Saturday, February 9, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Chinese New Year was February 7th this year. Usually I try to do a little Chinese New Year dinner. I'm not Chinese, but I figure, "what the heck! I can use all the good luck I can get" and that is what this holiday seems to be about.

This year, as usual, I didn't have my act together and didn't pull together a celebration for the beginning of the year of the rat. John had slow cooked a wonderful batch of short ribs from our recently butchered hog. I can't describe to you how wonderful the house smelled when I got home from work. My mouth started watering instantly. Definitely a Pavlovian response to slow cooked pork. My oldest daughter talked me into cooking up some type of Chinese Noodle Dish, because long noodles represent longevity. So I whipped up some Szechuan noodles, which were very simple but delicious. A perfect side to the pork. They were sweet and salty with the sweetened Teriyaki sauce, lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper. The spring onions were fried and added a bit of sweetness and crunchiness to the noodles. I just finished it off with steamed broccoli and it was a hit. We did share oranges for desert, as they are a symbol of good luck for the Chinese.

Typically the Chinese would serve a whole fish or a whole chicken on New Years Eve as they symbolize togetherness, abundance, and prosperity. Long noodles are served to represent longevity, oranges are shared for good luck, along with little red money envelopes called lysee, and a special New Year Cake, which symbolizes rising fortunes. The roundness is a reminder of family togetherness. The house is to be completely cleaned before New Years Day, doors and shutters painted in red to keep evil spirits away, and all debts paid off. This is done because the Chinese believe that the Kitchen God will ascend to heaven to report the state of the household to the Jade Emperor. Often the Kitchen God is bribed with treats, or given honey so that he cannot open his mouth when he reaches heaven.

There are so many different versions of these traditions, it's overwhelming when you start to research them. China is amazingly diverse when you look closely at their culture and food. It's a pleasure to be able to attempt to enjoy one of their fascinating celebrations. Hopefully next year I'll have my house clean and a proper Chinese New Year dinner served. I need to get the good word in to the Jade Emperor. Like I said, I need all the luck I can get.

So until next Lunar New Year....

Gung Hay Fat Choy! (strictly translated: Congratulations Prosperity.)

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