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Happy Chinese New Year

by Barbara Lee on February 6, 2013

Welcome to the “Year of the Snake”.  Chinese New Year falls on the first day of the first Chinese lunar month.  This year it falls on February 10.  I hope you already had your calendars marked, and booked a table at your favorite place, because your local Chinese restaurant will be packed with extended families in celebration.

I have dressed Esperanza to reflect the spirit of Chinese New Year.  Her Cheungsam top is from an old doll and her cage skirt is decorated with “red packets”.  It is tradition to pass out these red packets to children but also to your “help”.  A healthy tip is expected by all service people.  Your maid or “amah” who irons your clothes, the amah who cleans, the amah who is the nanny, the man who takes away the trash, the doorman, the driver, you get the idea.

Hopefully you have decorated your house with red banners and lanterns.  Red symbolizes good luck and will ward off the evil spirits.  Did you get out your broom and sweep away the bad spirits that lurk in corners?  You want a fresh start and everything needs to be clean and welcoming for the New Year.

You might want to place two miniature orange trees in your entry to usher in some prosperity.  Bought in pairs they will double your wealth.  The color of oranges symbolizes gold which gives it auspicious meaning.  Tangerines and oranges are also passed out as gifts.

Be sure fish is on the menu as it symbolizes abundance.  It should be served whole with head and tail intact representing a good beginning and ending for the New Year.  For dessert, you will want sticky rice cakes to symbolize a sweet life.  Its layers represent abundance and the circular shape signifies family reunion.

The Yin Water Snake of 2013 is one of action and energy.  It is an optimistic snake forging ahead with innovative thinking and economic prosperity.  So order up an extra basket of dumplings, it’s going to be a good year.

I stopped off at the local Chinese market to buy my red packets for Esperanza’s skirt, and thought you might like a look inside.   A walk through the aisles provides entertainment and some great prices for produce.  You can also pick up chopsticks, pretty teapots and blue and white soup bowls.  A little sample of sweet bean cake can usually be had or a juicy wedge of Korean Pear which I gobbled on this trip.

Upon entering, you are greeted with vases of lucky bamboo, orchids and kumquat trees.  Packaged trays of sweets are ready to be whisked away as a hostess gift.  Paper lanterns and red packets were selling quickly.

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky Bamboo in Blue and White Jars

Pork buns are a favorite for me and I can’t resist sweet rice cakes.

Pork Buns

Just look at all these mushrooms and the prices are wonderful!

Oyster Mushrooms

Shitake Mushrooms

Isn’t the Dragon Fruit pretty?  No?  Does it look threatening?  It’s really quite a mild fruit when you cut it open.  I bought one, so this is how you eat it:

Dragon Fruit

Cut Dragon Fruit in Half

Use a spoon to loosen fruit from its pink skin

Lift out the white flesh and trim any pink skin (don't eat the pink skin)

Enjoy! It tastes similar to kiwi

Now for the unfamiliar/strange stuff you don’t see at most grocery stores:

Pig feet. Sorry I do not have a recipe for this but I am sure you can find a use for them.

Pig Feet

Chicken feet.  I find these very creepy.  But the Ogre always enjoyed them in soup during our years in Asia.  I just really don’t need a foot in my soup thank you.

Chicken Feet

Pork blood: yikes.

Pork Blood

Beef feet:  What’s with the feet already?

Beef Feet

Pork bung:

Pork Bung

This is pig rectum and large intestine.  Or you can just call it the “nasty bits”.  Hungry yet?

Soak it in vinegar and water, then boil with lots of ginger, garlic and star anise.  Serve over noodles, or forget the whole thing which might be a better idea.

Pork uterus:

Pork Uterus

Pork Uterus

Shall we just skip this?

And last but not least, Silkie chicken:

Silkie Chicken

These blackish blue skinned chickens are considered a delicacy in South East Asia, China and India.  They give new meaning to “dark meat”.  Even their bones are black.  They are not factory raised, so if you want free-range, this is your bird.  They are supposed to have extra nutritional value with an added gamey taste and be prepared to pay a premium.   The Silkie’s appearance on your plate may seem a bit frightful, but before it is plucked the Silkie is a fluffy white beauty.  They are named for the silky texture of their feathers. Early explorers to China thought it was part cat!  And maybe it’s a better idea to think of it that way. A Silkie makes a good pet since they have a friendly and easy-going personality.

Silkie Chicken

I hope you enjoyed this little stroll through Ranch 99 Market, I always do.  Have a very Happy Chinese New Year.

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