from Jude's Kitchen: gung hay fat choy
As we approach the first day of the Chinese New Year, which is Feb. 10 this year, it’s fun to participate by planning to celebrate with Chinese food.
Since the Chinese calendar is based on the moon rather than the sun, the Chinese new year begins every year with the second new moon following the winter solstice.
Celebrations continue for 15 days, until the Lantern Festival Feb. 24 on the eve of the full moon.
Chinese New Year is the most important occasion in the Chinese year and is celebrated in many Asian countries, as well as in Chinatowns throughout the rest of the world.
This year will be the Year of the Snake on the Chinese calendar, one of 12 astrological animals which govern its years in rotation with snake following dragon and followed by horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger and rabbit.
The Chinese have a worthy tradition of sweeping all the bad things out of the old year in preparation for the new one, so feuds are patched up; debts taken care of and homes cleaned through, ready for the start of a fresh year.
New clothing is purchased, hair is cut, broken furniture or appliances discarded and gifts purchased for anyone you will be visiting. Visits to family and friends will include food, of course, particularly uncut noodles, dumplings like pot stickers, lettuce wraps and spring rolls and whole fish.
When I was an impoverished college student, a Chinese friend introduced me to the back alley entrances to Chinatown restaurants in Vancouver, where he ordered in Chinese and we reaped the rewards of cheap, delicious food, while the elders played mah jong nearby. I can still hear the click of the tiles and smell the exotic sauces and spices.
It was my introduction to the healthy, flavourful and colourful stir-fry, which has become a staple in my diet.
There are a few of my favourite Chinese-style stir-fries in my cookbook, Jude’s Kitchen, available wherever books are sold, and at many wine stores and boutiques.
Best wishes for a prosperous lunar year of the snake: Gung Hay Fat Choy.
Chinese Barbecued Pork
If you’ve ever enjoyed real Cantonese barbecued pork, you’re likely to be interested in trying it at home. This may not be exactly the same as what you’ve tasted in Chinatown, but it’s close and it’s pretty good. This is delicious on its own, or in a chow mein, fried rice or other stir-fry dish.
3 lb. (1.36 kg) boneless pork butt
3 garlic cloves
1/4 c. (60 ml) hoisin sauce
2 tbsp. (30 ml) honey
2 tbsp. (30 ml) dry sherry
2 tbsp. (30 ml) soy sauce
1 tsp. (5 ml) five spice powder
1 tsp. (5 ml) sesame oil
You may use pork tenderloins instead but remove the silverskin before marinating. If using a larger piece of pork, slice it into long strips, with the grain of the meat, similar in size to the tenderloin, so each is about three inches in diameter.
Mince the garlic and combine with the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Marinate the strips of pork in it overnight, or for at least four hours, refrigerated.
Pre-heat the oven to 325 F.
Remove the pork strips from the marinade, letting any excess drip off, and lay each on a rack in a roasting pan lined with foil. Bake for about 15 minutes before turning the strips over.
Bake about 15 minutes longer, then baste with the remaining marinade.
After 15 more minutes turn and baste again.
If there’s any marinade remaining, cook it to bubbling and thick and slather the pork strips with it once they’re removed from the oven.
Slice each to serve.
Barbecued Pork Fried Rice
This is one delicious way to use the barbecued pork, or you may make this with diced uncooked pork, or even lean ground pork. Stir-fries can be made quickly after work to serve as a family meal, complete with vegetables and a protein all in one dish. I prefer brown rice because of the extra nutrients, but you may also use white.
1/2 lb. (227 g) Chinese barbecued pork
1 small onion
1 stalk celery
8 stalks of fresh asparagus
1 tbsp. (15 ml) minced fresh ginger
4 c. (1 l) cold cooked brown rice
drizzle of oil
2 tbsp. (30 ml) soy sauce
Dice the pork, onion, celery, asparagus and mushrooms. Mince the fresh ginger.
Break up the cold rice so it’s not lumpy or clumped.
Heat a drizzle of oil in a wok or large frypan over medium heat. Add the ginger and onion and fry until beginning to soften.
Add the celery, asparagus and mushrooms and stir fry until the vegetables are nearly cooked.
Push the vegetables to the side and add the rice and drizzle with the soy sauce. Stir fry for a few minutes until the rice is completely heated through.