Gōng Xǐ Fā Cá!
Hanukkah may bring Eight Crazy Nights (thank you Adam Sandler for teaching me this) – but the Chinese have Fifteen Crazy Nights of New Year. See Wikipedia article for all the amazing things that occur. I also think the Chinese have another thing figured out, especially when it comes to New Years. I much prefer overindulging with food than alcohol (and not staying out till the wee hours).
And here we are on New Year’s Day, status post a wonderful meal with family and friends consisting of oysters in the half-shell, egg rolls, soft shell crab, seafood/beef/lamb hotpot, red wine and pineapple upside down cake. Pictures are lacking because to pause and photograph would have meant missing out. There are many foods set to bring good luck for the New Year, many of which we consumed last night.
- Oranges and Tangerines – wealth and luck: Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, the word for tangerine echoes luck.
- Long noodles = long life, naturally
- Spring rolls = wealth, if you squint and bring in a dose of imagination you might see gold bars
- Leafy greens = money, long life when served whole, my MIL is the best and bought my favorite vegetable rau muong, water spinach, kangkung among others (scientific Ipomoea aquatica)
- Fish: a play on words – Chinese for fish is Yu sounds like the words for “wish” and “abundance”. While, traditionally, a fish is served with its head and tail still attached for a good beginning and ending to the year, we ate our chopped and plopped into the hot pot (rhymes!)
- Oysters (in the half shell) – Chinese “hao”, sounds like “good events.” Science has demonstrated these tasty bivalves aphrodisiac tendencies, oysters are chuck full of zinc, a key nutrient for testosterone production, important component for a healthy libido. However, one could still suppose the connection with romance is based in random chance. Slurping the slippery contents from their shells might just reveal a pearl. Oh the metaphors and double entendres!
- This year we dined on Kusshi, Penn Cove and High Point – all belong on a list of repeats
- Sweets: while I don’t think the Asian cultures have dessert figureed out (I mean really BEANS – no amount of sugar makes that a dessert). This year: Pineapple upside down cake. See below for the play by play.
Every good critical thinker should ask the contrary -What foods should one avoid consuming? With the exception of tofu, white foods could symbolize misfortune, mourning or even death. I have no problem avoiding foods that look like death.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake:
My father in law asked that I make a dessert for New Years. I know that he loves the sweet treats I make for him and probably shares the same sentiments that Asian desserts miss the mark when a true sweet tooth sings… (Durian, beans and corn). Citrus is important and red/yellow/gold are the celebratory colors of New Year symbolizing just about everything good (look up all the meanings sometime) and circles are deep with meaning in many cultures. Insert a moment of clarity and Voila! I remembered making a pineapple upside down cake in home economics (which quite possibly could have been the last time I baked one). With the circles of pineapple rings, red maraschino cherries and golden color of the brown sugar – perfecto!
I looked for updated recipe from my home ec version that of course I still have, and landed upon Veronica’s Cornicopia. Omitted the rum, subbed homemade yogurt for sour cream and used salted butter and Kosher salts (oops, but not a problem). It was a hit, perhaps a new tradition for the McTruongs.
I leave you with images of the special Chinese New Year Tissue poms. My MIL loved the ones I made the baby shower and asked probably 12 times for me to make her some for New Years (but not white ones, again reminded 12 times, the whole death thing). Who could say no to that? So I made two sets, one for her and one for her sister. DIL brownie points! and a Big Thank You to my assistant fluffer – HT – who can do it with one arm in a sling. xoxo