Friday, February 5, 2016

Gung Hey Fat Choy

The 2016 Chinese New Year will take place on February 8th with lanterns, parades, festivals and parties. This year will welcome in the year of the monkey, part of an ancient tradition where the Chinese zodiac attaches animal signs to each lunar year, in a cycle of 12 years. The monkey is the ninth animal in the cycle which will not take place again until 2028. The Chinese zodiac signs are determined by the year you were born, which some believe affects your personality and future. You are a monkey if born in the following years; 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932, 1920 etc. According to Chinese traditional astrology, people born in the year of the monkey are believed to be; witty, energetic, intelligent, have a magnetic personality but are also mischievous and masters of practical jokes. At their worst, they are jealous, cunning, arrogant and selfish. 
Chicken Chow Mein with Grilled Baby Bok Choy
Certain dishes are eaten during the Chinese New Year for their symbolic meaning. 'Lucky food' is served through the 15 day festival season, especially New Year's Eve, which is believed to bring good luck for the coming year. The most common Chinese New Year foods include; fish- cooked whole symbolizing the unity of family and community, dumplings, spring rolls, sweet rice balls, noodles- served in long, uncut strands signifying longevity and oranges, tangerines and pomelo. 

When you entertain with homemade Chinese dishes, it is a great idea to assemble and prepare your mise en place early in the day; do all the chopping and dicing, marinade meats and vegetables. You can also get all the sauces done in advance and assemble all the ingredients in small containers ready to go. 

If you are looking for a vegetable side dish with a twist, try this method of grilling adorable, baby bok choy on a BBQ or grill pan. This recipe can also be used with standard bok choy. Either way, choose bok choy that is joined at the base by the stalk, so it stays together when cut lengthwise.

GRILLED BABY BOK CHOY                   Yield: 4-5 servings
Protect the leafy greens with a strip of tin foil
Choose bok choy that is joined at the base by the stalk and have lots of tightly packed leaves. This method can also be used with standard bok choy, cut lengthwise into 4 pieces.  

1 lb. baby bok choy, 6-8 depending on size
3 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. brown sugar
tsp. soy sauce
tsp. sesame oil

Wash the bok choy, swish each through the water and drain holding the stem end up. If it is dirty, soak it in a few changes of water. Halve bok choy lengthwise through the stem
Carefully turn after 3 minutes, keep greens on the foil
 For the vinaigrette, in a large bowl whisk together; sweet chili sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil, then toss with the bok choy. Let the bok choy rest in the marinade, tossing occasionally, until it is time to grill.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium. Tear off a long strip of aluminum foil, apply a light coat of oil on the foil and place on half of the grill. This will allow the stems to cook and caramelize without grilling the leaves to a crisp. Arrange the bok choy cut-side down on the grill, with the leafy tops resting on the aluminum foil. Baste with vinaigrette and season with salt. Cover the grill and cook the bok choy, flipping once, until you get nice grill marks on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the bok choy to a large plate and cover with plastic wrap to steam for 3 minutes. This will allow the stems to cook through.
Divide the bok choy among 4 plates or serve as a side dish.

Till next week... Gung Hey Fat Choy!

Recipe and photos by Sally Rae