Chinese New Year 2011

Welcome to the year of the dragon! As I said in my last post, we celebrated a little late but within the 8 day traditional celebration so it’s all good! And boy, was it ALL good. Until I was preparing my pictures for this post. My computer ate 9 or 10 of my pictures. Good thing I had made the collage already but it should not have happened and I have no idea how it did. Lame.

We always think we’re going to have an appetizer or two and then a meal. That would require the food to be done at roughly the same time. That rarely happens. We just graze. When something is done, we eat. And we make more food.

These little crab rangoon appetizers were delicious! I’d point you to the recipe but I didn’t find it. Or make it. I just bought the wrappers. I heard they were a little on the crispy side at first but when they sprayed them with olive oil before baking, they turned out super yummy. I had one of the sprayed ones. I only got one. They didn’t seem to stick around very long! That’s how good they were. Thanks to Valerie & Reed for these! (Reed is the one in the photo.)

The other appetizer were spring rolls. There isn’t even a recipe for me to point you towards. This is where you have food to roll in a wrapper that has been soaked for 30 seconds (or so) in water. (You can also fry them but they are lovely like this. So fresh tasting! Our options were peas, mango, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, chicken (I think!) and two types of sauce (plum and chili). My dad made me one–so yummy. I only had one of these but that’s okay because I got the leftover wrappers and had some for lunch today. ¬†Thanks to Jamie!

The first year I made bow (pronounced like bow & curtsy, not the type of bow that goes in your hair), it was interesting. Very dense. Good, but not proper bow. The second year I made it (last year), I used a different recipe and it came out so good. Still not perfect and steamed but I guessed what the problem was and this year I confirmed it (my steamer and tons of¬†condescension). Also, my dough didn’t want to stay closed (see the bottom left picture so I did it the quicker way and used a calzone press to easily cut them and seal them. Some of them still puffed open but not too bad. And they were still yummy even if my husband was sad about not having the traditional shape.

Remember when I was soaking the red beans? Funny (not really) story about that… I put the pan on the stove to boil. It wasn’t a rapid boil and I made sure there was plenty of water in the pot before I went upstairs to put Kaelyn down for a nap. 15 minutes later, I come downstairs and the pan is boiled dry. Not just a little bit either. It had burned my pan and I had to throw it out. I started to soak more beans and asked my husband to buy another pan on his way home. So much for getting the beans cooked the day before.

The red beans were for the baked nian gao which is basically glutinous rice flour and red bean paste. It looks like a brownie. And it shouldn’t. I have extra flour AND red beans (although yes, I have to cook them again), so I’ll be making this dish again because it was good despite the over-done outside part. Two things to remember for next time: use a bigger pan when cooking the dish (I used my 8×8 because it was available but the recipe called for a 9×9) and don’t refrigerate the bean paste.

I had a bowl of oranges out which the kids loved and had several of them.

We made baked egg rolls. The bowl is only part of the filling. There was meat in another container.

I don’t have a picture of the tomato beef chow mein which my parents made (but it was good!) or the wontons (which we prepared and then ended up not cooking them until the next day when it was only two of the four families around for dinner because we already had so much food from everything else) or the vegetable dish (because we had so much food we didn’t put it together) or the almond curd junket (I think that’s the right name–it was good and was a nice light dessert with some fruit).

Oh! And then there was my one single decoration. It’s kinda five decorations in one… I didn’t get the chance to hang them beforehand so my brother got a lesson in how to drill a hole in my ceiling in the spot I wanted. I have more pictures and a tutorial coming up for those Chinese lanterns. I’ll be keeping them up for a while because 1) I like them, 2) they’re colorful, and 3) I LOVE having something hung in the spot I chose them to hang in. Like I said, more pictures for another post.

All in all, I was standing in the kitchen with brief rest periods for about seven hours. Many thanks to my family who all came and had a good time! Preparing the food is such a huge portion of the celebration for us. Everyone helped. Except the little girls who watched Kung Fu Panda part of the time.

gung hay fat choy!


Soaking Red Beans

Did you know my family celebrates Chinese New Year? I know that it is really the Lunar New Year and that more ethnicity’s besides the Chinese celebrate it, but since we are part Chinese, we call it Chinese New Year.

This is how we celebrate. Find a day that works for everyone. Make food. Eat food.

Oh yeah, it’s an epic celebration!

So to up the ante this year, I decided to have a craft for the kids and some Chinese-type decorations. This post is about neither. We’re celebrating this Saturday and the decoration isn’t up yet. Yup, decoration singular. It’s a good start, right?

We went to check out one of the Asian markets. We hadn’t been yet (in two years!) and it was definitely time to. We walked the entire store and looked at everything. We’ll definitely be back.

Why we like Asian markets:

  • We can buy the rice we like for much cheaper than we can anywhere else.
  • We can buy a humongous thing of soy sauce (this was our first time–Jared said that now we’re really Asian)(if you don’t know Jared, he’s 100% white meat).
  • They had six different types of bok choy.
  • If I ever need a present for my family, that is where I will go.

But let’s move on to the topic of this post. Soaking Red Beans. I haven’t even mentioned red beans yet.

One of the items on my list was a can of mashed red azuki beans. If you are familiar with Asian food, you would know this as bean paste. Or the beginning of bean paste. I’m not actually certain if you can call it the same thing straight from the can. We couldn’t find it. But I did find dry red beans. I’ve cooked beans before. Once. Twice. Maybe twice… I do want to cook dry beans more so I can be comfortable with the execution. So I grabbed up the bag. Plus, how am I going to make the dish without the beans?

And so now I have a bag of red beans. I guess I’ll be cooking lots with them throughout the year. Why not? We like bean paste. This is just my first time trying it.

So I started with the first VERY difficult step. Soaking the beans.

Whew! That was hard. I need a break. (This picture makes them look the color of kidney beans–they are much more red in person)

Tomorrow: Make the bean paste. Prepare the pork. Two different dishes. I’ll have pictures next week!