When January 28 rolls around, it will be time for the Chinese New Year. And we all know how much of a role delicious food plays in most celebrations. This year is Year of the Rooster, so if you plan to celebrate, you might have fun decorating with a rooster theme. Many people collect rooster figurines and other art, so they are sure to enjoy this. Here are some recipes for your consideration, even if you do not include the Chinese New Year in your holiday traditions.
Kung Pao chicken
You can cut this recipe down to smaller proportions if necessary.
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons salt, divided
3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
3 tablespoons corn starch, divided
3 cups peanut oil
6 small dried red chilies
1 1/2 cups unsalted peanuts
6 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger (peeled)
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup rice wine or dry sherry
5 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons Chinese black rice vinegar
1. In a medium bowl, mix the cubed chicken, egg whites, 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch. Mix until well blended.
2. Place a large wok over high heat until it becomes hot. Add peanut oil to the wok. When the oil is very hot, remove wok from heat and immediately add chicken cubes, stirring well to prevent sticking. When the pieces are white on all sides, after 2 to 3 minutes, drain them and all the oil through a stainless-steel colander in a heatproof bowl. Reserve 5 tablespoons of the oil, and discard remainder.
3. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1/3 cup water; mix well and set mixture aside. Reheat wok with reserved oil. When very hot, add chilies and stir-fry until slightly blackened. Add peanuts, garlic, scallions and ginger, and stir-fry until lightly browned.
4. Add chicken cubes, broth, rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil. Mix well, and stir in cornstarch mixture. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then reduce heat to low and let mixture sit for 2 to 3 minutes. Mix again, and serve. Makes 6 servings.
Baby bok choy saute
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 half-inch piece of peeled ginger root, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
4 bunches baby bok choy (about 1 1/2 pounds), cleaned with root ends trimmed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chicken broth or water
Toasted sesame oil, for drizzling
1. In a large saute pan with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Be very careful to not burn the garlic.
2. Add baby bok choy and stir carefully to coat evenly with oil, then cook for about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, broth or water, then cover pan and cook for about 2 minutes more, until steam begins to escape from beneath the lid of the pan.
3. Uncover pan and continue to cook until liquid is almost evaporated and the bok choy stalks are soft to the touch, approximately 3 minutes more. Remove to a warm platter and drizzle with sesame oil. Makes 4 servings.
Pork and vegetable pot stickers
I like to add a bit of sesame oil to the filling.
3/4 pound ground pork
1 cup minced cabbage
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 green onions, white and green parts separated, both minced
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons good quality soy sauce
48 dumpling wrappers
1 egg, lightly beaten in a bowl
4 tablespoons (about) canola or peanut oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1. Combine ground pork, cabbage, ginger, garlic, scallion whites and 2 tablespoons soy sauce in a bowl with 1/4 cup water. Lay a dumpling wrapper on a clean, dry surface, and brush a bit of egg along half of its circumference. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in center, fold over and seal by pinching edges together. (Do not overfill.) Place dumplings on a plate; if you want to wait a few hours before cooking, cover plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Or freeze, for up to two weeks.
2. To cook, put about 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add dumplings, one at a time; they can touch one another, but should still sit flat in one layer. Cook about 2 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned and most of the oil has been absorbed. Add 1/4 cup water per dozen dumplings to pan, and cover. Lower heat to medium, and let simmer about 3 minutes.
3. For dipping sauce, combine remaining soy sauce, green parts of scallions and vinegar.
4. Uncover dumplings, return heat to medium-high and cook another minute or two, until bottoms of the pot stickers are dark brown and crisp and water evaporates. (Use more oil if necessary.) Serve hot, with sauce. Makes 4 main dish or 8 appetizers.
Clams in black bean sauce
One of my favorite buffet restaurants serves this and I always take a few spoonfuls whenever I visit. Make sure all sand has been cleansed from the clams. You can find fermented black beans and oyster sauce in Asian markets or in well stocked grocery stores.
20 littleneck clams (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 cups liquid, preferably the juice of the clams
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 thin slices fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons crushed fermented black beans
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons chopped green onion (green part)
1. Wash and scrub clams. Soak in water for about 1 hour, then drain. In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add half the clams. As soon as each opens, remove it; then add the remaining clams and repeat the process (unless your pot is big enough for the entire batch). Pour cooking liquid into a container and let any sand settle to the bottom. Measure out 2 cups of liquid for making sauce.
2. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add ginger, garlic and fermented beans. Let them cook in the oil for a minute, being very careful to avoid burning the garlic. Add 2 cups clam liquid. Let it boil for about 2 minutes. Discard ginger and garlic, using slotted spoon.
3. Add oyster sauce and mix well. Thicken with the cornstarch and water mixture (stirring again to make sure the water and cornstarch are thoroughly mixed).
4. Arrange clams on serving platter and sprinkle scallions on top. Pour boiling sauce over clams. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.