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GUNG HAY FAT CHOY!
Gung Hay Fat Choy is the joyous greeting shared by Chinese families and friends during Chinese New Year celebration. The expression means "good wishes and congratulations."
With the Chinese following a lunar calendar, the date of this annual spring celebration occurs on a different date each year that usually falls between the end of January and mid-February and lasts about 15 days.
The special occasion seemed like an opportune time to share one of my favorite recipes just right for the festival. Luck, health and prosperity are often expressed as wishes for the year ahead, bringing families together to share the good wishes. Often, Chinese New Year is a grand family reunion, uniting families who live far away.
Many foods are attributed with qualities that bring luck, fortune, and health. Certain foods also become the focus of special recipes served during the New Year celebration. Because the number eight in Chinese tradition is thought to be a lucky number, a symbolic tray or platter containing eight items is frequently offered at a family gathering as a snack or given as a gift.
Here are some foods to enjoy during Chinese New Year along with their symbolic qualities:
- Snap peas and sno peas are thought to bring unity
- All onions denote cleverness
- Kumquats represent prosperity, gold, or good fortune
- Coconut brings togetherness
- Longans represent many good sons
- Red melon seeds promise happiness
- Nan Gao, which are steamed rice cakes, allow one to reach new heights
- Pomelo gives one continuous prosperity and status
- Chinese black mushrooms fulfill wishes
- Leafy greens like Chinese broccoli and long beans bring long life to parents
- Bamboo shoots represent wealth and new beginnings
- Bananas bring success in education and work
- Bean sprouts possess positivity
- Bok Choy offers prosperity
- Garlic chives bring long life
- Seaweed brings luck and great fortune
- Turnips are good omens
- Lettuce leaves filled with lucky foods promise coming fortune
- Sweets promise a sweet year
- Noodles predict long life
Planning food for special occasions like Chinese New Year deserves a little fussing and sometimes requires setting extra time aside to prepare exceptional dishes. Because this recipe requires an hour for pressing the tofu and another hour for marinating it, begin the process well ahead of serving time. The key is having all the ingredients chopped before starting the cooking and placing the condiments for the sauce near the stove where you'll need them.
The delicious dish contains some of the symbolic foods that just might bring you luck and prosperity in the coming year.
Gung Hay Fat Choy!
MARINATED TOFU WITH LUCKY SAUCE
Yield; 4 servings
Tofu and Marinade
1 pound (453g) firm tofu, rinsed
1/4 cup (60 ml) rice vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1 cup (240 ml) diced snap peas
3 green onions, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup (120 ml) sliced water chestnuts, diced
1/2-inch (120 ml) piece ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable broth
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon rice wine
1 teaspoon organic sugar
1/4 teaspoon chili bean sauce
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped, for garnish
3 kumquats, sliced, for garnish
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
- TO PRESS THE TOFU, set a colander on a dish and put the tofu in the colander. Place a small dish on top of the tofu and weight it down with very heavy objects like 2 or 3 large cans of beans. Set aside for 1 hour.
- Combine the tofu, vinegar, soy sauce, and water in a shallow pan and set aside to marinate for 1 hour.
- TO MAKE THE LUCKY SAUCE, put the sesame oil and water in a large, deep skillet or wok and warm over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, snap peas, green onions, water chestnuts, and ginger. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.
- Add the vegetable broth, soy sauce, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, and chili bean sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly to blend the flavors.
- Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and mix well to create a runny paste. Reduce the skillet heat to medium and add the paste to the gently bubbling sauce a little at a time. Stir continuously for about 1 minute until thickened to desired consistency. Set aside.
- TO ASSEMBLE THE DISH, put the tofu and all the marinade in a large skillet and cook over high heat until all the marinade is absorbed and the tofu begins to caramelize around the edges, about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the tofu a few times during the process.
- While the tofu is cooking, warm the sauce. Transfer the tofu to a large serving platter and spoon the sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the cilantro and arrange the kumquat slices artfully.
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