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“Kung Hay Fat Choy”! (Happy Chinese New Year)
Today is Chinese New Year. Almost every year we have family dinner in a restaurant. In my previous posts on the same subject, I had already introduced to you the dishes that had lucky meanings and special presentations. This year, we had ordered four different dishes that I had not introduced to you before.
- Pig hands (not feet) with “fat choy” and lettuce. The lucky auspicious meaning of this dish is “to get rich with additional wealth and monetary growth”. This dish comes with peanuts as well. Pig hands but not pig feet, because the Chinese name “hand” rhymes with the meaning of easy access to wealth. “fay choy” rhymes with “get rich”. I’ve got very good feedback from my guests including the young people. They all love it.
- Crabmeat and fish maw soup: See my previous post on fish maw. It is a very nutritious and tasty dish. It also has an auspicious meaning: Gold and silver everywhere around the house.
- Abalone mushrooms with Pea Spouts (dou miao). the auspicious meaning is “Gold pieces all over the floor”. Vegetarians love this dish!
4. Smoked Sea Bass: This is not a traditional Chinese New Year Dish. We ordered it because we all love this dish. It is more expensive than the original “swimming” fish on the menu. It is worth the money because it is so tasty.
I am keeping this post short and sweet. I wish you all a very happy and healthy Year of the Rooster!
I have been very behind in blogging, but I had worked hard these few days, in order to prepare for this delicious and nutritious dish. It is my pleasure today to introduce to you a special ingredient: fish maw. So, what is fish maw?
Fish maw is one of the precious traditional Chinese ingredients which are highly rated due to its high nutritional value. Many Asians believe that it is particularly good for skin care. A former colleague in Hong Kong has become a Chinese Herbalist. One time when I saw her, I asked her what should women eat in order to be healthy all year-long. She said “Fish Maw”. Here we are. Let me share with you my experience in preparing and cooking fish maw.
The most important step of cooking fish maw is the washing and pre-soaking process.
I bought this bag of fish maw from a Chinatown grocery store. It is like this as in the picture below.
Pre-cooking and pre soaking the fish maw:
- Boil a big pot of water.
- Pour the fish maw into the hot water; add four pieces of ginger and two long pieces of green union.
- Turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid.
4. A few hours later, after the water has cooled down, take the fish maw out and rinse/wash it under cold tap water. By this time, the fish maw is a bit tender already.
5. Put the fish maw back to the pot and refrigerate it overnight for 10 to 12 hours.
6. The next day when you take it out, you will find the fish maw a bit harder and thicker. Don’t be nervous. After you have cooked it, it will become tender again. The soaking and refrigeration process is to allow the fish maw to continue to “grow” and maximize its ability to thicken.
7. Cut the fish maw into smaller pieces.
Now we are ready to cook. There are many recipes using fish maw. I have eaten different fish maw dishes in restaurants. The fish maw is usually in small quantity together with other ingredients like mushrooms, abalone etc., because it is quite expensive. This time, I would like to introduce a simple dish to make it easier for you.
Ingredients for Cooking:
About three ounces of pre-soaked fish maw. It can be one big piece of fish maw or several smaller pieces depending on the type of fish maw you use.
Four cloves of garlic
Two pieces of ginger
Chicken Broth : two cups (I use the organic chicken broth from Costco, but you can cook your own chicken broth).
Starch and water: about one teaspoon of starch and 1/2 cup of water.
Wine (best with ginger wine)
One tablespoon of “Hoi Sin Sauce”
One tablespoon of “Bean Sauce”
One teaspoon of light soya sauce
A dash of black pepper
If you like a hotter taste, add some XO Sauce with dried scallops.
A tablespoon of sesame oil
Into a chinese wok, add two tablespoons of oil (I use either organic coconut oil or organic avocado oil, which are more suitable for high heat cooking.
Add the four cloves of garlic and fry them till they become golden brown. Then take the garlic out but leave the oil in the wok.
Add ginger, fish maw, hoi sin sauce, bean sauce, soya sauce (light), black pepper, and the four cloves of garlic back into the mixture. Stir fry.
Add wine, sesame oil, and finally the corn starch mixture. Stir fry till the mixture boils.
If you like a darker color, add a tablespoon of dark soya sauce.
Stir fry till the mixture boils.
I added a few pieces of Chinese vegetables (choi sum) around the plate to decorate and to eat!. The choi sum should be boiled in hot water before you start cooking the fish maw. Place them on a plate surrounding the fish maw. You can use other vegetables like broccoli, lettuce, Chinese pak choi sum, Chinese broccoli. You name it!
If you want to try a different recipe, add mushrooms or abalone or dried scallops. See my previous posts on these three items.
Please note that all the sauces mentioned here can be bought in a Chinese grocery store.
My final advice: Please be patient with this dish. There is no short cut. It may take you a few days to pre-soak the fish maw if they are thick and big.
I hope you will enoy this dish as much as I do. Happy cooking!
I should have posted this to my food blog which I have lagged behind for a while. A fellow blogger friend not only loves Chinese food, but studies Chinese words. This is for you, John.
Sybaritica’s post has sparked my interest to post these two dishes which I made with dried scallops. The main feature of these two dishes is to present the scallops in a “classy” way. The same principle applies: steam the dried scallops till they become wet and soft. Do not mix them up but leave them as a whole. Place a few “whole scallops” on top of a dish of mushrooms or vegetables. Pour the sweet juice of the scallops on the top. Present the dish like these to your guests. They would enjoy them very much.
Dear Readers and my Blogger friends:
I wish you all a wonderful Year of the Horse! As in the previous year, I have chosen the same restaurant to hold our Chinese New Year Celebration for our big family. Three tables were ordered and everyone was very happy and satisfied. The restaurant is:
Mayflower Restaurant, Union City, California.
If you have read my last year’s post on the same topic: Chinese New Year Banquet, you will realize that there are a few new dishes this year, and the menu is more “enhanced” with a higher price. If you are not familiar with Chinese cuisine, you may not know certain ingredients are more expensive although they look very common. I would like to highlight three special dishes this time:
1. The newest one for me is the Bird Nest Soup. Bird Nest is a very expensive nutritious food that we believe will help strengthen the body in various ways. It is not available everywhere, and it is the first time I see this on a menu in San Francisco. I was very doubtful before tasting it. After the dinner, we all agreed that it is very good!
According to Wikipedia:
“Edible bird’s nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans, with an average nest selling for $2,500 per kilogramme for end-consumers in Asia. The nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as bird’s nest soup.
The Chinese name for edible bird’s nest, yàn wō (燕窝), translates literally as “swallow’s nest”, and often serves as a synonym for bird’s nest soup. However,yàn wō strictly speaking is the uncooked nest.Culinary use
The most famous use of edible birds nest is bird’s nest soup, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. When dissolved in water, the birds’ nests have a gelatinous texture used for soup or sweet tong sui. It is mostly referred to as “yan wo” unless references are made to the salty or sweet soup in Chinese cuisine.
In addition to its use in soup, edible birds nest can be used as an ingredient in many other dishes, it can be cooked with rice to produce bird’s nest congee or bird’s nest boiled rice, or it can be added to egg tarts and other desserts. A bird’s nest jelly can be made by placing the bird’s nest in a ceramic container with minimal water and sugar (or salt) and double steamed. Ready to eat bird’s nest jelly is available in jars as a commercial product.”
After you have read the above information, don’t you all think you should try this out?
2. The second dish I would like to highlight this year is the Braised Dried Oysters and Black Moss. This is a very popular dish with an auspicious meaning, Dried Oysters in Cantonese sounds like “rich”, and Black Moss sounds like ” becoming rich”. Therefore this dish is well liked by many Chinese people at home or in the restaurant, especially during the Chinese New Year. I am not a big fan of dried oysters but because of the meaning of this dish, and the ingredients are actually quite expensive, it gives more value to the cost of the banquet. The taste and texture of this dish are good.
3. There are three desserts (!!!) as you can see from the photos and the video that I posted on YouTube, One of them is only available in Chinese New Year, again because of its meaning: Red bean soup with sweet dumplings. You may notice that these dumplings are round. Many traditional Chinese people will eat dumplings in sweet soup in Chinese New Year because “round” sounds like “reunion”, “altogether”. That means family members are all together during the new year, although they may be apart at other time. This is the best dumpling in red soup I have ever tried, Normally I don’t like this type of dumplings because it is like eating a big lump of flour。However the sweet bean soup is so rich that you would never think that the dumpling is a lump of flour, I like it so much that I took an extra cup home!
All the other dishes are surprisingly kept at a high standard during the busiest day in a Chinese Restaurant. As I have written about the other dishes before, I would not repeat here. I left out one dish in my album because I was too busy talking to other guests: It was the sauteed prawns and scallops with green peas. It was another popular dish.
As many of you are curious about the auspicious names and meaning of all the dishes, let me try again to translate all of them here:
Chinese New Year Banquet Menu and Meaning
- Special Assorted Appetizers — The house/home is beautiful with luxury decor
- Braised Dried Oysters and Black Moss — Becoming rich and have good business
- Sauteed Prawns and Scallops with Greens — Two lucky messengers coming to your door to deliver good news
- Bird Nest soup — Hundreds of birds paying homage to the Queen of the birds
- Peking duck — Continued to get promotions
- Cucumbers and black mushrooms with pea-spout— Home/family is rich with blessings and money
- Baked Lobsters with Ginger and Green Onion — As strong and smart as a dragon and horse
- Steamed Fresh Fish ( we had sea bass) — Always have a balanced bank account, with savings
- Pan fried sticky rice — Good business
- Desserts: Red Bean soup; with Sweet Dumplings —All family members are united and staying together
Overall Rating : 4 out of 5 stars
The food was good, but because the chefs were extremely busy, the presentation of the dishes could have been better and more attractive. We were at the second seating at 7:30 PM. The first seating patrons were still eating when we arrived. We had to wait till around 8 PM before we could be seated. However we were given the best corner in the restaurant and the staff were still very courteous despite the busy time. This was understandable as it was the busiest time of the year. Overall, this is one of the best Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area. It is competing with its own sister restaurants at other sites which have bigger space. With such limitations, the restaurant is doing very well. As a long time patron, I wish the restaurant continue to succeed with new menu and reasonable price. I will definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone.
Finally, to all my blogger friends:
I wish you all a wonderful Year of the Horse!
Keep cooking, and keep eating, trying out different cuisines and share!
By the way, my cookbook now has an ebook version. If you use iPad or iPhone, you can download it to your device, free!
For my friends in the foodblog community!
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