Chinese New Year begins today, February 3, 2011 and will be celebrated for the next 15 days, during which many foods considered to be lucky and fortuitous are served. The qualifications for lucky or symbolic foods vary, and their powers can be attributed to their appearance (long noodles for long life) or their names, which may resemble words like “fortune”, “gold,” or “abundance.”
Last year we enjoyed a salad of garden lettuce (for prosperity) with soy vinaigrette, lemongrass scented rice (which symbolizes well-being and good fortune), and a whole pan fried fish, a symbol of abundance, served with a ginger-garlic hot and sour sauce. It was a spectacular dinner.
2011 will be the year of the Rabbit. According to the horoscope, this will be an easy going, calm year: Good taste and refinement will shine on everything and people will acknowledge that persuasion is better than force. A congenial time in which diplomacy, international relations and politics will be given a front seat again. We will act with discretion and make reasonable concessions without too much difficulty. Money can be made without too much labor. A temperate year with unhurried pace. For once, it may seem possible for us to be carefree and happy without too many annoyances. I’ll drink to that.
I found a fantastic website that explains many of the symbolic foods for Chinese New Year. Lots of good things can be made that are not only tasty and inexpensive but appropriate for this nasty cold weather. Luckily I have a few of them already on hand, growing in the garden and needing to be picked, and I bought a few more to make sure we will have prosperity, wealth, happiness, health, and long life.
Bamboo shoots (竹笋尖; zhú sǔn jiān) – wealth (term sounds like “wishing that everything would be well” – xǔyuànchí), new start
Chinese garlic chives (韭菜, jiǔcài) – everlasting, eternity, long life
Lettuce and other leafy greens (生菜; shēngcài) – prosperity
Noodles (面条; miàntiáo) uncut – long life
Orange (柑橘; gānjú) – wealth, good fortune, gold
Oysters (牡蠣; mǔlì) – receptivity to good fortune, good business
Pork (猪肉; zhūròu) – strength, wealth, abundant blessings
Shrimp (小虾; xiǎoxiā) – happiness and good fortune
Tangerines (橘; jú) – luck
The oranges and tangerines, after being displayed all day,will be juiced and mixed with Cava for a reception cocktail which we will enjoy with smoked oysters on rice crackers. The first course will be Asian glazed pork spareribs, and for the main dish we will have stir fried noodles with broccoli greens and jumbo Gulf shrimp (because I want extra happiness and good fortune) seasoned with oyster sauce. I still can’t decide if the lettuce and bamboo shoots will be soup or salad. Recipes will be forthcoming as we’ll have the next two weeks to eat our quota of lucky- and tasty- Asian dishes.