Ni hao! This month we are studying ancient China, as it is Chinese New Year! 2011 is the year of the rabbit! During Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, many activities take place, such as parades, dancing and singing. However, the best part of this festival is the food!
Did you know, that probably more food is consumed during Chinese New Year than any other time of year in China? One food commonly eaten by traditional Chinese families is Jai, or Bhuddha’s Delight. This meal is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day. With eighteen ingredients, a lucky number in China, this vegetarian dish is packed with foods that will bring good luck to you and your family. Four of these ingredients include lotus seeds, ginkgo nuts, black moss seaweed and dried bean curd. Lotus seeds signify having many male offspring. Ginkgo nuts represent silver ingot, or money. In the Chinese language, the word for black moss seaweed is a homonym for exceeding in wealth. In the Chinese language, the word for dried bean curd is also a homonym for exceeding wealth and happiness. Fresh bean curd, or tofu, is replaced by dried curd in this dish because fresh curd is white, an unlucky color in China, meaning death and misfortune. Another dish traditionally eaten is Jiaozi, or dumplings. Jiaozi are baked or steamed in large batches. In each batch, one or two dumplings have coins placed in their centers. When eaten, whoever has the dumpling with the coin in it, will have good luck year round. Symbolizing money, these dumplings signify wealth and happiness. Traditionally filled with pork, cabbage and scallions, these bite sized savory treats will bring good luck to your family and your stomach!
Now, dinner is almost complete except for this popular Chinese staple, Tea Leaf Eggs. These fragrant little things have a lot of flavor packed into them. The hard boiled eggs in this dish get drenched in a mixture of soy sauce, black tea leaves, star anise, ground cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. These egg snacks are not only delicious, but they make a wonderful centerpiece for any dinner. We now have a complete traditional Chinese dinner and it sounds delicious! However, we are still missing our dessert! A very popular dessert is Yuanxiao, or rice dumplings. These small dumpling balls are eaten mostly during the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth, and last, day of Chinese New Year. Yuanxiao is made many ways and with many fillings. However, it is most popular deep fried witha filling consisting of rose petals, jujube paste, sesame oil, red bean paste, walnut meat and dried fruit. These dumplings signify unity and perfection. Lastly, no Chinese meal is complete without Jen Duy. These deep fried balls of goodness are filled with red bean paste and covered in sesame seeds. Their golden color and round shape symbolize luck, and make your mouth water.
So far I am enjoying China month very much. It has only been two weeks and I have learned so much! So far we have learned about the Great Wall of China, the Zhou, Shang, Quin and Han dynasties. We made paper, we learned about Bhuddha, Confucius and Lao Tzu and we built a small model of a suspension bridge between two chairs. This is a very special year because my Mom and I were both born in the year of the Rabbit. Hopefully the year ahead brings good fortune to me and my family.