Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy - Part I

In other words, Happy Chinese New Year (Day 1)! I'm a first generation Chinese American? Or is it second? Alls I can say is that my parents were born in China and I was born and raised in the good US of A. As such, many Chinese customs are diluted for me. At home, we celebrate for three days with three separate dinners. We have one dinner to close out the last year, one dinner to celebrate new year day and one dinner to open the new year together all done as a family.

At home, my mother just like many other Asian mommies out there, starts to cook a week in advance. The staples are pig's feet stewed in a dark, sweet vinegar with ginger and peanuts. The tendon, skin, and the bone melt a bit into the vinegar and create a thick, slightly viscous, soup that is both sweet and tart. The pig's feet are tender, ridiculously flavorful, and a dark almost black color from the vinegar. Mom also makes a stewed whole chicken with potatoes and taro. The whole chicken, head and feet included, is marinated in a sauce made from large, bright red cubes of fermented tofu called Ngam Yue, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, a swish of distilled alcohol, sugar, and five spice powder. These two dishes are the staple of our Chinese New Year's Eve dinner. Mom, of course, is a rockstar and makes a couple other dishes. There's usually some sort of leafy green and depending on how fancy she wants to get, she will make a seafood dish or something else. Sadly, I didn't pay that close attention each year. Consider it a by-product of celebrating a holiday every year your entire life. After a while, it's just what you do without question, without fail. Chinese New Year is celebrated differently in each region of China, maybe even each village. As such, some people eat out during the new year and some eat in. We eat in and we eat dishes that are very regional the the village of my mother and my grandmother.

I couldn't find an entirely intact chicken, in fact for the first hour after I left the grocery store, I wasn't entirely certain I had a chicken. What I found at the local ICA was a landkylling, literally translated to "country chicken." I know it says chicken, but I didn't know the word for turkey and who knows? Norwegian is a slightly limited language so maybe "country chicken" is Norwegian for turkey? Luckily no. I got as whole a chicken as I could find. "A" for effort, right? I let the chicken marinate overnight and then steamed it in the marinade juices and a little bit of water. In addition to the chicken, we will have have a dipping sauce made of minced green onion, minced ginger, salt and oil. With dinner we have a soup made of pork, dried scallops, dried shitake mushrooms, and foo juuk, soy bean sheets. I am sure there is some meaning to the soup and its ingredients and I'm certain it has to do with prosperity, health and wealth. I just don't exactly know why.
I'll do a little research and write a followup. There's still days 2 and 3 of Chinese New Year eatin'. Meanwhile, here's a sh0t of day one. Man, I'm exhausted.


  1. Happy new year! I will see you at lunch tomorrow. I feel like I have been gone a year and it has only been a week. Looking forward to catching up on the latest with you. Eva, Nina and I are meeting for coffee on Thursday. Wanna join us?

  2. Thanks (once again) for sharing, loved the soup and the stew (which had a much nicer name I do not remember). And the dipping sauce was so good, I will definitely try to make some like that. What oil did you use?