Chinese New Year

Every year I celebrate Chinese New Years with what else but a big feast? Sadly this year both Little Miss and Princess couldn’t make it due to ahem, personal obligations. But I did have a few guest cooks that volunteered to take on dumpling duties!

I never take Chinese New Years lightly, usually I shop the day before. Then start prepping that night and get up early the day of the dinner to start cooking. I think I owe it all my my grandmother who would start prepping the big dinner multiple days ahead. She would soak her own sweet rice and hand ground the flour with a big stone mill. She would buy the chicken and duck ahead of time and fatten them up for a few days in the courtyard before killing them. I can’t say I would ever bother to do all that but if I had the time, who knows?

Some dishes come and go but I do have my personal favorites that re-appear year after year. My favorite, braised pork belly. This year I changed it slightly by adding some dry marinated mustard greens much like the pork at Shanghai House and then braised it on the oven. I always have a whole steamed fish that I added fried pickled green beans and chilies. Another repeat is steamed fuzzy squash stuffed with stir fried chicken, fresh water chestnut and bamboo. Rounding out the rest are abalone and bamboo (see earlier post). Cold eggplants with a spicy sauce. Chinese celery and tofu salad. Bok choy and shittake mushrooms. Edmame with tofu skin and mustard greens (which was a surprising hit). Tea eggs made with quail eggs. I always seem to have on dish that doesn’t work quite well which this year was the shrimp in tea sauce, oh well! And Laura and Constanza made three different kinds of dumplings of mushroom, shrimp, garlic chive and pork. One happy eater said it was the best dumplings he’s ever had! And everyone was happily eating leftovers for days…

Anyway, on to the pictures!

And the money shot… Pork, sweet pork.

And for a fun little animation of us cooking.

All About Abalone

This is a long overdue post. Over the holidays I had some free time to kill, and since one of my New Years resolutions is to cook more with unusual ingredients I decided a trip to May Wah was in order. They had some fresh bamboo shoots and the abalone was on sale so why not?

For those of you who never cooked with fresh bamboo shoots before, the fresh and the stuff that comes in a can are totally different beasts. The fresh stuff is surprisingly sweet but takes a bit of prep work. First you have to peel it down to the tender/non-hairy shoot. Then you have to boil it for a good 20 minutes or so and finally you let it cool in the liquid and then it’s ready. The whole boiling and cooling process is key, otherwise the bamboo shoots end up being very bitter and astringent.

Peeled and unpeeled bamboo shoots

I’ve never cooked with abalone before and there seems to be two schools of how to cook it to make it tender. One advocates quick cooking while a lot of chinese recipes demands long cooking times to soften the abalone. So I decided to try both!

Abalone and it’s liquid

First I steamed a piece of the abalone in it’s broth for an hour. This made the abalone unbelievably tender, almost melting. I ended up making a braised abalone with bamboo shoots in a soy flavored sauce in the clay pot. Yummy!



Then for the quick cooked abalone, I sliced up the rest of the unsteamed abalone and made a stir fry of bamboo shoots, country ham and abalone. This abalone was definitely less tender than the steamed but not so much as to be tough.