The lunar New Year and the year of the ox begins on Jan. 26. To celebrate, gather friends and family for a Chinese-style banquet. Food symbolism plays an important role in Chinese New Year, so select the menu carefully. Start by serving mushroom spring rolls. The crispy, golden rolls represent gold bouillon. Serving a chicken whole represents a sense of unity — this recipe produces juicy, tender meat. Chinese noodles seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and cilantro signify longevity. Oysters braised with sea moss is a traditional dish that brings luck to business transactions and rounds out the menu. To look at these recipes,
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 plump lemongrass stalk, tender white inner bulb only, minced
1 red Thai chile, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
10 thin egg roll or spring roll wrappers
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
10 Boston lettuce leaves, halved
- In a very large skillet, melt the butter. Add all of the mushrooms, the wine and soy sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring a few times, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are tender, about 8 minutes.
- Uncover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 4 minutes longer.
- In a small skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, lemongrass, chile, shallot and 1 tablespoon of the ginger and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the lemon zest, then stir the mixture into the mushrooms.
- On a work surface, lightly brush an egg roll wrapper with the beaten egg. Spread 1/4 cup of the mushrooms on the lower third of the wrapper; bring the lower edge up and over the filling and roll up, folding in the sides as you go. Lightly flatten the roll and brush it with the beaten egg. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
- In a blender, puree the mayonnaise with the 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, the tarragon, lime juice, vinegar and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of ginger until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a medium skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 250°. Add 3 or 4 spring rolls and fry gently until nicely browned, about 1 minute per side. Drain on the prepared baking sheet and repeat the frying with the remaining spring rolls.
- Cut the rolls in half on the diagonal, wrap them in lettuce leaves and serve right away with the ginger sauce.
Makes 10 spring rolls.
- Appetizers, Finger Foods
1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb) whole chicken (with head and feet if desired), neck (if without head) and giblets reserved for another use if desired
1 bunch scallions, halved crosswise
2 oz Smithfield or other cured ham (1 piece or sliced), trimmed of any spice coating
6 (1/4-inch-thick) round slices peeled fresh ginger
14 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
For dipping sauce
1 bunch scallions (white and pale green parts only), cut into very thin 2-inch strips
3 tablespoons light soy sauce (preferably Pearl River Bridge brand)
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely grated (with a rasp) peeled fresh ginger
- Make chicken: rinse chicken inside and out, then bend legs to tuck feet (if still attached) inside cavity. Stuff cavity with scallions, ham, and ginger.
- Bring water with salt to a boil in a deep 7- to 8-quart stockpot or pasta pot. Add chicken, breast side down (chicken may not be completely covered with liquid), then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 30 minutes. Turn chicken over and let stand, covered, 15 minutes more (chicken will be cooked through).
- While chicken stands, fill a large bowl three-fourths full with ice and cold water. Carefully remove chicken from pot with a large slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Let stand, gently turning over once (be careful not to tear skin), until cool, about 10 minutes total. Carefully transfer to a cutting board and discard scallions, ham, and ginger from cavity. Pat dry. Rub skin with sesame oil.
- Make dipping sauce: stir together scallions and soy sauce in a small heatproof bowl.
- Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water vaporizes instantly. Pour oil around side of wok, then tilt wok to swirl oil, coating sides. When oil just begins to smoke, carefully add ginger (oil will spatter) and stir-fry 30 seconds. Immediately remove from heat and pour over scallion mixture, stirring to combine (scallions will wilt).
- To cut and serve chicken on a platter (Chinese restaurant–style), cut off the head and neck (if attached) with a cleaver and put at one end of a large platter. (These parts, along with the back and feet, aren't always eaten.) Cut off the feet. Cut off the drumsticks and thighs, then cut crosswise through the boneinto 1-inch pieces. Place the feet and leg meat at the other end of the platter. Cut off the wings, separating them at the joints, and put on the sides of the platter. Cut through the ribs, separating breast from back, then cut the backbone crosswise into 3 pieces and put them in the center of the platter. (Striking the cleaver with a rubber mallet makes the cuts clean.) Cut the breast crosswise through the bone into 1-inch pieces and arrange on the back. Alternatively, cut chicken according to procedure and mound pieces in a bowl.
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons dipping sauce over chicken and sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature, with remaining dipping sauce on the side.
- Poultry, Main Dishes
1 package (8 ounces) thin Chinese noodles
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons light-brown sugar
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain; rinse under cold water until completely cool. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, red pepper, and cilantro. Add noodles; toss to combine. Season with salt and ground pepper, and serve.
- Pasta/Noodle, Side Dishes
11 ounces Chinese and iceberg lettuce leaves
8 jumbo oysters
2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 black mushrooms, soaked in water
0.7 ounces sea moss, soaked in water
1/3 cup +2 tbsp chicken stock
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Salt, to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
- Blanch lettuce quickly in seasoned water, remove and line a serving dish with the leaves.
- Poach oysters in the same water until 50% cooked. Remove.
- Heat Chinese wok and quickly sauté oysters with vegetable oil. Add the black mushrooms, sea moss, chicken stock and oyster sauce. Cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms are soft.
- Season the sauce with sesame oil, salt and sugar. Mix cornstarch with water. Add enough of the cornstarch mixture to slightly thicken the sauce.
- Place oysters, black mushrooms and sea moss on top of lettuce.
- Side Dishes, Seafood