Chinese New Year started Jan. 25 and will last for 15 days, ending on Feb. 8. According to the Chinese 12-year animal zodiac cycle, this year is the Year of The Rat. Rat years are believed to be the unluckiest for people born in previous years of The Rat. Thank goodness I was born the Year of the Metal Rabbit.
To be on the safe side, here are the top 10 things to avoid during the festival:
1. Don’t say negative words. All words with negative connotations are forbidden!
2. Don’t break ceramics or glass. Breaking things will break your connection to prosperity and fortune.
3. Don’t clean or sweep. Before the Spring Festival, there is a day of cleaning. That is to sweep away the bad luck. But during the actual celebration, it becomes a taboo. Also, you shouldn’t take a shower on Chinese New Year’s Day. It may wash away good luck.
4. Don’t use scissors, knives or other sharp objects. Sharp objects in general will cut your stream of wealth and success.
5. Don’t visit the wife’s family. Returning to her parents on New Year’s Day means that there are marriage problems and may also bring bad luck to the entire family.
6. Don’t demand repayment of a loan. If you knock on someone’s door demanding repayment, you’ll bring bad luck to both.
7. Don’t cry or fight. Play peacemaker for the day. This is to ensure a smooth path in the new year. You should keep your kids happy because crying children can also be a bad omen.
8. Try to avoid taking medicine, going to the doctor, having surgery or getting shots during the spring festival to avoid being sick the entire year.
9. Don’t give New Year blessings to someone still in bed; let him or her get up first. Otherwise, they’ll be bedridden for the entire year.
10. No gift giving; it is taboo. Clocks are the worst gifts. Gifting clocks is thought of as separation or of paying one’s last respects.
These customs/taboos have been formed over thousands of years, but just like my parents told me about Greek traditions and taboos, they are all for your own good! With that in mind, “Please join our table” as we enjoy a few New Year’s recipes l prepared the day before for good luck.
My Special Noodle Soup, Asian Style
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, fresh or frozen (or snow peas)
1 cup exotic mushrooms, your choice
1/2 cup canned baby corn, drained and rinsed
1/2 pound chicken, cooked and thinly sliced (you can use rotisserie chicken with skin and bones removed)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced into diagonal disks (reserve 1/2 for topping)
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or Tamari
2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon fresh and grated
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
2 packages ramen soup
2 1/2 cups Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds for topping
Mix chicken broth, soy sauce, chili sauce, ginger, pepper and one seasoning packet from the noodles in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer; add cabbage and carrots; cook 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, corn, pea pods and both packages of the noodles; simmer 3 minutes. Add chicken and green onion. Heat through; Stir in sesame oil.
Note: You can add cooked shrimp, beef or pork in combination with the chicken or in place of it.
Here is a fun recipe for you and your kids to make. It’s called Taiwanese Scallion Pancakes but in our house we call it Chinese Pizza or Chinese Quesadillas. I adapted it from a recipe by Jolinda Hackett who has written five vegetarian and vegan cookbooks. We sometimes add cooked, chopped chicken or shrimp to this as an option. I can’t make these fast enough for the grandkids!
Our Chinese Pizza or Quesadillas
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups really cold coconut water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), grapeseed oil or butter as needed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large bunches green onions, sliced really thin
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 cup grapeseed, extra virgin olive or coconut oil as needed for frying
3 tablespoons cooked, finely chopped chicken or shrimp (optional)
Soy or dumpling sauce for dipping
Mix the flour and water to form dough. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for a few minutes. Place in a bowl, cover and set aside for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness. Brush a thin layer of oil or butter on the top, sprinkle with salt, and then press a layer of green onions and sesame seeds into the dough. Once you have a flat layer of dough with the green onions on top, add the chicken or shrimp (optional) and roll it up into a cigar-like shape. Roll out the dough again onto a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness, pushing any green onions that escape back into the dough. This is very important as this gives the pizzas their texture and flakiness. You may need to make two or three large pizzas, but try to make as few as possible. You’ll then slice them up to serve them like pizza pieces. Fry your green onion pizzas in 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook each for about 3 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for 2 more minutes before placing on a paper towel-lined plate. Salt to taste and serve immediately with soy or dumpling sauce for dipping.