With Chinese New Year fast approaching, I am reminded of my Chinatown stay while traveling in Singapore. There were lanterns, streamers, fireworks, sparklers, music, food, drink, sweets, with red and gold everywhere. It was absolutely intoxicating and the festive spirit was infectious! Everyone was so friendly, whether feasting on dumplings, enjoying an ice cold TsingTao, or dancing in the street, it was pure magic!
Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 5th, 2019 kicks off the Chinese New Year and the 12th zodiac, the Pig. Those born under the Pig sign are characterized as diligent, compassionate, and generous souls. They are quite entertaining and enjoy life, and as a result, many people love to hang out with them. They are extremely honest and expect the same in return. Pigs are very giving and are the happiest when they are helping others. Guess who is a newly discovered Pig?!!? ME!!! This was quite a surprise because I always thought I was a dog … now THAT makes total sense …. and I had to check multiple times, multiple sources, but alas, it seems Pig is accurate. As I sit here stress munching on (irresistible) premium caramel corn from the Boy Scouts, I guess I should consider changing my motto to “Oink Oink” LOL.
Switching gears, because I have remorsefully eaten ALL the caramel corn, let’s focus on the health benefits of the traditional Chinese diet. The Chinese diet, as well as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), believe it is essential to find balance and symmetry in every aspect of life. I just balanced my caramel corn in the palm of my hand as I snarfed it down, does that count?!?! They also believe that a plant based diet is good for the body, mind, and environment and treat vegetables as the main dish in their meal. An easy way to find balance in meals is to take the yin and yang approach discussed in an article by Sophie Morris titled “Use Your Noodle.” Yin are wet, moist foods (usually carbs) while Yang are dry, crunchy foods (usually proteins). The Yin ingredients cool your body down, while the Yang heats it up. Keeping these in balance maximizes energy and minimizes weight gain. Meals emphasize vegetables (Yin) with protein/meat (Yang) is added as an accent. One of the most enlightening things I discovered about the Chinese diet was listening to a recent NPR interview by Travels with Rick Steves with Zak Dychtwald, founder of the Young China Global Group and author of “Young China.” I mean, I read this in several of the articles, but this Millennial author really drove the point home. He said something to the effect that food is to the young Chinese as sex is to the Western World; they live for it, crave it, go crazy for it. How does that fit in to what we are talking about? The Chinese believe that another important aspect of eating is the experience itself. The combination of foods, the taste/texture/ingredients, as well as, the experience of the meal is all wrapped up into a dynamic dining experience. The take away here is to not get so wrapped up in getting our ingredients, recipes, and meals “perfect,” but to take time to enjoy all the components of the meal itself, including sitting down with family and friends! That being said, keep reading for some fun and tasty recipes to incorporate into your own celebration!
Let’s talk about the celebration! The theory behind the party is pretty similar to our New Year. Scare off the evil and attract goodness. OMGosh, it is more yin and yang. The colors associated are primarily red and gold and they are everywhere! Red (fire) symbolizes good fortune, celebration, vitality, luck, joy, happiness, prosperity, fertility, and it wards off evil. Yellow/Gold (earth) is considered the most beautiful color and is believed to generate yin and yang, it also symbolizes power, wealth, completeness, neutrality, nobility, and freedom from worldly cares. Try to include a little red/gold in your kitchen, near the stove, as in the practice of Feng Shui the stove is the center of the home, all chi comes there, and it should be kept spotless so it can attract all things good, especially money. Here is my current stove feng shui ….. it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Did I mention that this celebration is 15 DAYS long? It begins with New Year festivities tomorrow and ends with the Lantern Festival on the 20th. There are traditions for each day of this celebration and while I am not going to discuss all of them, I will get you started with the first few days. Day 1 is the New Year celebration. Day 2 is a day spent with family and friends. Day 3 is stay at home day, as it is bad luck to socialize on this day. I found a great website/article from Wes at the Chinese American Family and he does a great job talking you through Chinese New Year … make sure to check it out!
Here are some of the traditional “must haves” for Chinese New Year celebrations.
#1 Dumplings are mandatory! Shaped like gold and silver bars of the ancient Chinese the wrapping of the dumpling is considered to bring you a wealthy and prosperous life. Look at this great recipe from SavoryExperiments.com. Substitute meat for tofu or other protein if desired.
#2 Spring Rolls look like bars of gold and are a symbolic wish for prosperity and wealth. This is the easiest and most comprehensive recipe I found. Love the tips!! Thank you Dinnerthendessert.com
#3 Long noodles are symbolic of longevity, so don’t cut your noodles, just slurp! This delicious recipes is from Chew Out Loud. Use the longest noodles you can …. even zoodles work!! Enjoy🏮
Enjoy your Chinese New Year! These are some of my favorite recipes and I hope you love them as much as I do.
See you Soon!