Monday, February 18, 2013

the Chinese new year experience

So I am not Chinese but sometimes I wish I was.

Some of you may recall my trip to Taiwan back in the day. I ended up there both because my dad was going on a business trip and invited me to tag along (I’d just graduated college early), and because my stepmother is Taiwanese and it was a chance to get to know her family.

Anyway, my experiences there should have somewhat prepared me for the mega-quantity of food produced for my dad and Sally’s Chinese New Year dinner.

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(note: this is not all the food. Not at all)

So we arrived to an already-bustling kitchen. Sally had created her own giant (GIANT) radish cake. She sort of explained the process to me, claiming that the steps involved, which included cutting radishes into tiny cubes, boiling them, combining them in mysterious proportions with a very specific kind of rice flour and dried shrimp, onion, and pork were “easy”… but I’m going to leave that to her expertise.

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I just went ahead and fried them.

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The kitchen filled with all kinds of other sauces and ingredients, some typical-looking and others utterly mysterious. Sally’s friends arrived and there was much gleeful chattering. Various relatives and relatives’ friends arrived. Place was hoppin’.

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My dad decided he had to make cold sesame noodles. He got to work on that. Meanwhile, my aunt and I thinly sliced carrots upon which to steam the buns, which was an adventure with an electrically troubled food processor.

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To begin the meal, soup was mandatory, per Chinese culture. Sally used like a GAZILLION types of mushrooms (yes!)

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… to create a delectable hot and sour soup.

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The other soup was a tangy, spicy, beef and radish. Different, and good.

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My fried radish cake pieces went out, lovingly arranged with Steve’s skill.

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Speaking of Steve, he was crazy about this ultra-thin-sliced beef. My boyfriend loves him some saturated fat :)

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I was enjoying various veggie and noodle dishes (though I sampled everything).

I think these were something in the garlic/onion family. Livened up my breath for suuuuure!

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This noodle dish was spectacular: the noodles were something special, as was the sauce. I’m feeling very inadequate to describe these things because I truly don’t know what went into them. Other than deliciousness.

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My dad’s sesame noodles went out next to ma po tofu. WOW. Have to make. So spicy and savory and amazing. I don’t cook a lot with silken tofu but it only makes sense in this recipe. Also, in the US you tend to only see tofu in vegetarian dishes, but whaddya know; meat mixed with tofu tastes boss.

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Speaking of meat, this fall-off-the-bone tender pork was the best meat I’ve had in recent memory. It didn’t taste all that Chinese; just like a really really good braise.

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These head-on, tail-on, whole shebang shrimp were excellent and spicy. Some were tender enough to eat the shells, which had a lotta flavor.

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Oh yes, there’s more!

Comfort food delight in this thinly shredded cabbage and thinly sliced pork dish.

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Fish, always served at Chinese New Year: apparently it’s good luck because the scales look like money! Thus, you are supposed to leave some on the plate to have money in the new year.

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So the table sort of wobbled under the weight of all those dishes, and we all sat around the living room and chowed down. And had some non-Chinese wine :)

Was that the end? Of course not!

There were two kinds of dumplings and steamed buns that then came off the stove. I mean really.

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The rest of the evening was spent eating the cake my cousin made (cause why not), and watching Celine Dion’s performance (!!!!!!!!) singing in Chinese (!!!!!!!!!) on Chinese state television (!!!!!!!!!!!!)

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