Monday, January 30, 2017

Chinese New Year Here

The year of the fire rooster came in on Saturday, making it feast time in Chinese.
Fortunately almost everything can be made with produce available here in mid-winter.
The Chinese believe in food symbolism so they cut carrots into disks to represent coins as wealth for the new year, tofu to represent transformation, long noodles for long life, peas in the pod (snow or snap peas) for family unity and so on.  Also, most Chinese honor the new year by eating strictly vegetarian, the lingering trace of their Buddhist roots, to show respect for life in hopes the gods show respect for theirs. Here are a few dishes from my kitchen that would be great any day of the year and something to crow about in the year of the rooster. I'm not including the famed, must-do dish of the day, Lohan Zhai (Buddha's Delight) because if you don't have a Chinatown nearby, you won't get lotus root, wood ear mushrooms and other required symbolic ingredients. But you can read all about them in Veggiyana, The Dharma of Cooking.

Beansprout salad
This is an easy, quick fix, a mouth refreshing mix for 8-10:
1 lb fresh mung bean sprouts
1 med. red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 med. cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, then chopped
1 bunch scallions, cleaned and chopped even the green tops
1 sm daikon, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into strips
1/3 c roasted soy nuts or peanuts or pinenuts (for crunch)
2 mandarins/clementines, peeled and pulled into sections
1/2 bunch baby broccoli or broccolini, steamed to soften, then chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 sm head bok choy, chopped
2 oz extra firm tofu, diced or crumbled in like cheese
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2" fresh ginger, peeled and grated
GARNISH: chopped cilantro

Peanut butter noodles
3/4-1 lb Chinese egg noodles (usually found refrigerated)
1 bunch scallions, cleaned and finely chopped
1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
2 doz snow or snap peas, cleaned
1/3 c smooth peanut butter
2 drops hot chili oil or 1/8 tsp sriracha
   soy sauce
   corn oil

Cook noodles in boiling water about 3 minutes or until just tender. Remove immediately and refresh under cold water. Drain well. Put in a serving bowl and combine with the scallions and sesame seeds. Make the dressing from all ingredients from peanut butter down using a whisk to blend. Pour over the noodles, mix thoroughly and line the bowl with the peas.  If you'd rather have the peas in the noodles, cut them in half and add with the scallions.

Chinese Tea Eggs

6 extra large or jumbo eggs
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 star anise
2 tbsp leaves or 2 bags of strong black tea like Russian Caravan or Labsang Souchong or best quality Darjeeling
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp sugar

In a large saucepan, cover the eggs by 2” with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and boil 3 minutes.  Remove eggs from pan but do not discard water.
When eggs are cool enough to handle, with the back of a teaspoon, gently tap the shells to delicately crack them all over while still keeping them intact. Return eggs to the water, and add the other ingredients. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer 40 minutes, turn off heat and let eggs steep for 4 hours. Remove shells and serve whole to show off the marbling. These are perfect for picnics, boats or parties.

Dried Tofu with Mung Bean Noodles and Sesame
In Chinese, dried tofu is doufu gan. It comes in 1" thick squares, often four to a package and has a dark brown coating. It has the texture of a cheese like Havarti. The endless cellophane noodles make a good symbol of long life.

Serves 4-6

6.5 oz bean thread Noodles, aka cellophane noodles
1 bunch (6 stalks) scallions, roots cut off
3  2”squares Chinese dried Tofu, aka dofu gan in Chinese, or soy beancurd cake
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
Optional garnish: cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Prepare the noodles according to package instructions or put them in boiling water for one minute and drain. Refresh with a spray of cold water and drain well. Put noodles in a serving bowl.

Slice the scallions into thin disks and put on the noodles.
Cut the tofu squares through their middle into two thinner squares, then cut each of those into thin strips. Put these on the noodles.

In a small cup, combine soy sauce, sesame oil and vinegar with a whisk and pour it over the salad to serve. Garnish with the cilantro leaves.

2 cups all-purpose flour                
1 cup boiling water                       
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup minced scallions (about 2 bunches)
1 tbsp sesame oil
½ cup corn or canola oil
Sift flour with salt into large bowl or food processor. Add water in a steady stream, continually mixing with a wooden spoon until a dough ball forms. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it sit 30 minutes.
Combine the sesame oil with 1 tbsp corn or canola oil. Flour a flat surface and roll dough into a thin rectangle. Brush with the oils and spread the scallions evenly on top. Now carefully roll the dough up tightly like a jellyroll. Cut it across into 4 equal pieces. Twist each piece 3 times and fold it into a spiral. Roll each spiral into a flat 5” pancake. (If it’s a little bigger, okay.) Coat a nonstick skillet with some of the corn or canola oil and pan sear the pancake on both sides until they brown. Use fresh oil for each pancake if you need to. Cut into wedges to serve. Make a sauce out of soy sauce, rice vinegar, minced ginger and scallions with a fleck of Asian chili sauce.