Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Time to Let the Ox In

Yesterday was the first day of the Chinese New Year - and the new lunar year throughout much of East and Southeast Asia - and 2009 coincides with the Year of the Ox.

I didn't make ox, but I did want to celebrate my own way, not with Chinese takeout but with something much, um, healthier. Fortunately for me, author Grace Young appeared on NPR recently to discuss what foods were lucky and unlucky to eat. Her advice: eat stuff like clams, oysters, shrimps, scallops, mushrooms, etc., because they're lucky (some just because the name sounds like something positive). But it's best to avoid tofu (the "fu" sounds like the word for "negativity") and especially melon (whose name sounds like "death").

I scrupulously avoided cooking with tofu or melon (easy enough) to make the two Cantonese recipes she provided to NPR. While I cannot reprint them here, I can say the following:

  • When you go all the way to H-Mart looking for Hsao-Shing Chinese rice wine and you find it (for only $3 at that), don't put it down and forget about it when you start glaring at all the different options for rice vinegar. Especially when the wait at the express lane is 20 minutes long. I then found Ying Yee rice wine at Whole Foods for a dollar more, only to find Chinese rice wine cheaper elsewhere. If you can't find Hsao Shing (or hsaoxing), or anoy other type of Chinese rice wine, just use a dry Japanese sake or a dry sherry.
  • Those itty-bitty frozen scallops that you find in the freezer at Dollar General? Don't let them cook too long or they become just a wee bit tough.
  • When cooking sticky rice on the stove top and it smells like it might burn, add a little more rice water. Or just use a rice cooker. I've never bothered with one of those but maybe I should invest in one. Or just use my breadmaker, with which I've been making some fabulous breads lately.