Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy - Parts 2 & 3

So in a very inauspicious start to my new year, my camera broke. The Chinese (much like many other cultures) believe that the way you celebrate the start of your new year will be an indication of how you spend the rest of that year. That's why we spend new year with the people we love - in all cultures. If I think along those lines, my year of the bull will be busy, spent with my boy, eating good food, and I will have camera problems. Great.

Since I had no camera, I have no pictures of the rest of the new year feast. You will have to rely on my skills of description to get a mentally visual and taste-ural (I'm sure there's a real word for it) idea of what we had.

On new year day, it is tradition for my family to eat the remaining half of the chicken from the day before. I'm not sure why we do this. I've done this for every year of my 30 years on this earth and when you do everything that long without thinking about it, you don't analyze why it's done. I made a mental note to task my mom the next time I call home. Perhaps it has to do with continuity? I don't know - I'm grasping at straws by this point. In addition to the chicken, we have the leftover soup made from pork, bean curd sheets, dried scallops, dried shitakes, and water chesnuts. On new year day, we made the addition of napa cabbage, or Chinese cabbage to the soup. Again, I'm not sure why we do it, but I think the Chinese term for napa cabbage is reminiscent of a prosperous word. Lastly, we had a vegetarian dish that I often see at Chinese restaurants called "Buddha's Delight." I'm not sure if this dish delighted Buddha, but it delighted Boyfriend. This dish for CNY is made of 8 or 9 ingredients. 8 is a number for good luck for the Chinese as the word for 8 sounds just like the word for "prosper." 9 is also lucky for much the same reason - though I'm not sure what auspicious word sounds like 9. My Chinese is not so...thorough. I made my dish out of fried tofu, bean curd sheets (the same from the soup), sugar snap peas, glass vermicelli noodles, sliced shitake mushrooms, sliced water chestnuts, sliced bamboo shoots, napa cabbage, and enoki mushrooms. The result is a jumbled but tastetastic mess of noodles and various other items of different sizes, shapes and textures. At home, we have other ingredients that sound like prosperous words. The one that comes to mind is a type of sea kelp (it's either seaweed or a mushroom) that looks just like a bunch of little worms. In Chinese we call it "Fat Choy" or "hair vegetables" because they are dark brown, very thin, and look like hairs or worms. Their texture is slightly crunchy and it's got an earthy taste to it. I personally love it. That is all over CNY dishes at home. "Fat" (pronounced "faht") being a word similiar to prosperity or success. Are you catching on to the theme?

The day after new year is officially the first day of the new year. We get together as a family and eat dinner together, symbolizing the opening of the new year. As we say it at home, "hoi neen" or literally: open the year. On this day, we eat either chicken or pork. If it's chicken, we get a new chicken and do not eat the leftovers. I have enough chicken for many dishes to come. As is normal around this time of year, I'm up to my eyeballs in chicken and am contemplating vegetarianism. Knowing that I'd be sick of chicken, I pre-emptively purchased a piece of fatty pork to roast. Roasted pork is called "siu yuuk." The word "siu" is to inspire what? That's right, boys and girls - prosperity and luck! Lucky for me, the Norwegians eat pork. Even more lucky for me, they value the inherent flavor and texture of pork skin. I found a small piece of side pork that had a segment of the pig from the rib all the way out to the skin. The ribs, or ribbe as they are called locally, were fatty and the skin was scored. It was perfect. I made a rub and let it marinate for a couple of days. On the first day of new year, I roasted the ribbe. We ate our deliciously roasted pork with sauteed iceberg lettuce. The word for lettuce is "sahng choy." The literal translation is "raw vegetable" because you can eat it raw. But it also sounds like another good luck word. It's a word usually associated with procreation and children. Being the children-focused culture that the Chinese are, of course it's a good luck word. All of our meals were had with steamed white rice.

Siu Yuuk Ribbe (How's that for fusion?)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp 5-spice powder (fem krydder pulver)
1 tsp sugar

2 tbs maple syrup (corn syrup will also work)
1 tsp soy sauce

Sprinkle the rub around the ribbe. Try and create a light, even covering of the rub on all exposed areas of meat. It is easy to oversalt it (I did) so just remember to go easy on it. Rub the salt and spices into the meat. Sprinkle the salt on top of the skin. This is where you can go a little more generously with the rub. If it's scored (score!) try and get some rub into each cut. Let the meat marinate at least overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit, 220 degrees celsius. Place the meat in a roasting pan and cover it with foil. Place the pan in the middle of the oven and let it bake for 30 - 35 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the maple syrup and soy sauce in a bowl. When the 30 - 35 minutes is up, remove the foil and brush the skin with the maple syrup mixture. Turn the oven up to 500 degrees fahrenheit, 250 degrees celsius. Let the meat roast, uncovered, for an additional 15 - 20 minutes, turning the meat around occasionally to get an even browning of the meat. You will need to monitor the meat and so that it does not burn on top. If you choose, you can make another brushing of sauce during the final baking process. The result will be a moist pork rib with crispy, salty, slightly sweet pork skin on top. In a word - succulent. I was pretty damned proud of that pork. It's great plain but I love roast pork with Chinese hoisin sauce and hot white rice. Comfort food and lucky to boot!

I apologize for the lack of pictures but I hope the write up has inspired you to maybe try some CNY food next year or try your had at some by making Siu Yuuk Ribbe. I guarantee you, it's a winner.

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