Gong Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year! 恭喜发财! 新年快乐! Chinese New Year has past just this Sunday. Unfortunately, I’ve been sleeping off a flu I caught from work the entire weekend to really celebrate the new year. There’s some kind of bug going around. When I called out sick on Friday, I discovered that my supervisor was at the hospital for pneumonia!! Then I saw another faculty member at the clinic when I went to see the doctor. I’m just glad I don’t have anything serious. Although the onset of this flu was very sudden and rapid… It could also be due to all the stress at work. I know February is one of the shortest months of the year, but I cannot wait until the month is over! (It’s a job related thing.)
Anyway… you probably hear “Gong hay fat choy” said around Chinese new year very often. It just means “Congratulations and be prosperous”. But nowadays Chinese kids think that by saying this they receive money. In our culture, it is true that during the new year, hong bao (红包), lai see (利事), or red envelopes with money are given out by married couples or elders to children and unmarried youngsters. It is a way of wishing luck and prosperity for the upcoming year.
There are many more traditions and customs that are performed during Chinese New Year that I cannot possibly cover them all. And food is definitely not a short topic. I remember waking up very Chinese New Year at home to my family all wearing red and my dad blasting the Chinese new year music. We would all sit down for breakfast with a bowl of rice and a vegetarian dish composed of all types of vegetables, fat choy (发菜), and mushrooms called jai (罗汉菜) or known as Buddah’s delight. I would have loved to recreate this, but due to my failure to shop at the Asian market beforehand, I was short of ingredients to make this dish.
However, that doesn’t defer me from making some kind of Chinese dish. So I made char siu (叉烧) also known as Chinese barbecued pork. Char siu literally translates to “fork burnt”, which was the traditional method of cooking the pork with forks over a fire. You’ll see these slabs of red roasted meat hanging by the windows of most Chinese restaurants. It does take a certain skill to cook this meat and not let it burn because of all the sugar content the sauce has. But the outcome is delicious! Also, some char siu may be redder in color because of added food coloring. It is mainly for looks and not taste.
I’ve tried two recipes for making homemade char siu. Adapted from Wandering Chopsticks, which has better flavor, and No Recipes, which has the better cooking technique. So I’ve combined the two recipes to make a perfect one below.
3 lbs pork butt, shoulder, ribs, or any cut of meat
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tbsp hoisin suace
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp shao hsing or sherry wine
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tsp salt
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a Ziplock bag. Add the pork to marinade and push out as much air as possible so the meat is completely surrounded by marinade. Let the meat marinate for several hours or overnight in the fridge, flip the bag once or twice to ensure even marination.
To roast the char siu, preheat the oven to 275° F and move the rack to the upper middle position. Set an elevated wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet and lay the marinate pork on the rack, saving the marinade for basting late. Put the pan in the oven and let roast for 1 hour or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160° F. Cooking times may vary depending on the thickness of the cut. Remove the pan from the oven, then move the oven rack to the top position and turn the oven to broil.
Baste the pork with the reserved marinade, then broil it until dark and glossy with the edges just slightly charred, about 2-3 minutes. Flip the meat over, baste again and broil the other side until slightly charred as well, another 2-3 minutes.
Print Recipe Here!
Because I haven’t stepped foot in the kitchen since Superbowl weekend, I had to cook at least one more dish… Singapore Mai Fun (fried rice noodles)! This is Sam’s favorite dish from MK’s Asian Kitchen in Opelika. I’m always referring people to go there for some authentic Chinese food. And it’s not that greasy Chinese take-out either loaded with MSG. The owner is super friendly and takes the time to know your name and where you’re from. The last couple of times I’ve been there, she’s been swamped. I guess word has gotten around that they have the best food and service.
Anyway, I chose Singapore mai fun as a dish because it is so versatile. You can keep it a vegetarian dish if you wish or load it up with shrimp, chicken, and/or char siu! It’s a stir-fry dish that contains curry. And with any dish containing heat, you can always alter it to be hotter or milder. This recipe was adapted from Rasa Maylasia.
12 ounces dry rice vermicelli or mai fun
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
8 dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced thin
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
1 green bell pepper, sliced thin
1 cup mung bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
4 green onions or scallions, roots trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb char siu, cut into matchsticks
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp Madras hot curry powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 cu chicken broth
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tsp granulated sugar
2 tsp hot chili paste
If using dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrate them in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Then drain, cut off stems and slice thinly.
Make the Sauce: Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the curry powder, the ginger, and the minced garlic, and saute until fragrant. Add the chicken broth, soy sauce, sugar, and chili paste. Stir to combine and then cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
Cook and combine ingredients: Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large wok over high heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and stir-fry until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in the celery, onion, pepper, sprouts, green onions, and mushrooms. Stir-fry for 3 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften. Set the vegetables aside in a bowl.
Print Recipe Here!
It wasn’t quite up to par as MK’s dish, but yummy nonetheless. I think I’ll stir-fry it a bit longer next time to rid some extra moisture from the sauce. Again, you can always omit the meat in the dish and it’s just as good as a vegetarian curry dish!
I hope everyone’s lunar new year is joyful. I’m definitely going to try to get back on my feet in time to attempt a dessert for Valentine’s Day! Till next time!