This is a sponsored post by Ling Ling, all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
Celebrating the Lunar Year
I can remember the very first time my mother took me to eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I was barely three years old, and it was some sort of special occasion because I wore a red silk Alexis Carrington à la Dynasty blouse and my hair curled. I remember walking in, studying the artwork on the walls, and listening carefully to the soothing music overhead, innocently thinking, “This is like the ‘It’s A Small World’ ride, but with food!” I couldn’t wait to be seated. Just based on aesthetics alone, I had a feeling this was going to be the best dinner I was ever going to have.
I (Big Puffy) Heart Asian Food
Even at such a young age, that night became the defining moment that sparked my interest of Asian flavors in the culinary world. I can remember my family ordering a few things on the menu from “Side A,” and a few items from “Side B,” and while everything was a bit foreign to me in a very exciting way, I could not wait to see what was going to come out next. If the menu alone was this thrilling with creative names for noodles, beef, and chicken, I could only imagine how magical each bite was going to taste. Now only if I knew how to use those ding-dang chopsticks.
Hate to Break It to You, But I Have a New BFF
Now that I am older and my daughter has inherited my love for authentic Chinese food, I met with Chef Katie Chin (a.k.a. my new BFF) for an Asian inspired cooking lesson to learn more about the traditions of Chinese New Year holiday, but how to prepare a few delicious dishes at home. When I’m cooking at home, I want my recipes to be two things: low-fuss and packed with flavors which Chef Katie could not have satisfied my requirements better.
For our lesson, Chef Katie (who drives a Sanrio Hello Kitty Smart Car BTW,) focused on two dishes, Kale with Ginger and Sweet & Spicy Green Beans. I loved both, but the green beans knocked me right out of my Gucci loafers. All I kept thinking was, “I could have been making this at home all this time? For lunch, AND for dinner?” I would eat this every day. And not just with string beans! I imagined dinners substituting beans with asparagus, and adding beautiful Portobello mushrooms, and proteins like garlic shrimp or tofu. And the dish would capture the flavors beautifully either hot or cold.
Gung Hay Fat Choy
Let’s celebrate! In addition to the two dishes Chef Katie taught us to make ourselves, she prepared a complete Chinese New Year feast for us and discussed many of the customs and superstitions that are connected closely to this time-honored holiday. The tablescape was carefully decorated with beautiful Chinese New Year accoutrements that adorned the dishes making everything even that much more festive.
In addition to our Kale with Ginger, and Sweet & Spicy green beans, we had the pleasure of dining on authentic fried rice and traditional Asian noodle recipes made with tender vegetables, and mixtures of sauces and proteins. But then Chef Katie presented a spread of what in my home we refer to as tiny bites of heaven, Ling Ling pot stickers with that amazingly delicious signature dipping sauce.
And for the record, I have every intention to cook my way through her Everyday Chinese Cookbook: 101 Recipes From My Mother’s Kitchen. So needless to say, if you are a guest at my home for dinner in the next 101 days, we’ll be having Chinese food.
Traditions + Superstitions: The Do’s and Don’ts of Chinese New Year
When I got home from my cooking lesson, the first question out of hubs mouth was, “So how did it go? Did you enjoy yourself? What did you learn?” My answer? “Oh, it was amazing. The food was incredible, I cannot wait for you to try it, but Chef Katie told me I have to get these new shoes before I cook the dish,” as I whip out my phone and show him the most fabulous pair of RIDICULOUSLY priced shoes I found earlier at the store and had been obsessing over.
“Ummmm…call me crazy, but I’m not sure I understand the correlation between you cooking delicious Asian cuisine and purchasing embroidered booties?” Sigh. He just doesn’t get it. Must he always rain on my Dim Sum? I need to get them because Chinese tradition dictates that stepping into new shoes on New Year’s morning starts your year off on the right foot. Makes total sense! I think we should honor this on January 1 as well.
Chef Katie’s Rules for a Successful Chinese New Year:
- To refrain from using foul language or bad words on New Year’s Day. They will follow you throughout the year.
- Don’t bother washing your hair because your good luck for the year will circle the drain.
- Come baring gifts of tangerines (or oranges for those of us living in the O.C.) to make sure your friendships remain intact.
- Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT sweep on New Year’s Day. This is not a drill. If you do, you can wave all of your good luck straight out the door!
- Signify Joy and Luck by handing out Red Envelopes filled with money to start the year with prosperity. The thicker, the better (wink, wink!)
So here’s to Good Fortune!