Sunday, January 22, 2012

A feast for the new year

We just finished cleaning up and decorating our home this weekend to usher in the Year of the Water Dragon, which kicks off Monday.

I didn't mark Lunar New Year while growing up in New England, but it's an eagerly anticipated holiday for my sons. It's such a joyful celebration — and food, of course, is part of the fun.

A little lion
We've done a little tidying up, set out fresh flowers and mandarin oranges, and hung up our decorations. For New Year's, we'll enjoy a modest feast with a nod to traditional dishes. The start of the new year snuck up on me, however, so we'll be taking advantage of the fact that this is the year of the creative, independent, and calm water dragon, and make do the best we can (without braving the busy Asian market just before the holiday!).

I'll be making long noodles — spaghetti, this year! — to celebrate long life. We just finished off the last of our homemade dumplings from the freezer, so we'll get by with ravioli for our "little purses." And I might make this stir-fried lettuce for a little more good luck. We'll make more traditional fare before the holiday ends. Read on for a few more ways to celebrate:

Wrapping dumplings
  • Make dumplings. The first few may come out a bit wonky, but you'll soon get the hang of these delicious little purses. Kids enjoy making them too — just be sure the edges are well sealed so they don't split open during cooking. To freeze, set the dumplings on a silicone baking mat or parchment, then store them in a freezer bag for a quick meal later. My kids love to find dumplings in their lunch box.
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    Beautifully marbled tea eggs

  • Prepare tea eggs. Oh, I love these! These are fun to make, lovely to look at, and delicious to eat. Like dumplings, they're perfect for a lunch box. It's an easy recipe to do with kids too.

  • Have a popiah party. Like dumplings, these Taiwanese crepes symbolize prosperity and good fortune — and are another way to involve kids.

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    Baked rice cake

  • Bake sweet rice cake. You'll need glutinous rice flour for this, but it's worth seeking out (try an Asian market) for this slightly lighter and easier take on the traditional sweet.

  • More ways to celebrate: Wear new clothes, get a hair cut, and set off party poppers in lieu of firecrackers! And don't forget to give the kids red envelopes with crisp dollar bills inside.

    To learn a little more about the holiday, visit Wikipedia. And for more inspiration in the kitchen, check out this feature at Epicurious.

    May the Year of the Water Dragon bring you and your family good fortune!

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