Greet the Chinese new year with special holiday foods
This year's Chinese new year, called the Year of the Dog, comes on Monday, Jan. 25, the year of 4680 in the Chinese calendar. Years ago this holiday was celebrated for a full month from new moon to new moon. Today the festivities are usually shorter. But in the Chinese neighborhoods of most cities usually there are special events for a few days, often including a parade featuring the traditional and colorful dragon dance.Skip to next paragraph
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Word of the actual new year date, slightly different each year, is always quickly spread around among those non-Chinese who are devotees of Chinese cuisine.
They search out Chinese restaurants that will be serving special holiday banquets, eager for invitations to their favorite place.
And many Americans who like to cook Chinese foods plan to make some of the special holiday foods such as Golden Coins, a pork dish that symbolizes success, and Tea Eggs, which supposedly help the new year roll in easily.
A more practical approach, suggested by Nina Simonds, Chinese cooking teacher , might be to resolve to try some traditional Chinese dishes that will fit in with your own daily American menus.
Whether or not you have learned, as many Americans have, to cook vegetables lightly to retain crispness, in the Chinese stir-fry manner, you can easily make some of the more hearty winter dishes from this extensive cuisine.
Ms. Simonds, who lived and studied cooking in Taiwan for almost four years, has translated and edited several Chinese cookbooks and for seven years has taught Chinese cooking at various schools in the United States and Canada.
Last year she guided a group of Americans on a cooking-school trip of Taiwan where they studied at the Wei-Chuan Cooking School in Taipei with three Chinese master chefs who specialize in Eastern Regional, Szechuan-Hunan, and Cantonese cuisines.
Classes were taught in Mandarin with Ms. Simonds giving the English translation and commentary. A similiar tour is planned for this year.
Ms. Simonds explains that there is a whole series of braised dishes and stews that are especially good during the cold winter months. She has chosen the following for you to try and she has included short comments introducing each one.
''Beef and lamb are particularly appealing to the Chinese during the cold weather since they are believed to 'fire up' the body. Accordingly, they are served frequently throughout the winter months. The hearty braised beef dish below is especially popular in Peking where this version is said to have originated.'' Braised Soy Sauce Beef 2 pounds boneless stewing beef, such as chuck or shin 1/4 cup peanut, safflower, or corn oil Braising Mixture: 3 stalks scallion, smashed with the flat edge of a cleaver 3 slices gingerroot, smashed with the flat edge of a cleaver whole star anise 1 stick cinnamon 11/4 cups water 1/4 cup soy sauce 11/2 tablespoons sugar
Trim any fat or gristle from meat and cut beef into cubes approximately 1 -inch square. Assemble ingredients of braising mixture.
Heat 3-quart casserole or Dutch oven. Add oil and heat to 400 degrees F. Add half the meat cubes at a time and brown on all sides over high heat. Remove and drain.
Reheat oil for second half of cubes. Remove oil.
Add all cooked beef pieces with braising mixture to casserole and heat until boiling. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 11/2 hours, partially covered, stirring occasionally.