Year 4708: Gung Hay Fat Choy!!!

| February 14, 2010

Valentine’s Day, Apolo Ohno‘s 6th medal in a kick-ass race (did you see his semi-final run?), Chinese New Year – it was a busy weekend! And a busy eating weekend.

While Ohno gets his rush from speeding like a maniac on steel blades, some of us find pleasure in things a bit less…fast. Food carries much tradition and symbolism. Oysters are a known aphrodisiac and were sure sell-outs for Valentine’s Day (especially those snowed in!). They are also commonly eaten for Chinese New Year because they represent good business and receptivity to good fortune – and we can all certainly use a bit of that! They are usually eaten dried, but since I wanted to know where my oysters came from, I bought them fresh and spent a good half hour shucking them.

As you know, this is the Year of the Tiger – or the Lunar New Year 4708 (and I thought 2010 seemed like a lot). People born in the year of the Tiger, tradition says, are charismatic, powerful, and protective. If you want to learn more, check this out.

I’m not a soothsayer; I’m an eater. Since I was not headed to my folks’ place this year (too many snowstorms to battle the airports), I decided to try my own Chinese New Year feast. This was my first going all out, and the Usual Suspects were brave enough to be my guinea pigs once again. Cake Mountain Man, L, P & C all came over, as New Year Eve’s is a time for Reunion Dinners – family and friends, and they were served up a very traditional meal. They brought oranges, symbolizing wealth, good fortune.

Eight dishes were served. Eight represents the auspicious number eight, which sounds like the word fortune. Let’s eat. (all recipes below)

You’ll note that many of the same ingredients are used throughout, which made life a lot easier. First up were Egg Rolls. They are eaten because they look like little gold bars, so they represent money and wealth.

I made these with mushrooms, bamboo shoots (wealth, new start), carrots (good luck), bean sprouts (to your heart’s content), and a little sea moss.

Second were Lion’s Head Meatballs. These were made with ground pork and shrimp (the word sounds like “ha, ha”, symbolizing laughter, happiness). Of course,  I added just a bit of sea moss and some mushrooms. These mushrooms are the dried Chinese black mushrooms, and they represent fortune and are often eaten during this time of year when many go vegetarian (ah-hem, not me).

These meatballs are served because the lion represents authority and strength and the large round meatballs represent family unity.

Third were the Lettuce Wrapped Oysters with Black Mushrooms and Sea Moss. This is a dish my dad would make and I never really liked it as a kid. My version was slightly tastier (aka sweeter – sorry, dad!) but still not my favorite, which meant I was able to more or less replicate his original. Oysters and mushrooms we’ve talked about and lettuce sounds like bring about good wealth. Sea moss is also ‘fat choy,’ which looks like a bunch of hair, but sounds like congratulations, be prosperous, fortune. It sounds like the Fat Choy in the greeting Gung Hay Fat Choy which is commonly said during new year, meaning May You Come Into Good Fortune.

I thought it’d be pretty and yummy to wrap them in lettuce, and it turns out that food rolled into lettuce means having a child soon (er….)

Fourth were Longevity Noodles. These I had to buy in an Asia market because they are made especially long and you’re not supposed to cut them.

Noodles represent long life of course.

Still with me? Fifth was the classic White Cut Chicken. Finding a whole chicken with its head and feet was no easy task down here. Whole chickens represent completeness, togetherness of the family. This is served with three dipping sauces.

Sixth was Garlic Lettuce, a simple dish. I served this with rice, of course, using a wild rice grown in the Objibwe tradition. Rice symbolizes fertility, luck.

Seventh was the Whole Steamed Fish. This gorgeous red snapper was so big I couldn’t get the tail to fit into the wok! Whole fish sounds like surplus and represent increase in prosperity.

Dish number eight (are you full yet?) was of course, dessert! I didn’t want to mess up the steaming of the traditional nian gao, a sticky rice pudding and thought what’s better than a traditional Chinese Swiss (the irony) roll cake.

Needless to say, we were feeling pretty fortunate having bellies full and cheering Ohno on to the podium. Thanks to Cake Mountain Man who made cooking and cleaning far easier and for the Usual Suspects venturing to share a very traditional meal. What a way to ring in the Year of the Tiger (and Valentine’s Day!)

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Chinese New Year Egg Roll

Egg Rolls
Eggroll wrappers
3/4 cup bean sprout
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 carrots, cut into thin slices
1 cup bamboo shoots
1 1/2 cup mushroom, cut into thin slices
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 TB soy
1 TB rice wine
1 tsp salt
1 TB corn starch
Vegetable oil

1. Get wok hot and heat oil
2. Stir fry bean sprouts, green onions, carrots, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms for 1 minute
3. Add salt, soy, brown sugar, and rice wine and stir fry for 2 minutes
4. Remove vegetable mixture
5. Mix cornstarch and water to make a paste
6. Place a couple tablespoons of the vegetable mixture in the middle of an eggroll wrapper, wrap, seal with cornstarch paste
7. Heat a couple inches of oil in wok until hot
8. Deep fry each eggroll for 2-3 minutes, turn when one side is brown, drain

Lion’s Head Meatball

Lion’s Head Meatball
1 lb ground pork
1/2 lb shrimp, cooked, chopped into small pieces
1/2 bunch green onions, finely chopped
2 TB ginger, finely chopped
1/4 cup mushroom, chopped
1/2 head lettuce, chopped into large pieces
1 TB soy
1 TB rice wine
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 TB cornstarch
3 tsp veg oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup chicken broth

1. Combine pork, scallion, ginger, mushroom, soy, sugar, wine, cornstarch
2. Shape into 8 large balls
3. In casserole or Dutch oven, heat oil and add lettuce. Season with salt and saute until wilted
4. Add meatballs to brown
5. Add chicken broth and bring to boil
6. Reduce heat and simmer 30-35 minutes

Lettuce Wrapped Oysters With Black Mushrooms and Sea Moss

Lettuce Wrapped Oysters with Black Mushrooms and Sea Moss
8 oysters
8 black mushrooms
1/2 lb. sea moss (fat choy)
1 small package rice vermicelli (little ones)
3 TB oyster sauce
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 TB vegetable oil
1 TB sesame oil
1 TB cornstarch
1 TB water

1. Soak fat choy, vermicelli, and mushrooms
2. Take large lettuce leaves (whole) in hot water. Blanch and remove
3. Heat wok with oil and sautee oysters
4. Add mushrooms, fat choy, vermicelli, chicken stock, and oyster sauce
5. Season with sesame oil, salt, and sugar
6. Mis cornstarch with water and add slowly to thicken
7. Place two mushrooms and two oysters with rest in each lettuce leaf
8. Wrap

Longevity Noodles

Longevity Noodles
1/2 lbs. longevity noodles
8 cups water
1 tsp salt
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cup ham, chopped
1/2 cup bamboo shoots
1/4 cup mushrooms, chopped
1TB soy sauce
2 TB oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornstarch
4 tsp water

1. Heat salted water and parboil noodles. Separate with chopsticks – do not cut
2. Drain
3. Bring chicken broth to oil, add soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil
4. Mix cornstarch with water and add slowly to thicken
5. Add bamboo shoots, onions and ham and remove

White Cut Chicken

White Cut Chicken
1 whole chicken, head and feet attached
3 green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 pieces ginger, smashed
1 cup rice wine
1 TB kosher salt

1. Wash and dry chicken
2. In large pot, cover chicken with water.
3. Add green onions, ginger, garlic, rice wine, and salt
4. Bring to boil
5. Simmer for 30-35 minutes
6. Turn off heat, cover, and let chicken sit in stock for 4-5 hours
7. Cut up chicken and serve with three dips
8. Dip one: oyster sauce; dip two: mix soy sauce with chili sauce; dip three: heat hot oil and pour over a mix of salt, minced garlic, and chopped green onion

Garlic Lettuce

Garlic Lettuce
1 head lettuce, chopped
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 sesame oil
1 tsp rice wine
1 tsp sugar
Vegetable oil

1. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, sugar, and pepper and heat over medium high
2. Add vegetable oil and garlic. Saute for 10 seconds
3. Add lettuce and cook until just wilted, add salt to season

Chinese New Year Steamed Fish

Steamed Fish
1 ½ lb fish (granted, mine was twice this size!)
5 slices ginger, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
3 TB soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine
Vegetable oil

1. Put ginger inside fish
2. Sprinkle salt in and out of fish
3. Put in wok and steam on medium high heat for 20 minutes
4. Mix soy sauce, rice wine, and green onions, and pour over steamed fish
5. Heat oil in small pot and pour over fish right before serving

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Category: Appetizers, Asia Pacific, Featured Articles: Travel & Culture, Main Dish - Land and Sea, Main Dish - Vegetarian, Recipe Vault, Sides, Sauces, and Breads, Travel & Culture, US & Canada

About the Author (Author Profile)

With a flair for spontaneity, pizzazz, creative excellence and her own unique sense of aesthetic grace and perspective, we have our very dear friend, Belinda (or B, to some of us). Although an incredibly accomplished professional and career woman, B’s down-to-earth approach and demeanor transcends all scenarios, communities and people. She manifests, in her day-to-day, the essence of the word “Zomppa” as demonstrated by her extraordinary commitment to creating sustainable and positive change for us and future generations to come. She’s asked for a dog every year since she was five. Check out Belinda’s work on global education research and coaching: or more about her portfolio

Comments (19)

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  1. Christine says:

    What a spread! Happy New Year!

  2. Carlo says:

    oh i want some!

  3. kat says:

    good grief! roll me out of the room now!!! Hey, I’m a tiger 🙂

  4. lululu says:

    i have to emphasis i have huge weakness towards chinese cooking. you are my god literally!

  5. frank says:

    this is enough food for the whole year, right?
    those egg rolls look fabulous!

  6. Ann says:

    Oh my goodness – that’s a lot of work! I’ll just come over to your house instead please!

  7. Wow, what an incredible feast! Thanks for sharing all these wonderful recipes!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Happy New Year, B!

  9. what a feast!! great post 🙂 gung hay fat choy!!

  10. Belinda says:

    You’re all welcome to come over any time!!

  11. lookytasty says:

    food looks so awesome! happy new year to you too!

  12. Tsering says:

    Happy new year B…these recipes are a keeper

  13. Luke says:

    BELINDA! That all looks awesome. I have fond memories of the Lunar New Year dinner we did in D.C. I’m working up my menu now–we’re going to celebrate unfashionably late thanks to ridiculous schedules. Pieter’s friend Laura just pointed Zoompa out to me–love it! Hope all is well with you otherwise! 新年快樂!

  14. Allison says:

    Thanks for explaining all the Chinese intonations and meanings with the food. I always love Chinese word plays! I never heard of the “Har” for laughter before.

  15. ACF says:

    Wow, what a delicious meal! Looks like a lot of work… Wish I was there to enjoy the eating part of it!

  16. kristy says:

    Hi Belinda,
    ‘xin nien kuai le’ & ‘gong xi fatt chai’ to you too! Are you celebrating Chinese New Year too? Wishing you the very best throughout the year of tiger.
    Best wishes,

  17. JL says:


    Wow, what an elaborate feast! Looks like you had such a fun feast! Did you eat this by yourself?I’m actually born on the year of the tiger, so it’s really exciting to be celebrating the New Year this year. Really digging the steamed fish though… looks scrumptious! 🙂

  18. well… happy belated Chinese New Year to you too. It’s great to learn about all these food for the New Year. Although I haven’t had any food in this post for the New Year, I had the oranges and pears. My Chinese friend told me they also have good meaning. So, I’m all set this year. 🙂

  19. MaryMoh says:

    Happy Chinese New Year! Still 2 more days to celebrate. Love all the dishes here…look soooo delicious…yum