I haven’t made a Chinese New Year dinner for friends after the nine-course extravaganza I attempted when I was 25 or so, living in New York City. I don’t know what inspired that madness. I just remember the exhaustion.
If you’ve followed my posts, you may remember that our family doesn’t celebrate Chinese New Year, with all its lovely traditions, embraced by many Chinese-American families. While my heritage is Japanese, I would have tried to nurture the custom, if it had significance for Steve. But his family didn’t observe Chinese New Year either, possibly because my mother-in-law was a third-generation Chinese-American and China was a long time in her family’s past.
This year, February 19 kicks off Chinese New Year, which is a celebration that lasts 15 days, ending with the Lantern Festival. During that time, to at least acknowledge the New Year, we might go out to a Chinese restaurant or we might cook a few dishes at home informally, using some easy Special Fork recipes. We don’t adhere to prescribed New Year food customs – just some easy Chinese dishes like this Hot and Sour Soup, to commemorate the occasion.
Hot and Sour Soup
3 to 4 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) lower sodium chicken broth
½ cup shredded canned bamboo shoots
½ cup julienned ham, pork or chicken
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon ground white pepper (or black pepper)
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
Sliced green onions for garnish (optional)
Put mushrooms in a small bowl; pour 1 cup hot water over mushrooms to cover. When mushrooms have rehydrated, about 30 minutes, squeeze water from mushrooms and slice thinly, discarding stems; reserve mushroom water.
In medium pot, combine chicken broth and mushroom water; bring to a boil and add mushrooms, bamboo shoots and ham; lower heat and simmer about 5 minutes, until mushrooms are cooked. Add vinegar, soy sauce, pepper and sesame oil. Using a fork or chopsticks, mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and pour mixture into simmering broth, stirring until thickened, about 1 minute. Add eggs and gently stir with a fork or chopsticks to form shreds. Sprinkle with green onion slices before serving, if desired.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
If you’re considering a Chinese New Year celebration, remember when planning your menu, to vary the meats – chicken, pork, beef, fish and so on. And be sure to include a few make-ahead dishes so you’re not trying to cook several dishes on stovetop at once.
Some delicious Chinese recipes from the Special Fork recipe database:
- Finger-licking Hoisin Honey Baby Back Ribs roasts unattended in the oven, which gives you more time to focus on any dishes that require last-minute cooking.
- Zesty Garlic-Chile Eggplant Sticks is a recipe from Linda Anusasananan’s The Hakka Cookbook; this dish can be served hot or at room temperature.
- Velvet Chicken and Cashews, a recipe by Katie Barreira, uses the technique of velveting, a blanching process that ensures moist and succulent morsels of chicken.
- Steamed Fish with Ginger and Green Onions is one of the easiest dishes to prep and cook; however, it does require a steamer. While we use a fish filet, a whole fish would be more authentic.
Gong Hey Fat Choy (Cantonese) — wishing you great happiness and prosperity!
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