Feb. 3 marks the beginning of a new year on the Chinese lunar calendar, the year of the rabbit, so why not seize the opportunity to celebrate with some great Asian dishes.
We eat stir-fried dinners regularly because there a nice variety of lightly-cooked fresh vegetables and just a small amount of lean meat, fish or other protein and that’s a good, healthy way to eat.
I almost always include fresh garlic and ginger, both of which are also good for your health, and there’s usually no need to add extra salt, as it’s already in the prepared sauce you spice up the dish with.
Very little oil is needed, so that’s not a significant factor.
In order to get the seven to 10 vegetables a day recommended by Canada’s Food Guide, I try to include vegetables in breakfast as well as lunch and dinner.
So to the traditional egg foo yung, I always add spinach and mushrooms as well as the bean sprouts. I even add vegetables to my scrambled eggs and to omelets in the morning.
Traditionally, preparations for the new year involve a thorough house cleaning and paying out of debts to get ready ahead of time, then a 15-day celebration, so from the date of the new moon to the rise of the full moon.
There’s much socializing and good food, much of it symbolic of good luck.
Enjoy some Chinese cuisine and I wish you good luck in this coming rabbit year.
If you like this column you may also be interested in my upcoming book, to be called Jude’s Kitchen, being published by the Okanagan Institute in the coming months. To reserve your copy, go to www.judiesteeves.com
Ground Pork with Bean Curd
You could turn this into a vegetarian dish by omitting the pork and it would be very tasty. It’s a very healthful dish, with the tofu as a lean protein (bean curd) and lots of vegetables.
12 oz. (350 g) extra firm tofu
1 tbsp. (15 ml) minced ginger
1 garlic clove
1/2 sweet red pepper
2 c. (500 ml) chopped bok choy
drizzle of oil
1/2 c. (125 ml) water
1/2 lb. (227 g) lean ground pork
1 tbsp. (15 ml) brown bean sauce
1 tsp. (5 ml) szechuan sauce
1 tbsp. (15 ml) cornstarch
1 tbsp. (15 ml) cold water
Rinse tofu and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Mince ginger and garlic; cube onion, mushrooms and red pepper and slice up the bok choy. Set each vegetable aside in a little pile.
Heat a drizzle of oil in a wok over medium-high heat and add a third of the ginger. Give it a stir and add the tofu/bean curd cubes. Brown them a little on all sides, handling carefully so they don’t disintegrate. Remove to a platter.
Add another drizzle of oil, heat it and add another third of the ginger, stirring it for a second. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the mushrooms and bok choy. Stir fry for a few minutes, then add the red pepper and water and cover for a few minutes to steam, but do not overcook.
Remove to a bowl or the lid for the wok and add another drizzle of oil. Add the remaining ginger, then the pork and stir fry until the pink has nearly all gone. Add the garlic, the sauces and the liquid that has accumulated under the vegetables. Bring it to bubbling, re-combine the cornstarch mixture and add it and stir until the sauce becomes translucent and thickens.
Return the vegetables and stir fry briefly, then pour it all over the tofu on the platter.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with rice or noodles.
Spinach Egg Foo Yung
While this may not be part of mainstream Chinese cuisine, it is here in North America, and this is a fresher, brighter, crispier version of the traditional one. I don’t recommend pre-cooking the vegetables because I think they are better still a bit crisp when they arrive on your plate. The sauce is optional, but is very simple to make. I like to add a few fresh, chopped shrimp to this.
1 c. (250 ml) fresh bean sprouts
2 c. (500 ml) spinach leaves
2 tsp. (10 ml) olive oil
Rinse a handful of bean sprouts in cold water, drain and pat dry.
Clean mushrooms and cut into small dice.
Wash and chop fresh spinach leaves.
Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl and add vegetables. Mix.
Heat oil or melt butter in a non-stick pan, and pour spoonfuls of the egg and vegetable mixture in, just as you would make pancakes.
Let each little omelette brown for a minute or so before turning and browning the other side. They can be made any size you like.
Keep warm while you make up the rest of them.
1 tbsp. (15 ml) cold water
2 tsp. (10 ml) cornstarch
1/2 c. (125 ml) chicken stock
2 tsp. (10 ml) soy sauce
Dissolve cornstarch in cold water in a small bowl and set aside.
Bring stock to a boil in a small pot and add soy sauce. Stir in re-combined cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly.
When bubbling, thickened and clear, just keep the sauce warm until ready to serve.
Add salt only if needed.
Drizzle a bit of sauce over each omelette.