Chinese New Year is one of those holidays that is near and dear to my heart. It reminds me of my childhood. And you know what they say about nostalgia and food memories, right? Well, these memories tend to be much stronger and life changing that other kinds of food memories. Heck, the food might not be that great but because it's from a happy childhood moment, it might taste like liquid diamonds on fat steroids (if that had a taste I'm sure it would be awesome). Well lucky for me, my mom was a fantastic cook. And so I know my childhood food memories was no joke. They were filled with delicious dishes left and right. The holidays were especially precious. And this, my friends, is why I was a fat child growing up.
Anyway, enough about me. More about the food. Now like any immigrant family cook, my mother didn't write any recipes down. She knew how things should taste by using her senses only. Taste, look, feel, smell. She was the best at cooking. Not so good at teaching since she got annoyed at little ol' fat Hungry taking up space in her precious kitchen. Without having these precious lessons in hand, I've been trying to recreate a lot of her dishes from memory. That is, from watching her work in the kitchen as well as from trying to remember what the dishes taste like. Some I feel like I've nailed while others needs improvement.
recipe here) which is a family favorite. Freshly fried shrimp tossed in a sweet mayo sauce. Candied walnuts garnish the plate while broccoli dressed the edges. I was pretty confident about this dish so I didn't have to worry if my sister liked it or not. By the way, she did like it.
recipe here). I've seen people steam a whole chicken (head and feet on) or even slowly poach a chicken. I prefer steaming because it's faster and I can steam it in pieces. This year, I steamed a whole chicken that was cut up into 8 pieces. It's better to steam the chicken in larger pieces to retain a lot of the moisture. After it's cooked (use a thermometer!), I let it cool completely then chop it into more manageable pieces. This is where a butcher knife comes in handy. I'm still working on my butcher knife skills (I'm afraid of chopping my fingers off) but I'm getting better every time. Sharpening it is key for me. Anyway, the chicken is served with a really delicious ginger scallion sauce. It's a simple 4 ingredient sauce that so good on almost anything. I've been know to just scoop it onto my white rice. I made a double batch this time around and it got eaten up just the same.
recipe here). Crispy skin, fatty meat, and strong savory flavors with a side of hoisin sauce. This is a really good make ahead dish because it has to cool down before you cut into it. I was a bit worried about the execution of this dish because it normally takes about 2 hours in the oven. This time, it only took 1 hour and had exceeded the internal temperature by 10 degrees. I freaked out. Luckily, the fattiness of the pork belly really helped keep it moist. I had nothing to worry about at the end of the day. It was still juicy with its crispy skin on top.
here and here). Next time, I think I'll keep them in the pan and reheat them when it's ready to be eaten. No more oven warming. It doesn't always work well with Asian food.
recipe here). I battered my tofu in corn starch and egg whites but if you want to make it truly vegan, then you can just coat with corn starch and fry.
recipe here). I fried the thin noodles then sauteed the seafood (scallops, squid, and lump crab) and vegetables. I think I'm going to retire this dish from the new year line up. It was the least eaten dish 2 years in a row. Something must be wrong. I could be cooking it wrong or people would just rather eat something else. Ms. Pastry Chef told me that nothing was necessarily wrong with it. It's just that everything else was so much more tasty. Hmm, point taken. I'll have to replace it with something with more punchy flavor.
recipe here). This dish must be cooked to order. Whole fish doesn't reheat very well. So you really want to serve it straight from the steamer to the table. Oh and it's key to serve a whole fish to represent wealth and good fortune. Oh and don't you dare flip it over to get the other side of meat. Instead, filet the bone out properly. Flipping the fish means that you're flipping the fish boat which is very unlucky. It will in turn flip your own luck and you'll have bad luck for the year. I know, this is all mumbo jumbo but whatever. Traditions, you know.