried scallops are hard and have hardly any scallop flavor). 

Crispy Roasted Pork (燒肉) - One of my absolute favorite dish of my Mom's, 

Chopped and ready to eat. The skin is many, many times more crispy than the ones you find find in restaurants, and I am not exaggerating. I will not voluntarily eat this dish in restaurants anymore because it just doesn't measure up to my Mom's version of it.

Buddha's Delight (羅漢齋) - I really like this vegetarian dish because it has tons of ingredients in there like bamboo fungas, bamboo shoots, bean curd sticks, mushrooms, fat choy, tofu, wood ear, dried lily flowers etc. It seems like this dish is supposed to be eaten on New Year's Day instead of New Year's Eve O_o

Stewed Chinese Black Mushrooms with Fish Belly - These mushrooms were so huge and so thick. You can literally get full from eating them. The fish belly is sooo soft and smooth too.

Braised Ox-Tail in Red Wine Sauce - After many hours of braising, the ox tail meat is super tender. I especially love the carrots and onions because they absorb all the flavor of the meat and the red wine.

Stir-fried Shrimp in Sweet Chili Sauce - The sauce is amazing! Its sweet yet it has a bit of a kick to it due to the peppers, and with all the spring onions in there I truly believe this sauce would be superb on anything.

I honestly loved all the dishes that night. My Mom asked me which dish was my favorite and I really couldn't pick one. 

We obviously did not have chicken, or lobster, or fish. I really can't say I care either. My mom is theeeeeeee BEST and I will always love everything she makes for me ^_^