Year of the Dragon

Yesterday was the first day of the Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year and Spring Festival.  I have enjoyed cooking special foods for this holiday for the last couple of years, and this year I was more excited to cook last night’s fortuitous dinner even more than before.

2012 is the Year of the Dragon, my sign, considered the most powerful and auspicious of all zodiac animals. I am taking this opportunity to make a fresh start for myself, with a true sense of purpose and a new set of goals and wishes for this coming year, my year. I found the description of “Dragon people” on this website to be a spot-on match to my personality, which I found incredibly amusing.

I wanted to make different dishes from the previous years while still using some of the “lucky” food items (see last year’s post for more on these lucky foods) so here is the menu and recipes. Remember that traditionally, in China, the New Year is celebrated for the first 15 days, so you still have time to enjoy some of these lucky – and tasty- dishes.

~Fresh-squeezed tangerine mimosas (tangerines symbolize abundant happiness and good luck because the word “tangerine”, in Chinese, sounds like “luck”.) These are always Will’s job, and he does it magnificently.

~Pan-fried pork dumplings (These symbolize wealth because they look like ancient Chinese money. The first Chinese bank note was called the Jiaozi – which is the Chinese name for dumplings.) No, I had no time to make them myself, so we bought those little pre-packaged ones from the H.E.B’s Sushi Ya kiosk. Will loves them 🙂

~ Yu Sheng aka “prosperity fish salad” I have wanted to make this dish before but it didn’t suit the weather on previous years, but with yesterday’s relatively warm weather, it seemed perfect. I found dozens of recipes online, and as always, I ended up making my own version based on everything I read. I found this post from Vancouver’s Straight.com, to be particularly informative and fun.

Yu Sheng, "prosperity fish salad", is a new-year tradition among the Chinese diaspora in Singapore and Malaysia.

From Staright.com’s post: Decked out prettily on a platter, the salad is then ready for the significant action from which it derives its other popular name, lo yu sang. The word lo means to toss and mix. In this context, it represents the active wheeling and dealing of successful movers and shakers to create, generate, and increase wealth. Lo hay in Cantonese means striking it big. To activate this, on the signal, all the attending diners are to dip their chopsticks into the salad and toss and mix the salad while chanting “Lo hay! Lo hay!” together, hence wishing each other success and advancement in the year to come.

For some reason, I thought about my pal Hilah Johnson from Hilah Cooking while reading this. She would have a blast doing it. Do try this at home, Hilah!  Will and I got busy with the tossing, screaming “Lo Hay” and laughing hysterically before diving in. The salad was fresh and delicious, and has been requested to join the regular repertoire come summer.

Yu Sheng

3 carrots
1/2 English cucumber
4 red radishes or 1/2 small daikon
1 medium grapefruit or pomelo (another “lucky” foodstuff)
2 large green onions (from the garden!), chopped
1/4 lb. fresh, fresh salmon or another sashimi-quality white fish
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbs. light soy sauce
3 Tbs. rice vinegar
Pinch of sugar, to taste
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. chile oil or Sriracha sauce (or both, ha!)
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds

Using a mandolin, shred the carrots, radish, and cucumber to fine threads. Peel grapefruit and cut into segments (supremes.) Place all of them side by side on a serving platter. Sprinkle green onions and cilantro on top. Thinly slice fish and placeslices in the middle, on top of the veggies. Mix soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, and chile oil or sauce and toss well. Sprinkle sesame seeds on salad. When ready to serve, drizzle dressing over salad, and proceed with ceremonial tossing.

~ Spicy ground turkey in lettuce wraps (the Cantonese word for lettuce is a homophone of “rising fortune”)

1 Tbs. peanut oil or vegetable oil
½  medium white onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
1 lbs. ground turkey (I used thighs)
2 T soy sauce
1 Tbs. chile garlic sauce
1 Tbs. fish sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
1 head Boston or butter lettuce, or substitute 1 head iceberg lettuce

Heat oil and fry garlic, onion and ginger until fragrant. Add meat and stir occasionally to break big clumps. When almost done, add sauces and cook through. Add cilantro, mint, and lime juice. Wash the lettuce leaving the leaves whole and dry thoroughly. To eat, let each person make their own wrap placing the meat mixture inside the lettuce “cup” and garnishing with chopped peanuts. Enjoy!

Our festive table, aka the coffee table since the kitchen one is full of "my office." See if you can spot Benji underneath!

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3 Comments

  1. Oh….I wish I hadn’t seen this while still at work because I am now starved for what you made. This is amazing and fun. Love your recipes as well!!!

    • Thanks Heidi, glad you are following the blog now too! I know you love to cook. We must get together and talk about food and dogs over a glass of wine – SOON!

  2. Great pictures of a lovely meal. I was surprised at the ingredients in the salad. I hope the meal brings you much happiness and prosperity for the Year of the Dragon.

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