Friday, January 31, 2014

Chinese New Year Vegetarian Platter

Happy Year of the Horse! 恭喜發財 萬事如意 大吉大利 身體健康 龍馬精神 馬年進步! Chinese New Year is the holiday in my household. Yes, we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and every major commercial holiday, but this is the one that really matters and gets people together. The food, the festivities, the money... how can anyone not enjoy the first day of the Lunar New Year? 

Hong Kong people can be quite superstitious and there are a LOT of of traditions, customs, and rituals to follow to ensure the most auspicious start of the year. Washing your body with pomelo leaves to clean away all the dirt from the past year, eating lettuce because it sounds like "growing wealth," sleeping with lucky money under your pillow... all in a day's work. I know most of them sound crazy, but why not? 

One of the major customs that my family follows is to have the first meal of the new year be vegetarian. The purpose of this is to accumulate positive karma and to pay respects to the gods. After the break, I have included my mom's recipe for the most delicious Buddhist vegetarian dish. It uses a lot of different ingredients, so this dish is not only packed with the natural sweetness of the vegetables, but also has a range of textures and nutrients. 

The photos I have below are all from New Year's Eve. Chinese New Year's Eve is when the entire family gathers to have a very lavish meal with endless luxurious ingredients such as a whole roast pig, abalone, shark fin, and oysters. More importantly, there must be leftovers to save. This shows that your family is living prosperously and can afford to have excess. Below are some photos from my family reunion and food preparations for our midnight offering! 

Chinese New Year Vegetarian Platter
4 tbs canola oil
1 lb bok choy
1/2 lb Chinese celery
1/2 lb lettuce
1/2 cup dried dates
1/2 cup ginkgo nuts
1 cup shiitake mushrooms 
1 cup bamboo shoots
1 cup wood ear mushrooms 
1 cup fat choy (hair vegetable) 
1 cup tofu skin
1 pack fried tofu
1 pack tofu puffs 
1 pack vermicelli
5 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp salt
white pepper

1. In a pot, braise dried dates, ginkgo nuts, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushroom, fat choy, tofu skin, fried tofu, and tofu puffs in about 4 cups of water.   
2. In the meantime, heat vegetable oil in a wok. When boiling, stir fry bok choy. Then add the Chinese celery and lettuce. 
3. Stir fry until 80-90% cooked, then pour the pot of braised vegetables into the wok. Mix well.
4. Seasons with soy sauce, salt, and a dash of white pepper. Flavor to taste. 
5. If there is still liquid on the bottom of the wok, add the vermicelli. If not, add water then vermicelli. Mix well. 

Don't forget to check out my recipe for Chinese New Year rice cake, leen goh 年糕

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