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Chef and cookbook author Hsiao-Ching Chou is sharing a few of her favorite Lunar New Year recipes from her book "Chinese Soul Food: A Friendly Guide for Homemade Dumplings, Stir-Fries, Soups, and More."
The Chinese hardly need a reason to gather for a feast, because sharing a meal is so intrinsic to the culture. When it's celebration time — especially during Lunar New Year — the feasting quotient kicks into epic gear. Historically, the Chinese were an agrarian society and the Lunar New Year marked the start of the Spring Festival, a two-week period to celebrate the transition from winter to spring, the planting of new crops, and renewal. It's a time for family members near and far to return home for what's called the reunion feast to ring in the New Year. I spend days preparing all the lucky foods that my family enjoys and then pack our dining table with three generations. The meal itself comprises dishes from land and sea, a complement of flavors and textures, and an abundance of symbolism to ward off the bad luck and ensure a prosperous year. The following recipes are just a few of the dishes I'll be cooking for Chinese New Year.
Dumplings are a universally loved food. Every culture has some type of filled dumpling. For Chinese New Year, dumplings represent good luck and the rounded shape resembles the shape of gold ingots from ancient China. Usually, the Chinese eat boiled dumplings at New Year's, but my family loves eating the pan-fried version.
I love humble dishes that give more than they take. It's soupy and hearty without being heavy. For Chinese New Year, this dish represents a big, happy family. This recipe can wear many different hats because you can change the protein and vegetables according to what you have on hand.
During Chinese New Year, families enjoy eating noodles, because the noodles represent long life — especially if the cook makes homemade noodles that are extra long. I love how quickly this dish comes together and how flexible it is.
For the Chinese New Year feast, it's important to have a balance of dishes, as well as a mix of flavors and textures. Having plenty of stir-fried vegetables is key. Lettuce is symbolic of prosperity, so you can substitute a hearty green leaf lettuce for the baby bok choy in this recipe to ensure good fortune for the year.
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