Chinese New Year of the Sheep kicks off Feb. 19, 2015. CNY (Spring Festival or Lantern Festival) celebrates an animal of the zodiac each year and 2015 is Year of the Goat or Sheep. CNY anticipates good fortune. How better to celebrate than with food? Here are recipes and tips to eat your way through China’s eight culinary regions and cuisines. Start with a virtual tour of China’s food regions. from Travel China Guide.
Shadong (Lu or Mandarin cuisine) comes from north China, Beijing and Jinan City. Dishes focus on duck, carp, chicken and seafood, particularly abalone (shellfish). Shadong food emphasizes garlic, shallots and sea pumpkin. For a simplified shadong dish, stir-fry prawns (shrimp), asparagus spears and chunks of squash or pumpkin in garlic, shallots and peanut oil.
Chuan (Szechuan cuisine) is eaten in Sichuan province. Food is very spicy and hot, using chilis, peppercorn, peanuts, sesame, garlic and ginger. For easy Szechaun, steam or boil cellophane, ramen or lo mien noodles or rice. Make a thin sauce, mixing crunchy peanut butter, garlic, sesame or peanut oil and minced ginger. Toss noodles with sauce, sesame seeds, sliced scallions, and peanuts. Offer red pepper flakes for students who wish to try it, but warn them that it’s hot.
Hui (Anhui cuisine) originates in the Huangshan mountains. These foods employ vegetables, mushrooms and rice. For a Hui dish, steam jasmine or basmati rice. Make egg foo yung by mixing chopped bok choy, napa cabbage, mushrooms and bean sprouts in egg mixture and frying. Make gravy by simmering soy sauce with corn starch dissolved in cold water. Eggs are a Chinese New Year ceremonial food and symbolize fertility.
Min (Fujian cusine) comes from the coastal region. Min cuisine specializes in soup. Using chicken broth, add any combination of sliced bamboo shoots, carrots, celery, water chestnuts, bean sprouts and shitake mushrooms. Set out wonton chips for garnish.
Yue (Cantonese or Guangdong cuisine) comes from Hong Kong. It’s what most Westerners think of when they think Chinese food (Chinese buffet foods, for example). For an easy Cantonese sampler, set out assorted Chinese dumplings (potstickers), rice rolls (sushi) and dim sum. Asian Online Recipes has easy dim sum recipes. Serve with Chinese five-spice (cinnamon, anise, cloves, pepper and fennel seed).
Xiang (Hunan cuisine): Like Szechuan, Hunan food is spicy. It focuses on the “five elements”: lytchee fruit, longan berries, red dates, lotus seeds, and medlar fruit. The others might be tricky to find, but Lytchee aren’t too difficult to find canned. They can represent Hunan food.
Jiangsu (Shanghai, Su cuisine): This cooking style uses many techniques and flavors. For a student Shanghai sampler, serve cubed tofu or dried tofu.
Zhe (Zheijiang cuisine): Stir-fry is a common technique. Students may enjoy a cooking demonstration using a wok. Cook whole smelt in oil with lemon. Toss in chopped vegetables (celery, carrots, broccoli, onions, green peppers). Serve with jasmine or oolong tea. This is perfect for Chinese New Year, as whole fish is one of the traditional foods. Sweet and sour pork is also popular.
Other Chinese New Year ceremonial foods include mandarin oranges, fat choy (algae), dumplings, noodles and dried fruit. To wish a happy new year, say “Gung Hay Fat Choy!”