Friday, February 16, 2018

Vegetarian Prosperity Salad 素鱼生

Happy Lunar New Year of the Dog!

Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year, and here's wishing everyone Good Heath and Happiness.

We start the year strong and healthy with this Prosperity Salad which has been adapted and modified to suit our family preferences. Raw fish (生鱼 Sheng Yu ) - which is why Prosperity Salad is also known as Yu Sheng in Mandarin. Fish 鱼 and abundance 余 also both sound alike in Mandarin, thus the tradition of having Yu Sheng is often interpreted as abundance, good fortune and prosperity in the new year.

First and foremost, one of the most symbolic ingredient - raw fish  has been omitted from the salad as we do not consume raw fish at home. That said, it also means this salad is vegetarian.

No fish, but the colors galore and vegetables aplenty in this salad marks abundance in the best way (examples of ingredients and its symbolism here).  Besides, with or without fish, it is the same act of using chopsticks to toss and lift the salad up high that symbolizes the shoring in of better luck and lifting of our high spirits and vigor in the new year. In other words, the higher you toss, the better luck you have.

In this salad adaption, I have also brought in long strands of noodles (means long-life noodles) which symbolizes longevity and good health.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Braised Quail, Fennel & Tomatoes 番茄茴香根炖鹌鹑豆子

I am still into salad and grain bowls; but there is always more reasons to make soup, braise or stew (braise or stew - what's the difference?) in this cold weather. Nothing beats a warm and hearty pot of vegetables and beans, worth the effort just so for the extra comfort and satisfaction in the chilly nights.

Today, the extra effort goes to this pot of Braised Quail, Beans and Tomatoes. Frankly I was intimidated when I set my eyes on the pack of frozen quail in the store. Would it be too gamey? I have never handled quail in the kitchen. Not that I have not tried game meats such as quail, squab or bison, but I will order them in eateries/restaurants where they have been prepped by professional chefs.

Think of it as chicken and cook it as chicken. Does that even work? I do not know.

Some rules never change in my kitchen, that is to keep the cooking simple; yes, even when it comes to so-called exotic game meats. The first few thoughts that came to mind was making Chinese soup (just because I have tried Cantonese-Style slow-cooked quail soup before), roasting...maybe, or perhaps, braising.

SO...NOW... the quails were frozen so I threw away the idea of making soup as I am afraid that the gamey taste might be too over-powering for a water-based soup to withstand. Then quail being small and lean, roasting might render the meat too dry, so threw away another option. I am left with braising, which suits me fine.

Braised (slow-cooking with a large forgiving window) with aromatics and tomatoes ( I will let the aromatics take care of the "gamey-ness"), this one-pot of slow-cooked goodness should be giving me a delicious quail dish (with tender quail meat, of course). And it did.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Lunar New Year Vegetarian Stir-Fry 年菜西兰花芦笋清炒鸿禧菇

During Lunar New Year, many Chinese families believe in shoring up good luck with food that symbolizes good health and prosperity.

With good health and happiness in mind, this easy and healthy vegetarian stir-fry is perfect for the Lunar New Year. We have broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, beech mushrooms, and tofu all in a pot, symbolizing togetherness.

Quite different from the popular vegetarian dish Chap Chai(Braised Vegetables Combo) that often makes its appearance during Lunar New Year, this vegetable combo wins on the crisp fresh bites of vegetables and light-tasting flavors, unlike the soft meld-down texture and deep-layered flavors of a braised dish.

Each ingredient and its symbolism, in my own interpretation:

Mushrooms 鸿禧菇 = 鸿运当头 (Good luck)
Asparagus 芦笋(顺)= 事事顺利 (Smooth-sailing)
Broccoli 西兰花 = 花开富贵 (Prosperity)
Celery 芹(情)菜 = 心情愉快 (Positive mood, good health)
Orange bell peppers 橘(吉)色灯笼椒 = 大吉大利 (Auspicious)
Garlic/leek 蒜(算)头 = 有的算$ (Fortune)
Tofu 豆腐(福)=有福 (Good health, happiness)