Happy Year of the Dragon! It is time to celebrate the Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival, and we are looking for every sign of spring. Night doesn’t fall quite so early in the afternoon, the the daffodil shoots and the crocuses are beginning to peek through the brown, fallen leaves in the back yard, and there are herds of robins crowding around the bird bath. Thank you, Punxsutawney Phil, for giving us hope!
This is a busy weekend for cooking in the Spy Test Kitchens. We have lots of foods to prepare to celebrate the Lunar New Year properly, and there is also the small matter of the Super Bowl on Sunday, and the looming presence of Valentine’s Day plopped down in the middle of next week.
Don’t you love a holiday that is food-centric? I’d rather be reveling in food than austerely abstaining from it. A Lunar New Year celebration begin should with a lavish celebration of family: with a feast. You should also clean your house from top to bottom, but I will leave that to your discretion.
There were been years where we have relied on take out food, which didn’t feel quite like a family celebration, but was perfect for our situation. Those were the Florida years, when the oleanders were in bloom and the palm trees swayed. When we had packs of neighborhood children running barefoot through the yards on an early evening in February. Surely we must have had a full moon, at least once.
The young ones were looking for the traditional red and gold envelopes hidden in mailboxes, under damp clay pots of root-bound red geraniums and beneath the coir front door mats. They were seeking envelopes that held shiny, gold Sacagawea dollar coins. The children weren’t so interested in the other envelopes, the ones with paper fortunes, because they were looking for treasure, and were greedy, and couldn’t concern themselves with ensuring good luck for a new year. We, the anxiety-prone adults, hid the red envelopes and also strung paper lanterns and lights through the trees. We also enjoyed the sight of child-operated flashlights bobbing in the twilight, while we ate the store-bought egg rolls, dumplings and fried rice that we balanced on our knees on flimsy paper plates.
These days, with no treasure being sought in the front yard, I like to start our celebration with the humble dumpling, which can be customized with a range of tempting ingredients in several styles: steamed, fried, or boiled. With kimchi, tofu, veggies, mushrooms, ground pork, or shrimp fillings. Potstickers are a big favorite around here. Some weekends we get ambitious and make enough to freeze. Here is a handy recipe with a video to show you how easy it is to pleat the wontons, which are bought at the store: Pot Sticker Dumplings
Mr. Sanders likes his dumpling dipping sauce: soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and thinly sliced green onions. Luke the wonder dog has no opinion, though he is a firm believer in the physics of gravity.
There are eight lucky foods to eat for the Lunar New Year: https://www.seriouseats.com/lunar-chinese-new-year-lucky-foods#toc-jiaozi-dumplings You don’t have to stop at dumplings, although this year, I think we will make enough to freeze ahead because they will be appropriate for a spring celebration, to serve for Super Bowl snacking, and to have as leftovers on Valentine’s Day. (I will also have a bag of Doritos for the Super Bowl, too. Just because.)
Happy New Year – san nin faai lok (Cantonese) or xīn nián kuài lè (Mandarin)
“The sun doesn’t just hang on one family’s tree”
― Anchee Min