By Natalie Keng
Chinese Southern Belle
The Lunar New Year (also known as the Spring Festival) is one of the most significant of Asian holidays and is a time for feasting, reflection and renewal. Traditionally celebrated over 15 days, the holiday starts with the first lunar new moon of the year and ends on the full moon. Chinese New Year 4712, which begins Jan. 31, will be the Year of the Horse.
The New Year’s Eve dinner, traditionally a hot pot meal, means “gathering ‘round the stove” in Chinese. It is the most important family ritual of the year (like Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one) and represents a night of unity, reunion and harmony. Red envelopes (hong bao) are given out to children. Fresh flowers and new outfits abound –red everywhere! Kids can stay up late playing games and seniors do the “longevity vigil” as a positive sign of their vitality. Lion dancing is another tradition during this time to chase away demons and bring good luck to businesses and communities. Forget Zumba, I was in an all-women lion dancing troupe and came home every night with aching muscles from the lunging and jumping.
Popular “lucky” dishes include anything whole (complete) or long (longevity), plus fresh and candied fruit that represent good health, happiness, prosperity and blessings. Traditional favorites include: whole chicken, duck or fish (don’t flip the fish over when eating; akin to an old fisherman’s tale of flipping a boat), long noodles, long leafy greens, long string beans, kumquats and oranges.
Local Cooking Classes
The Cook’s Warehouse and Chinese Southern Belle are hosting a number of tasty seasonal events to celebrate and learn more about Lunar New Year’s food and traditions.
Chinese New Year Cultural Dinner: Jan. 24, 7 p.m. featuring a multi-course, sit-down dinner with traditional “lucky” dishes, food and cultural narration, trivia, prizes, calligraphy. Advance tickets required. More info at ChineseSouthernBelle.com.
Asian Dumplings and Pot Stickers – Hands On: Feb. 8, 10:30 a.m. Cook’s Warehouse Midtown (Ansley Mall), 1544 Piedmont Road, Suite 403-R.
Asian Spring Rolls – Hands On: March 6, 6:30 p.m. at Cook’s Warehouse Decatur, 180 W Ponce De Leon Ave.
Where to Shop
- Din Ho Supermarket, 5379 New Peachtree Road, Chamblee.
- Ni Hao Atlanta Bookstore & Teahouse, 5391 New Peachtree Road, Chamblee
- Hong Kong Supermarket, 5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd., Norcross.
- Great Wall Supermarket, 2300 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth
Lucky Chinese Dumplings: Dumplings date back to the Song Dynasty (960-1260 A.D.) in China and represent prosperity, wealth and good luck. They are a main dish for Chinese New Year and eaten year-round in northern China.
½ lb ground pork, chicken or mixed
1 T each fresh ginger and garlic, finely grated
2 T green onion, finely chopped
2 T soy sauce
1/4 t white pepper
Mix together well.
Use pre-made dumpling wrappers or make homemade dough: 3 cups all-purpose flour & about 1 ½ c cold water. Mix cold water in flour, ¼ c at a time, only as much as necessary to form smooth dough. Knead into a smooth ball. Cover and let rest 20 min.
Divide into 3-4 portions and roll into long logs. Cut into 2 inch pieces, roll into balls, flatten pieces and use rolling pin (or glass jar) to make flat, thin round wrappers, about 4-5 in. diameter. Dust work area with flour to prevent sticking. Place 1T of filling in each wrapper (if pre-made, wet the edges with water), fold, crimp and seal well. No leaky dumplings – very unlucky!
Boil water in large pot. Gently drop in 8-12 dumplings (not too crowded, gently swirl with spoon). Bring to boil, add ¼ c cold water. Bring to boil again and if dumplings float to the top, they are ready! Pork fillings may take one more boil. Serve with soy sauce or My Sweet Hottie Dip, Glaze and Dressing.
Good Fortune Almond Cookies: Lunar New Year is one of the few occasions when sweets and cookies abound. Sweet dishes mean a sweet life.
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup cane sugar
2 1/2 tsp almond extract
30 whole, blanched almonds (one for each cookie)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter or margarine, shortening, and sugar. Add the egg and almond extract and beat until well blended. Add to the flour mixture and mix well. Note: The dough should be crumbly. Form the mixture into a dough, and then form 2 rolls or logs that are 10 to 12 inches long. Wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Cut the dough into about 15 pieces (approx. 3/4 inch). Roll each piece into a ball and place on a lightly greased cookie tray, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Place an almond in the center of each cookie and press down lightly. Brush each cookie lightly with beaten egg before baking. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.
Chinese Southern Belle highlights the best of East, West…and the Deep South. Popular offerings include hands-on cooking classes, culinary tours, custom demos and a new line of handcrafted, award-winning Asian-inspired sauces, including, My Sweet Hottie. For more about Natalie and Chinese Southern Belle, visit chinesesouthernbelle.com.