Grandma's Kitchen: Prosperity for the New Year
by Connie Hom |
(article reprinted in honor of Grandma's 102th birthday in January, Grandma shown below)
During the Chinese New Year a mung bean dish called “Chai,” is usually served. Mung bean threads are clear, plastic-looking noodles that are made from the mung bean, the same bean which is the source of bean sprouts.
“Chai,” a traditional vegetarian dish, often will contain some auspicious sounding ingredients. A popular ingredient for its homonymic sound is “fat choy” or sea moss. Fat choy is a seaweed that looks like black human hair. The homonym of fat choy is a word that means prosperity; a good omen for the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Ancient Buddhist monks strictly adhered to the traditional vegetarian New Year dish of “Chai.” Today, a variation of this mung bean dish called “fun see,” made with or without the sea moss and even meat, is found on the tables of many local San Diego Chinese families' tables during the Chinese New Year. A favorite among early San Diego Cantonese settlers here would be a simple combination of lop chang (Chinese sweet sausage), dried shrimp, celery, eggs, onions, and, of course, mung bean threads. The following recipe is what I call “Village Style Mung Bean Threads.”
Village Style Mung Bean Threads
Eight Treasure Rice Pudding
Eight Treasure Rice Pudding is one of those Chinese New Year desserts that you may have tried once or twice in your life, perhaps at a Chinese banquet or party, but have never bothered to learn how to make. At first glance it looks like SO much work. Attempting the multicolored design made from candied fruit, molded into sweet rice can be a threatening task to anyone who feels that he or she is less than an artist. Contrary to what it seems, Eight Treasure Rice Pudding is probably one of the easiest Chinese desserts I have ever made, aside from fresh-cut oranges.
Eight Treasure Rice Pudding is a cake-shaped pudding made with glutinous rice and a sweet bean or lotus filling decorated with a variety of candied fruit and lotus seeds. It is interesting to note that glutinous rice or “sweet rice,” as it commonly is called, is not sugary sweet by nature. In this recipe, sugar is added to sweeten. A quick way to prepare Eight Treasure Rice Pudding is to boil rather than steam the rice. (The steam method requires rinsing the rice and soaking for about 5 hours before steaming.)
Folklore has it that cleaning the home before the Lunar Chinese New Year is important as we sweep out the evil spirits and prepare room for the good spirits. I have always just thought of it as making a fresh start in the new year. Another Chinese custom requires us to pay all debts before the end of the year. Well, my kitchen shelves are organized and my Eight Treasure Pudding was a success, so I guess two out of three is not bad!
Connie Hom is well-known for her lively performances on KFMB-TV8 “Sun Up San Diego” and KGTV 10 “Inside San Diego,” she has entertained audiences and students for over a decade. Through television, radio and gourmet cooking schools, UCSD, Mesa College, community colleges, charity benefits and at the former Woo Chee Chong stores, Connie Hom has taught thousands of Americans and international audiences how to use exotic Asian ingredients to produce delicious, authentic meals with excellent results.
Copyright © by Constance J. Hom
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Other recipes from Grandma's Kitchen:Soybean Magic
Fiesta – Filipino Style
Filipino Party Foods
Healthy Summer Eating
Vietnam’s Chicken in Lemon Grass
Korean Homestyle Cooking
Prosperity for the New Year
The Fine Art of Korean Cooking
The Ever Pan-Tropic Bamboo and Indonesian Soup
Tofu Bubble and Chinese Cabbage
Shrimp Hui Tofu
Fighting the "Baby Fat" Blues with Asian Food
Eat Drink Man Woman - Starring .... Food
Asian New Year's Recipes
More Asian New Year's Recipes
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