Two days before the Chinese New Year my friend Na Sun asked me the favor to help her to do the shopping. It was my pleasure to go with her. On our way for the shopping mole Tian and Ching joined us so finally instead of taking care of our business we landed at a new stylish bar the Bubble tea (down-town of Münich) in order to discuss what to cook and how to decorate the tables for the party. Meanwhile we were sipping our shakes (by the way mine was fantastic) I grabbed the opportunity to learn more of the year of the Dragon.
I am sure everyone knows the fact that according to the Chinese traditions each year is dedicated to an animal. 2012 ushers the year of the Water Dragon. According to my Chinese friends it means that the water exerts a calming influence on the Dragon’s innate fire. Moreover the Water Dragons are more open to other people’s opinions than other Dragons which give them the ability to channel their personal charisma into real leadership qualities. And meanwhile last year the year of the Rabbit was characterized by calmness and tranquility, the Year of the Dragon is marked by excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration and intensity. The Chinese New Year will bring lots of energy, vitality, unbridled enthusiasm, and optimism.
According to the crystal ball (and Na Sun, who is very superstitious) the year of the Dragon will also be lucky for anyone thinking of starting a business or initiating a new project of any sort because money is easier to come by for everyone, whether it’s earned, borrowed or received as a gift. Consequently we can expect the economic downturn to ease up a bit in the coming year. Fortunes can be made but they can also be lost: Keep in mind like all good things, the Year of the Dragon will come to an end and you will be held accountable for unreasonable extravagances.
When the big day has sat in I helped Na to dress the table which was not as easy job as you think because we had to take into consideration many aspects such as that that in traditional Chinese art and culture, the black, red, blue-green, white and yellow are viewed as standard colors and all have some special meanings.
You can’t do any harm if you use the red because it is the most important color in China. It was once believed that red could scare away evil spirits and bad fortune. So that windows and doors are decorated with red color paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “good fortune” or “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”.
The second important color is the yellow which was used to be the color of the emperors, only he was entitled to wear it, however nowadays it is the color of the progress, fame and efficiency.
The black according to the Chinese traditions was the color of respect and the dignity.
The green specially combining with the white gives people stamina, endurance, and it is also the color of rebirth-spring and if it is mixed with red it will bring an especially good luck and fortune. (How ended up our table decoration see the pictures)
Na Sun told me that in Sanghai (from where she is originated), on the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families. Several foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and for exchange they receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.
Starters: Marble tea eggs
Ingredients: 4 eggs, 1 tablespoon sesame salt, 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, 1 whole star of anise, 3 teaspoons smokey tea (Earl Grey tea), sesame salt
1. Boil eggs for twenty minutes over a low heat. 2. Cool in water. 3. When they are cooled enough, drain eggs and tap the shells all over with the back of a spoon until shell is completely cracked. 4. Return eggs to pan, cover with cold water, salt, soy, star anise, and tea. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer very slowly for 2 to 3 hours. 5. Turn off heat and leave eggs in liquid for 8 hours. 6. Drain the water from the tea eggs, leave in their shells until ready to use. Keep well wrapped in the fridge (up to one week) until ready to serve: carefully peel the eggs. The white of the eggs will be marbled with dark lines. 7. Cut into halves or quarters. Serve with sesame salt.
A tossed salad of leaves and fresh herbs (chives, parsley, tarragon, chervil) can be served with this dish, as a simple garnish or side salad. A quick mix of 4 tablespoons of olive or hazelnut oil, whisked with 1-2 tablespoons of reduced cider and 1 teaspoon of lime juice, provides a dressing for the leaves.
Ingredients: Chinese rice noodles, 8 chicken wings, 1 chicken breast, Tandori spice, 1 whole garlic, Chinese radish, stem of the bamboo, ginger, coriander. Pinenut, lemon gras, chicken bouillon, 1 star anise, black pepper, chilli paprika, 1 pinch of sugar, few cloves, 1 leek, soy sauce, fresh soy
1.Cook the chicken wings and breast in boiling water with the bamboo stem and Chinese radish. 2. Add the whole garlic and leek, flavour with salt and pepper, and star anise. 3. Add the bouillon, season with one spoon of soy sauce and lemon grass. 4. When the chicken is tender, rinse and discard the bones. Keep it warm. 5. Cook the Chinese rice noodles with the fresh soy. Sieve and keep it warm over boiling water. 6. Fry the chicken breast in some vegetable oil and season it well with the tandori. Chop into very thin slices. 7. Strain the stock, discarding the onion. 8. Serve the soup „layered”, in each bowl, make a nest from the rice noodles, then pour over the bouillon, also adding the cooked soy sprouts, ground pinenut, fresh spring onions and one dumpling for each person (wonton) just before serving. Put some hot chilli paprika seeds on the table and add some more pinenuts. This makes a very tasty soup.
Cucumber and meatball soup
Ingredients: 200 gr ground meat, 1 fresh cucumber, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 egg, 200 gr fresh soya beans, 1 chicken bouillon, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, salt and pepper, fresh spring onion, red pepper flakes
1. First prepare the meat balls. Sauté the chopped onion in 1 tablespoon oil and mix into the ground meat. Season with salt, pepper and add some Hungarian paprika powder. 2. Beat the egg, add to the mixture. Stir the ingredients together well. 3. Mould into ball shapes by hand. 4. Prepare chicken broth and it is boiling drop the balls in. 5. Wash the cucumber but don’t peel it instead cut into small cubes. Add to the soup. 6. Add 1 or two spoons of the soy sauce and the fresh soya beans as well. Season with salt and pepper. When the meat balls are tender (after 10-15 minutes) serve the soup garnished with chopped fresh spring onion.
Mean dishes: Chinese chicken bites with broccoli
Ingredients: 2 chicken breasts, chicken spice mixture, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 broccoli, 4-5 carrots, 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 200 gr rice, salt and pepper, 2 tbs mirin or rice vinegar
1. Clean the vegetables. Wash broccoli. Cut into small florets. Chop carrots. 2. Sauté the finely sliced chicken breasts in the 2 tablespoons of oil until nicely browned. Season with salt, pepper and chicken spice mixture. Set aside. 3. Sauté the broccoli and carrots together in butter. 4. Season with curry powder (optional) and add two tablespoons of soy sauce and flavor with mirin. If necessary add some water. 5. Prepare rice in the usual way with a bit of garlic. Put the chicken back in the pan and warm through with the vegetables. Serve with rice.
Easy Cantonese Duck
Ingredients: 2 duck breasts, 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil, 1 portion Chinese noodles, 2 onions, 2 carrots, 1 red pepper, 1 ginger, 1 tablespoon corn starch, parsley, salt, pepper, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon tabasco
Follow the same process with the duck as with the turkey with pineapple recipe. 1. Over a high heat fry the breasts in a non-stick frying pan for 15 minutes. Then remove from the heat and put into the oven and roast for a further 15 minutes at 220C. 2. Clean the vegetables and boil them in hot water for a short time. 3. Cook the noodles as well. Put them aside and keep them warm. 4. Prepare soy sauce, mix with tabasco, salt and pepper. 5. Prepare bouillon and if necessary thicken with corn starch. When the duck is crispy and golden brown cut into slices and serve hot with the noodles, vegetables and the gravy.
Ingredients: 4 slices of cod filet, half of a Chinese cabbage, 100 gr smoked ham, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil, salt and pepper
1. Sauté the chopped cabbage in the hazelnut oil for 15 minutes. 2. Pour white wine into a pan, add cream and lemon juice (half of the lemon). 3. When the cabbage is soft, add smoked ham. 4. Fry the cod in hot oil, add salt and pepper to taste. Put fish on a plate, surround with the cabbage. Serve with fried potatoes.
Asian people don’t consume that much sweets than the Europeans or Americans however they have some delicious fluffy dessert specialties what I adore for instance the Water chestnut cake which is a sweet Cantonese dim sum dish made of shredded Chinese water chestnut. When served during dim sum the cake is usually cut into square-shaped slices and pan-fried before serving. The cake is soft, but holds its shape after the frying. Sometimes the cake is made with chopped water chestnuts embedded into each square piece with the vegetable being visible. One of the main trademark characteristics of the dish is its translucent appearance.
Mantou which often referred to as Chinese steamed bun/bread.
In size and texture, they range from 4 cm, soft and fluffy in the most elegant restaurants, firm and dense for the working man’s lunch. (As white flour, being more heavily processed, was once more expensive, white mantou were somewhat of a luxury in preindustrial China.)They offer with condensed milk.
Ingredients: 2 large eggs, 1 cup flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 Tbsp matcha (green tea powder), 1/2 tsp baking powder
Cream butter in a bowl. Add sugar in the butter and mix well. Gradually add beaten eggs and stir well. Sift flour, baking powder, and green tea powder together and add the flour to the egg mixture. Pour the batter into a buttered loaf pan. Bake in preheated 340 degrees F oven for about 30-40 minutes.