Year of the Dragon

Flickr user miheco

Happy Chinese New Year! It’s the year of the Dragon…supposedly the best astrological sign to be born under because it’s the luckiest and Dragons are supposed to have the most desirable personality traits or some such nonsense. It’s also the only mythical creature among the twelve Chinese signs. If you were born during the Lunar New Year in 1988, 1976, 1964, etc. you are a Dragon.  Me, I’m a Monkey.

My guess is that most of you are of the rounder eyed persuasion and may not know how you too can celebrate this holiday. First, wear some red. It’s festive and good luck. Black and white are associated with mourning, so those aren’t a great choice for today. Put on some jade if you have it. Also, go around wishing people “Gong Xi Fa Cai” — the well wishes for a happy and prosperous year.

We’re in Connecticut, so finding a celebration complete with dragon or lion dances is going to be a little rough. So, celebrate by stuffing your face. Dumplings are a good Chinese New Year food because they look like old Chinese currency and are stuffed with good luck. Fish, pork and chicken aren’t bad either. Noodles are always a good bet — make sure they are long and don’t cut them. They represent long life/longevity. Cutting or breaking them means, well, you’re cutting things a little short. Oranges are also a good way to celebrate too. If you’re looking for a year of fertility, eat some seeds — pumpkin, melon, sunflower.

Me, I’m still recovering from having four wisdom teeth ripped out of my head. Last night, I made mapo tofu which is nice and mushy — tofu and pork in a spicy sauce that numbed my pain and cleared my sinuses. I also made long noodles and hot & sour soup. Since the best Asian market in the area is closed on New Year, I was able to find everything at Whole Foods. (Dumplings are a bit much to chew at the moment, but I hope to make up for it in a couple of weeks.)

Below is a recipe for quick hot & sour soup — really easy to make:

  • 6 cups of chicken broth, or 3 cups of chicken broth, 3 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of white pepper
  • 4-6 ounces of firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups of mixed mushrooms (I used shitake and canned straw mushrooms, which are both easy to find)
  • 1/2 cup bamboo shoots
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 chopped scallion for garnish

Combine the water, soy sauce, pepper, mushrooms, tofu and bamboo shoots and boil. Reduce to medium. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer for a minute until it thickens. Slowly pour the beaten egg into the soup, through the tines of a fork to slow the process, in a clockwise direction. The egg shouldn’t clump, but should be thin ribbons. If yours clump, you can gently drag the tines of the fork through the cooking egg in the clockwise direction. Serve and sprinkle with scallions.

Happy New Year!