The Lunar New Year is Friday, February 12th. The holiday is determined by a traditional Chinese calendar, which is based on the moon’s cycle and the Earth’s course around the sun. It falls on the second new moon after winter solstice.
Each Lunar New Year is associated with an animal; 2021 is the year of the ox.
Just as we do in America, people in China, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and other countries celebrate their new year with favorite foods. Most importantly, many dishes are thought to bring good fortune, prosperity, and health in the year ahead.
Over the years, I’ve hosted dozens of foreign exchange students from the Orient. Each taught me techniques for preparing foods from their homeland.
I’m astonished how a few ingredients mingled in a pan result in such flavorful dishes.
While the following recipes will adorn new year’s tables, they can be eaten year round. So grab your wok and let’s get cooking!
Here are five, simple Lunar New Year recipes!
Lettuce is a popular vegetable for Chinese New Year. The Cantonese word for lettuce sounds like “rising fortune.” For this reason it’s a must have at holiday feasts.
- 1 head iceberg lettuce
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 slice ginger (1/8” thick, smashed with the side of a knife)
- 1 clove of garlic (chopped)
Recipe & preparation:
- Take the lettuce and firmly hit it on the counter, core side down. Turn over and remove the loosened core.
- Remove the outer layer and any discolored leaves of the lettuce. Discard.
- Tear the lettuce with your hands into large 4”- 5” pieces.
- Place the lettuce in a large bowl of very cold water and give it a good stir.
- Drain the lettuce in a colander and give it a shake to remove excess water from the surface. Use a salad spinner if possible.
- Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt, and pepper into a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat your wok over low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and the fresh ginger slice. Make sure the ginger has been smashed so it releases flavor when added.
- Infuse the oil for 15 seconds, being careful to not burn the ginger.
- Turn heat up to the highest setting. Stir in the chopped garlic.
- Then immediately add the iceberg lettuce. Stir everything together using a scooping motion to coat the lettuce uniformly with the oil.
- After 20 seconds, pile the lettuce in the middle of the wok, so you see liquid pooling around the lettuce in the wok.
- Cook uncovered for another 15 seconds while pouring the soy sauce mixture over the lettuce. At this point the sides of the wok will begin to super-heat.
- Stir the lettuce in a circular motion once while spreading it out across the wok.
- Get the lettuce and liquid searing. Then repeat step 11, piling the lettuce in the middle of the wok. Repeat step 13, stirring the lettuce in a circular motion once while spreading it out across the wok.
- Your iceberg lettuce leaves should be tender with the green parts wilted, but still slightly crunchy.
- Do not overcook. The whole cooking process from start to finish takes 2 minutes in the wok.
A good wok is important when cooking Asian food. My husband and I received a Calphalon wok for a wedding gift 28-years ago. I use it regularly to sauté, stir fry, even make soup. It is still in perfect shape. Here is the link to the wok I own: https://amzn.to/2MRxfYH
Chinese Five-Spice Chicken
Five-spice powder is a mixture of five spices predominately used in Asian cooking. The flavors are — sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and pungent — referring to the elements of the Chinese zodiac — wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.
The zing of this Lunar New Year recipe pairs perfectly with the lettuce dish.
- 2 pounds of chicken pieces
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 teaspoons five-spice powder
Recipe & preparation:
- Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag.
- Mix the remaining ingredients and pour into bag over the chicken.
- Shake the bag to coat the chicken with the marinade.
- Place in the refrigerator overnight. Or if short on time, for 1-2 hours.
- Remove chicken from the bag and place in a baking dish.
- Brush the chicken with the remaining marinade.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Cook chicken uncovered, brushing once or twice with the marinade until chicken is done — about 45 minutes-1 hour.
The easiest place to find Chinese five-spice is online. A good brand is The Spice Way. There’s no additives, preservatives, or GMO, and it’s a good price. Here’s the link: https://amzn.to/3cTYgFH
Braised Glass Noodles with Pork & Napa Cabbage
On my trip to Asia, I tasted many scrumptious local dishes. Some foods were completely foreign to me, while others I knew well. One of the most memorable evenings I had in Shanghai was at a restaurant, dining on a mouthwatering glass noodle meal with my dear friends Gerry and Donna Keener. We met up in China when I was traveling around the Far East.
Glass noodles are named for their transparent appearance after they’re cooked. Common varieties are made of mung bean, arrowroot or sweet potato. This Lunar New Year recipe calls for the later.
- 3 ounces sweet potato glass noodles
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil (plus 3 tablespoons)
- 8 ounces pork belly, thinly sliced
- 3 slices ginger
- 1 or 2 star anise
- 6 shiitake mushrooms (fresh or rehydrated dry)
- 1 pound Napa cabbage, cut into large pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 scallion chopped
Recipe & preparation:
- Cook the noodles following the instructions on the package. Drain, toss with 1 teaspoon of oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok over high heat until just starting to smoke.
- Add pork belly and brown for about 1 minute, then turn heat down to medium.
- Remove the pork belly and set aside.
- Add ginger, star anise and mushrooms to the wok and cook for 1 minute.
- Turn the heat back up to high. Add the Napa cabbage. Stir-fry for 1 minute.
- Add salt, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and chicken stock. Mix well, cover and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Uncover, mix in cooked glass noodles and pork belly. Cover and simmer another 2 minutes.
- Stir in chopped scallions and serve!
Sweet potato noodles can be found at your local Asian food market. Amazon also carries numerous varieties. Here is the link to purchase a healthy, sweet potato version with no salt, sugar or gluten. Grown without pesticides and fertilizers, too. https://amzn.to/3jz9iBy
Easy Chicken Potstickers
Potstickers, also know as dumplings, are a very popular Lunar New Year recipe. Their shape resembles ancient Chinese money, vis-à-vis prosperity.
Creating these pockets of deliciousness may seem intimidating, but this recipe has shortcuts to streamline the process.
- 3 packed cups coleslaw mix
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 3 medium scallions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1, 10-12 ounce package round Asian dumpling wrappers approximately 3 1/2” diameter. Sometimes they’re labeled gyoza or potsticker wrappers. If you can’t find round, use square wonton wrappers.
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1-2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce.
Recipe & preparation:
- Place the coleslaw in a colander, pick through and remove any large pieces of cabbage.
- Sprinkle coleslaw with salt and toss to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes in the sink.
- Meanwhile, place egg, 2 chopped scallions, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, garlic, and pepper in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Fill a small bowl with water and set aside.
- Have a baking sheet ready.
- After 10 minutes squeeze out any liquid from the coleslaw with your hands really crushing the cabbage.
- Place the coleslaw into the bowl with the egg mixture. Stir to combine.
- Add the ground chicken and use your hands to mix thoroughly, pressing the mixture against the side of the bowl until it forms a sticky mass.
Form the potstickers:
- Lay 6 wrappers on a clean workspace.
- Place a level tablespoon of the chicken/coleslaw mixture slightly below the center of each wrapper, leaving a 1/2” border.
- Dip your finger into the water bowl, and trace your wet finger around the outside edge of each wrapper.
- Fold the wrappers in half by bringing the bottom up to the top. Pinch to completely seal. If using square wonton wrappers, fold the wrapper in half to form a triangle.
- Gently place the potstickers on the baking sheet. Make sure the potstickers are not touching.
- Continue wrapping potstickers until all your wrappers in the package are gone.
Cook potstickers in 4 batches:
- Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 200F. This keeps batches warm while cooking potstickers in a pan.
- For each batch, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high in a 12-inch or larger non-stick or cast-iron skillet. It’s important to use these pans so the potstickers don’t stick.
- When the oil starts to shimmer, add 12 potstickers making sure they do not touch.
- Fry undisturbed until bottoms are light golden brown — about 2-3 minutes.
- Then carefully add 1/4 cup water. Stand back because the oil may splatter.
- Cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes.
- Uncover, and using tongs turn the potstickers onto the other side.
- Continue cooking until the filling is cooked through and the second side is light golden brown — 3-4 minutes.
- Transfer the potstickers to the baking sheet and place in the over to keep warm.
- Wipe the skillet clean with paper towels and repeat cooking steps with the remaining potstickers. There should be three more batches.
In a small bowl mix 1/4 cup soy sauce, rice vinegar, 1 chopped scallion, and chili-garlic sauce.
Serve potstickers with the dipping sauce.
Baked Chinese New Year Cake
In the Chinese culture, coconut cake is thought to improve your luck in the coming year. Coconut symbolizes togetherness, which is especially important during the new year celebration.
- 2 tablespoons shredded, sweetened coconut
- 4 large eggs
- 1 pound sweet rice flour (about 3 cups)
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to coat the baking dish
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Recipe and preparation:
- Heat the oven to 350F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- Coat a 13”x 9” baking dish with butter. Set aside.
- Place the coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until toasted and golden brown — about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Place the eggs in a large bowl and lightly beat.
- Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth — about 2 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut, rotate the baking dish, and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, until the edges start to turn brown and the top is set. A bubble may form, but it will flatten as the cake cools.
- Remove baking dish from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Coconut extract and sweet rice flour are not readily available at grocery stores. Ordering them online saves time running around looking for the two ingredients.
Watkins Company has great extracts. They’ve been producing high-quality products since 1868. Here’s a link to their coconut extract: https://amzn.to/3pdk7u1
Sweet rice flour is key to this Lunar New Year recipe. Mochiko makes a premium flour. It is fat and sodium free, no GMO or gluten. Here’s the link to purchase sweet rice flour: https://amzn.to/3rOyhnp
HAPPY YEAR OF THE OX!
Please note this post contains affiliate links in which I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. My recommendations are products I use and want to share with my readers! The income is used to keep the website running for everyone to enjoy.
Recipes are courtesy of TheWoksofLife.com, Food.com, TheKitchn.com, and Chowhound.com.