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Chinese New Year: Celebrate happiness and wholeness with a roasted chicken

Ming Tsai of public-television's 'Simply Ming' shares an East-West recipe and other food traditions to honor the Year of the Horse.

By Stir It Up! Editor / January 31, 2014

Celebrate Chinese New Year with a roasted cranberry-glazed chicken with a sweet potato-fennel fricassee.

© 2014 Ming Tsai

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It's the Year of the Horse and what better way to kick off the Chinese Lunar New Year than with a steaming plate of home cooked food? Even if you aren't a knowledgeable cook when it comes to Asian dishes, the holiday is a fun occasion to be festive and forward-looking at a dull time of year.

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Kendra Nordin

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Ming Tsai has a talent for harmoniously combining traditions of the East and the West. The award-winning chef runs two Boston restaurants, Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon, and is the host of "Simply Ming," produced by WGBH, on which the charismatic Ming teaches home cooks how to master their own East-West innovations.

Stir It Up! turned to Ming for suggestions on creating a delicious dish for Chinese New Year.

"Chinese New Year is always the favorite holiday for feasting. At home, tables are overflowing with a multitude of delectable dishes," says Ming. Characteristic of his talent for creating Asian dishes that are grounded in Western comfort, he suggests home cooks try a roasted cranberry-glazed chicken with sweet potato-fennel fricassee (see recipe below).

"Chicken symbolizes happiness and prosperity, and the wholeness echoes the prosperity sentiment, while also signifying a good beginning and end to the year," he says.

Chinese traditions place great emphasis on the symbolism behind each food item on a plate. So even if you aren't up to making your own Chinese meal, you can mix and match from this list provided by Ming to create a banquet spread with meaning. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • dumplings – look like ingots of gold therefore symbolize wealth
  • egg rolls/spring rolls – symbolize wealth
  • noodles – symbolize longevity
  • whole chicken – family togetherness
  • clams – wealth
  • lettuce – rising fortune
  • whole fish – served at the end of the meal symbolizes a wish for abundance in the upcoming year
  • sticky rice cakes (Nian gao), made from glutinous rice flour, sugar – a homophone in Chinese for "a more prosperous year" and symbolizes a rich, sweet life
  • broccoli and cauliflower look like blossoming flowers – blossoming prosperous new year
  • green vegetables, such as bok choy – signify wealth because of their color
  • Red Roast Duck – red is the color of happiness, which is why it is served at wedding and New Year's banquets
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