Celebrate the Year of the Rabbit on Sunday

Invite good luck by enjoying a variety of Chinese dishes as you welcome the lunar new year

Sunday is Chinese New Year, a day when the Year of the Rabbit is ushered in.

But while many Chinese will celebrate with parades, dragons and fireworks that ward off evil spirits and the legendary man-eating beast Nian, there’s more to the day than that.

There’s also the meals, a wealth of nutrition that is combined with the symbolism of various foods to usher in the year representing the fourth of all zodiac animals.

In Chinese culture, rabbits represent the moon. Some say it is because the shadows of the moon resemble a rabbit. Others say it is because of the rabbit’s pure characteristics.

People born in the year of the rabbit are seen as caring, attentive to details and likely to follow rules. They are also said to be successful in their careers and good at making friends.

Chinese New Year is often welcomed with a colorful celebration. Among the foods you’re likely to find on the dinner table during these celebrations are spring and egg rolls, which are shaped much like gold bars and represent wealth.

Tangerines and oranges are also likely to be eaten as a sign of wealth and luck. The tradition is said to stem from the way the Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, while the word for tangerine echoes luck.

If noodles are served, they should be kept as long as possible to represent a lengthy life. Long, leafy greens such as Chinese broccoli and beans are often served whole to wish a long life for parents.

Whole fish are served to represent abundance, while duck symbolizes fidelity and eggs fertility.

Desserts are said to bring a sweet life in the new year.

One popular New Year dish is jiaozi, or dumplings boiled in water. In some areas of China, coins are placed in the center of jiaozi. Whoever bites into one of these dumplings is predicted to have an exceptionally lucky year.

Following are a few recipes for the Chinese New Year from thekitchencommunity.org.



Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup

For broth:

1 teaspoon olive oil or chicken fat

2 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 inch piece ginger, sliced

1 green onion, halved

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns or black pepper

1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry

4 cups chicken broth

1/2 bunch cilantro, including leaves and stems

1 bay leaf

For soup:

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

3 ounces dried noodles

1 carrot, sliced

3 baby bok choy, cut into 6 pieces lengthwise

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in a 3.5-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Add chicken thighs and cook undisturbed for a minute, until the bottom turns light golden. Flip the chicken, then add garlic, ginger, green onion, cumin and Sichuan peppercorns. Cook one minute, stirring occasionally, until the spices release fragrance.

Add wine, stock, cilantro and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

Cook noodles in a separate pot according to package directions.

Transfer chicken to a plate. Use two forks to remove and discard the skin, then shred the chicken meat.

Use a mesh colander to remove the solid ingredients from the broth and discard them. Add soy sauce, then taste broth and adjust the seasonings. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling.

Add carrots and cook three minutes. Add bok choy for another minute or until it reaches the desired texture. Return shredded chicken to the broth and stir, until it warms up.

Transfer noodles, the broth and vegetables to serving bowls. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and serve hot.


Steamed Buns

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

2-1/2 tablespoons sugar

350 gram (12.3 ounces or about 2-3/4 cups) flour

Place milk, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer attached with a dough hook. Stir mixture with a pair of chopsticks or a spoon.

Add flour, turn mixture to low and knead about six minutes, until it forms a smooth dough.

Transfer dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest five minutes.

On a slightly floured surface, roll the dough with a rolling pin, from bottom to top. Turn the dough horizontally and roll from bottom to top. Continue to roll to form a 14-by-10-inch rectangle.

Roll the dough into a log, from left to right. Make sure you tuck and roll the dough so it forms a tight log. Roll the log a few times, until the surface looks smooth and is 12 inches long.

Cut the dough into eight equal-sized pieces using a sharp knife. Transfer each piece to a 3-by-4-inch piece of parchment paper. You may roll each dough into a round ball after cutting.

Place dough into a steamer. Cover and let rise 60 minutes, until the dough balls expand in size. Make sure you leave enough space between each dough ball so they don’t stick together.

Add water to the bottom of the steamer. You may add one teaspoon of Chinese white vinegar to make the steamed buns whiter. Cover tightly, turn to high and steam 10 to 12 minutes, until dough becomes soft, puffy and fluffy steamed buns. Serve warm.

Dip into condensed milk if you like sweet steamed buns.


Classic Lo Mein (Noodles)

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons cooking oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1-1/2 tablespoons thinly sliced ginger

1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh, thinly sliced

3 cups fresh lo mein noodles

1/4 pound baby bok choy, bottoms removed

3 scallions, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces

To make sauce, stir together oyster sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, chicken stock and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a wok or large, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add cooking oil. Once you see wisps of smoke, add garlic and ginger and cook about 20 seconds, stirring, until light brown and fragrant. Add chicken and cook one minute, stirring, until chicken is medium doneness. Stir in noodles and bok choy and cook one minute, stirring and tossing, until the bok choy starts to soften and turns bright green.

Stir in the sauce to coat all the ingredients and cook one minute, until it starts to simmer.

Cook one minute, stirring and tossing, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce starts to bubble into a glaze. Top with  scallions and serve hot.

There really isn’t such a thing as a “lo mein” noodle, so buy an egg noodle or pasta that’s relatively thin and has some tooth.

Spaghetti or fettuccine cooked al dente and rinsed in cold water and drained in a colander will also make a great lo mein.


Dan Dan Noodles

For topping:

1/4 cup peanut oil

3 to 10 small, hot chiles, fresh or dried, sliced or crumbled

1/2 pound finely ground duck, pork, beef or other meat

1 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper, optional

2 ounces Tianjin preserved vegetable or yibin yacai, rinsed off and squeezed dry

3 teaspoons soy sauce

For noodles:

1 pound Chinese wheat noodles or vermicelli

4 teaspoons sesame paste

2 teaspoons sesame oil

4 tablespoons chile oil

4 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper, optional

1/4 cup minced chives

Heat the peanut oil in a wok or heavy frying pan over high heat. When hot, add the chiles and stir fry about 30 seconds, until you can smell them. Add ground meat and stir to combine. Stir fry over very high heat until the meat has browned, then add the remaining topping ingredients. Toss to combine and cook for another minute or so. Turn off the heat.

Boil a large pot of water over high heat. Add noodles and cook according to directions, gently stirring them so they don’t stick to each other.

Divide sesame paste and oil, chile oil, soy sauce and Sichuan pepper, if using, among four deep bowls.  To serve, divide noodles among the bowls, add toppings and garnish with chives.


Chinese Broccoli With Oyster Sauce

1 pound Chinese broccoli, ends trimmed and thoroughly washed

1 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 to 3 tablespoons oyster sauce

Boil two quarts water in a wok or large pot, then add the salt and oil. When water is boiling, add the whole stalks of Chinese broccoli. Use tongs or a pair of chopsticks to submerge the veggies completely and cook one to two minutes, until tender but still a bit crunchy.

Use a pair of tongs or chopsticks to remove broccoli from the water. Carefully shake off excess liquid and arrange on a plate.

Drizzle a couple tablespoons oyster sauce evenly over the broccoli and serve.


Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli

1-1/2 pounds beef chuck roast, boneless, sliced into thin strips

1 cup beef consomme or beef broth

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup cornstarch

3 cups frozen broccoli florets

White or brown rice, cooked

In a mixing bowl, whisk together beef consomme, soy sauce, dark brown sugar, sesame oil and garlic.

Lay beef strips in the crockpot and pour the sauce over, tossing the strips to coat.

Turn crockpot on low and cook about six hours.

About an hour before it is done, take 1/4 cup of the sauce and whisk it in a small bowl with the cornstarch. Slowly stir this into the crockpot. Add the broccoli for the last 30 minutes.

Serve over rice.


Chicken Fried Rice

4 teaspoons vegetable oil

3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup carrots, peeled, quartered and sliced

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups cooked white rice

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil



1/4 cup green onions, sliced

Heat two teaspoons oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the chicken in a single layer in the pan and cook four to five minutes, until chicken is browned and cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add one teaspoon oil to the pan, along with the onion and carrots. Cook four to five minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Remove vegetables from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Pour remaining oil into the pan. Add eggs and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up with a spatula, until eggs are scrambled and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.

Place rice, chicken, reserved cooked vegetables and peas back into the pan. Stir in soy sauce and sesame oil and mix gently for three to four minutes, until thoroughly combined and warmed through.

Sprinkle green onions over the top of the rice mixture, then serve.



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