This post comes to us courtesy of cookbook author and television personality Ching He Huang.
I love Chinese New Year. It is an important time for Chinese families to get together to have a “reunion dinner” or “Tuan Yuan Fan.” For many families in China and around the world, it is sometimes the only occasion during a whole year where one would get to see all their family. So, on such a special occasion, mothers and grandmothers would make sure the New Year feast is one that will be remembered and reminisced for the rest of the year!
The New Year is also known as the “Spring Festival” and traditionally, many foods that have symbolism are also eaten at this time. Whole animals – roasted suckling pigs, fried and steamed fish, stewed chickens – are served because they signify “completeness,” “wholeness” and “unity.”
Traditionally, dishes that are homophones of lucky phrases are also served. For example, stewed black algae moss is popular, not because it is the best-tasting dish ever, but because it is pronounced “Fa Cai” and it sounds like “Fa Tsai,” which means to “grow wealth and prosperity.” Dishes that are gold and red in color are served because they are the luckiest colors. Noodles are eaten as a symbol and wish for longevity.
I love the fact that Chinese New Year is given love and attention in the United States. Throughout the U.S., many families from all backgrounds join in this celebration. I am really delighted to be able to share many of my family-style recipes but many have been given a modern twist, all with healthy, balanced, delicious eating in mind.
These recipes are not all traditionally eaten around Chinese New Year because many traditional recipes call for some ingredients that are not necessarily accessible or Western-kitchen friendly. So I have included recipes that have a Chinese New Year theme or element attached to them.
Most of the dishes can be prepared in advance (see individual recipes for instructions). However, if you’re going to do all the cooking the same day, preparing the menu in courses allows breathing space, maximum enjoyment and is in the true spirit of Chinese eating.
I hope I have provided you with some ideas and inspiration if you decide to host your own Chinese New Year party this year or perhaps you can save them as recipes for midweek meals or another special festive occasion. Wishing you “Gong Xi Fa Cai” – good health, happiness and prosperity in the Year of the Dragon 2012.
Happy cooking and blessings,
Assorted exotic fruits
To find out more about Ching, her great tasting recipes and her books, visit www.chinghehuang.com.
To learn more about her US television shows, visit the Cooking Channel.
About the author: The face of Chinese cooking on British TV, Ching-He Huang’s dynamic approach to modern Chinese food led to a television presence in Great Britain before coming to America with her popular shows Chinese Food Made Easy and Easy Chinese: San Francisco on the Cooking Channel. Ching is also the author of four cookbooks, the bestselling Ching’s Chinese Food in Minutes, Chinese Food Made Easy and China Modern. Ching’s latest book, Ching’s Fast Food, is published by Harper Collins and is available on her website. http://www.chinghehuang.com