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Archive for Chinese/Lunar New Year

FOOD TRENDS: Top Chinese Dishes

General Tso's Chicken

Crab Rangoon

Best Wonton Soup

2017 Year Of The Rooster

[1] The most popular Chinese dish in America, per GrubHub results: General Tso’s Chicken (here’s the recipe from Spicy Southern Kitchen). [2] Crab Rangoon, a made-in-america concoction of cream cheese and imitation crab (here’s the recipe from Rasa Malaysia). [3] Wonton soup, fully loaded (here’s the easy recipe for this beauty from recipe Jessica Gavin). [4] Check out your Chinese horoscope here.

 

It’s Chinese New Year, more properly called the Lunar New Year, celebrated in Asia far beyond China.

The celebrations will start today and continue for through February 2nd.

It’s the Year of the Rooster, the animal sign for those born in 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 and 2017 (the next Rooster year is 2029).

We’re not much into horoscopes, but we are into food and celebrating. Numerous Chinese restaurants feature special dishes or menus, if you don’t want to celebrate at home.

We find this a good occasion to take a look at the most popular everyday Chinese dishes in America.

GrubHub analyzed a year’s worth of ordering data from its 30,000 participating restaurants in more than 800 cities, serving 172,000 take-out orders and 4.57 million diners (survey data from 2015).

The most popular Chinese dish, General Tso’s Chicken, is also the fourth most popular dish among all the cuisines ordered on GrubHub. And the first and second aren’t even based in China: They are Chinese-American creations.

THE MOST POPULAR CHINESE DISHES IN AMERICA

1. General Tso’s Chicken (deep-fried chicken chunks with hot chiles and sweet and sour sauce)

2. Crab Rangoon (fried wontons stuffed with cream cheese and [usually imitation] crab)

3. Egg Roll

4. Sesame Chicken

5. Wonton Soup

6. Fried Rice

7. Sweet and Sour Chicken

8. Orange Chicken (made with orange peel)

9. Hot And Sour Soup

10. Potstickers (leftover steamed dumplings that are fried)

Are your favorites on the list?
 
HOW REPRESENTATIVE IS THE LIST

While you can’t argue with the data, note that the results may be skewed.

  • Data from 800 cities across the country may not be the same as data from, say, the 30 cities in the U.S. that have Chinatowns, and thus a broader selection of authentic Chinese food.
  • Peking Duck, our favorite Chinese dish and often the priciest item on a menu, isn’t a typical take-out order.
  • Where are the great noodle dishes (low mein, chow fun)?
  • While American dietary choices may not reflect them, don’t overlook the delicious greens, such as sautéed bok toy, Chinese broccoli and napa cabbage).
  • Ditto for the tofu and eggplant dishes.
  •  
    OUR TOP 10 FAVORITE CHINESE DISHES

    In alphabetical order, we hunger for:

  • Chow Fun (with Chinese broccoli and lamb or pork)
  • Eggplant With Garlic Sauce
  • Mai Fun Singapore Style (angel hair pasta with curry, pork and shrimp plus shredded bell pepper, carrot, Chinese cabbage and scallions or onions )
  • Mapo Tofu (with spicy ground beef and chopped scallions)
  • Peking Duck (roasted and served with pancakes, scallions and hoisin sauce)
  • Salt & Pepper Squid, or Squid In Black Bean Sauce
  • Spicy Sichuan-Style Lamb
  • Steamed Dumplings
  • Steamed Greens With Oyster Sauce
  • Wonton Soup (with lots of vegetables, including bamboo shoots, bok choy, mushrooms, snow peas, and non-authentic but delightful spinach and/or watercress—and for an extra treat, add shrimp [recipe])
  •  
    We very much like Hot And Sour Soup, Orange Chicken, a good egg roll and fried rice, but kept our list to 10 to match GrubHub’s.

    This has made us so hungry, we can’t wait until dinner. We’ll be calling GrubHub to deliver lunch!

     

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pork & Apricot Fried Rice

    If you’re a fan of pork fried rice, how about whipping up a batch of Pork and Apricot Fried Rice for the Chinese New Year?

    This recipe is from Chef Ingrid Hoffmann, who serves it as a light lunch with just add a salad. You can play with the recipe and substitute other grains.

    You can roast a pork loin just for this recipe, or roast one for dinner the day before and make enough extra to use in the fried rice.
     
    RECIPE: PORK & APRICOT FRIED RICE

    Ingredients For 6 Servings
     
    For The Rice

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, diced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  •  
    For The Pork

  • 1½ tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1½ pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ¼-inch chunks
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup celery, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • Garnish: ¼ cup pistachios, toasted (substitute chopped or sliced
    almonds)
  •  

    Pork Apricot Fried Rice

    Dried Apricots

    Top: Pork and Apricot Fried Rice from Chef Ingrid Hoffmann. Bottom: Dried apricots for the pork fried rice. Photo by Olha Afanasieva | IST. Have extra apricots? They’re one of our favorite snacks. You can turn them into candy by dipping them halfway in melted chocolate. Set them on wax paper until they dry.

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the rice: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until the rice looks chalky, about 2 minutes. Add the pineapple juice, water, apricots and salt and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is below the surface of the rice and tunnels form in the rice. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook until the rice is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

    2. COOK the pork: Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the pork with the salt and pepper. In batches, add the pork chunks to the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

    3. ADD the garlic, ¼ cup of cilantro, celery, scallions, soy sauce, sherry vinegar and ginger to the skillet. Stir-fry until the celery is tender, about 3 minutes.

    4. RETURN the pork to the skillet. Add the rice and stir-fry until well mixed, 3 to 5 minutes. To serve, sprinkle with the pistachios and the remaining 1/4 cup of cilantro and serve hot.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bibimbap, A Korean Classic For The Lunar New Year

    We love bibimbap (bee-bim-BOP), a signature Korean dish. It’s a variation of our currently trending rice bowl. The word literally means “mixed rice”—rice mixed with several other ingredients.

    We’ve written about bibimbap previously, but for the eve of the lunar new year (this year, it’s Sunday, February 7th), it’s especially appropriate. It’s what Koreans traditionally eat on their new year’s eve.

    It also happens to be Super Bowl Sunday; if your friends are foodies, this is a good dish for a crowd.
     
    WHAT IS BIBIMBAP?

    A bowl of warm white rice is topped with seasoned vegetables*; sliced beef, chicken or seafood; and a raw or fried egg. The yolk of the egg (or the entire raw egg) binds the ingredients when they are mixed together.

    Chile paste, fermented soybean paste or soy sauce are served as condiments. After the ingredients are blended each individual diner, condiments added at the table.

    For visual appeal, the vegetables are often placed so that adjacent colors complement each other.

    The recipe below, from Good Eggs, requires 15 minutes of active time, and a total of 35 minutes. It doesn’t require you to be handy with a knife: Instead of thin slices of beef, you use ground beef.

    If you like bibimbap as much as we do, you can experiment with other grains. Quinoa bibimbap with kale, anyone?

    RECIPE: BIBIMBAP RICE BOWL

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 2 cups of sushi rice
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 tablespoons of mirin (rice wine†)
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce, plus a little more for seasoning
  • 1 cup kimchi
  • 4 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch radishes, shaved thinly
  • 1 bunch of scallions, both green and white portions, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Raw or fried egg for each serving
  • Optional: other vegetables as desired
  •    

    Bibimbap

    Bibimbap

    Top: Bibimbap served with a raw egg at Kristalbelli | NYC. Bottom photo: The ingredients mixed together. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

  • Optional: chili paste/red pepper paste (gochujang), sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds
  • ____________________________________
    *Commonly vegetables used include bean sprouts, julienned cucumber, julienned or shredded daikon (Japanese radish), julienned zucchini, nori (dried seaweed), shredded carrots, sliced mushrooms or whole enoki mushrooms, and spinach. Diced tofu, either uncooked or cooked, can be added.

    †Mirin and saké are both called “rice wine.” Both are fermented from rice; mirin has a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content (as an analogy, thing of sweet and dry vermouths. If you have saké but no mirin, make a substitute by adding a half teaspoon of sugar to the saké, and warm it slowly to dissolve the sugar.

     

    Bibimbap

    Dolsot bibimbap, bibimbap served in a very
    hot stone bowl (our favorite way to enjoy
    bibimbap at restaurants). Photo courtesy
    Souschef.co.uk.

     

    Preparation

    1. RINSE the rice a few times in a fine mesh sieve until the water runs clear. Add the rice to a pot and cover with water. Let it soak for 20 minutes, then strain it again. Add the rice back to the pot and add 3 cups of water. Bring the rice and water to a boil, uncovered. When the water reaches a rolling boil…

    2. TURN the flame to low, cover the pot and let the rice simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn the heat off and let it steam for 10 minutes with the cover on. After 10 minutes, fluff the rice with a fork: It’s ready. While the rice cooks

    3. HEAT 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, add the meat and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Turn the heat down and add the soy sauce and mirin, and stir. Cook for another 5-6 minutes, until the meat is cooked through. Remove from the heat.

    4. SERVE: Spoon some rice into a bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds, a splash of mirin and a little bit of soy sauce. Top with beef, cilantro, scallions, radishes, cilantro and a spoonful of kimchi.

     

    BIBIMBAP HISTORY

    Bibimbap was traditionally eaten on the eve of the lunar new year, to enable households to use up all of their leftovers before the start of the new year. All of the leftovers were put in a bowl of rice and mixed together.

    Use up your leftovers, or buy fresh ingredients. Or plan a party: Like paella and other rice main dishes, bibimbap is a good dish for a crowd.

    Of course, bibimbap can be made from scratch with chosen ingredients. Each region and each cook has a preferred mix of ingredients.

    At Korean restaurants you can get dolsot bibimbap (stone pot bibimbap), served in a stone bowl so hot that the ingredients sizzle. The raw egg cooks as soon as it’s mixed in.

    Before the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom can be coated with sesame oil, which makes the bottom of the rice cook to a crispy state, like the soccorat at the bottom of the paella pan.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Really Good Chinese Egg Rolls

    Egg Rolls

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/egg rolls redstixs 230r

    Top: Egg rolls with BBQ pork and sweet and
    hot chili dipping sauce, from the National
    Pork Board. They’re baked, not fried (recipe).
    Bottom: Egg rolls from Red Stix | NYC, served
    with a mix of rice vinegar and soy sauce.

     

    For the Chinese New Year, why not make your own egg rolls? Serve them as an appetizer, or as a snack with a cold beer.

    EGG ROLL HISTORY

    Like Chinese chicken salad, crab wontons, duck sauce, fortune cookies, General Tso’s chicken and sweet and sour pork—not to mention the pu pu platter—the egg roll is a Chinese-American invention. Food historians believe it was first created in New York City in the early 1930s.

    But over time, what was initially a richly layered roll with a mix of bamboo shoots, roast pork, scallions, shrimp and water chestnuts evolved into a bland cabbage roll—a stuffing of shredded cabbage, flecked with bits of pork and carrot. [Source]

    If you’d like to go back to the golden age of egg rolls, make your own! If you don’t like to deep fat fry, you can bake them.

    This recipe came to us via Melissas.com, from Chef Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook.
     
    RECIPE: CHEF MARTIN YAN’S EGG ROLLS

    Ingredients For 12 Pieces

  • 12 egg roll wrappers
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • ¾ pound ground pork, chicken or beef
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 12 ounces green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 medium carrot, finely shredded
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • Cooking oil for frying
  •  
    Don’t forget the condiments: hot mustard, jalapeño pepper jelly, plum sauce, ponzu sauce, sweet and sour sauce, Thai sweet chili sauce (sweet and hot) or just plain soy sauce. We like to serve two different options: Colman’s prepared mustard (a better version of “Chinese mustard”) and Thai sweet chili sauce (you can buy it or make your own).
     
    OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS

    You can add just about anything to an egg roll, as long as it’s finely chopped and well drained (don’t add moisture).

  • There are fusion egg rolls that include pastrami (a Reuben egg roll) and corned beef and cabbage egg roll.
  • The menu at Rhode Island’s Egg Roll Cafe features the classic egg roll plus these flavors: Bacon-Egg-Cheese, Cheeseburger, Crab Rangoon, Fajita, Ham-Egg-Cheese, Pizza, Shrimp, Spinach & Feta, Steak & Cheese and Taco, among others.
  • Check out this recipe, featured in the Merced [California] Sun Star, which includes classic ingredients plus peanut butter and cinnamon. The creator, Fanny Go, was born and raised in Southern China (where there are no egg rolls) and now lives in Chicago.

    In addition to her basic recipe, she suggests these optional extras which you can incorporate into Chef Yan’s recipe:

  • ½ cup boiled shrimp, cut into dime-size pieces
  • ½ cup shiitake mushrooms, soaked, squeezed and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup well-drained bamboo shoots, julienned
  • ¼ cup water chestnuts, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup bean sprouts, well drained
  • Editor’s choice: Chinese sausage (if you can get hold of it)
  •  
    Once you get the hang of it, you can experiment with your favorite fillings, from vegetarian to Swiss cheese—or anything that goes well with beer or wine.

    Back to Chef Yan’s recipe:

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT a wok or stir-fry pan over high heat until hot. Add the oil, swirling to coat the sides of the pan. Add the pork, ginger and garlic; stir-fry until meat is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Drain the excess oil.

    2. COMBINE the pork, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil in a medium bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes.

    3. COMBINE the cabbage, carrot and green onions in a large bowl. Add the meat mixture; toss well and let it cool slightly.

    4. FILL the rolls: Place a wrapper on a clean flat surface in front of you so that it looks like a diamond. Place 3 tablespoons of filling in the center. Fold the bottom point up over the filling and roll once. Fold in the right and left points. Brush the beaten egg on the top point. Continue rolling until you have a tight cylinder. Place the filled rolls on a baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth while filling remaining rolls.

    5. FRY: Heat 2-3 inches of cooking oil over medium-high heat in a large pot or wok, to 350°F. Add the egg rolls, a few at a time, and fry until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

    Serve with sweet and sour sauce, plum sauce, hot mustard or jalapeño pepper jelly.

    Recipe copyright Yan Can Cook, Inc., 2014
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EGG ROLLS, SPRING ROLLS & SUMMER ROLLS

    It can be very confusing, but we’ve done our best here to explain the differences.

    While some countries, including China, serve fried egg rolls and spring rolls, the terms are not synonymous. An egg roll has a heavier pastry wrapper of wheat dough that contains eggs—hence the name. The cooked roll can be sliced into sections. Spring roll wrappers are made without egg. A fried spring roll is very fragile and can shatter like phyllo.

  • Egg rolls are deep fried. The wrappers are thicker, making egg rolls more of a filled pastry. They can have a vegetable, egg, meat and/or seafood filling. The filling varies by chef, and can include chopped shrimp, ground beef, ground chicken or turkey, matchstick-sliced pork or Chinese sausage, minced cabbage, carrots, garlic, ginger and mushrooms.
  •  

    Egg Rolls

    Spring Rolls

    Top: Chef Martin Yan’s egg rolls, served with sweet and sour sauce. Photo courtesy Melissas.com | Yan Can Cook. Bottom: Translucent rice paper enables spring and summer rolls to show off the ingredients inside. Photo courtesy Nature Box.

     

  • Spring rolls can be fried or not. The fried versions use thinner wheat wrappers and are narrower and more finger-like. They can be filled with pork and/or shrimp. Spring rolls can also be served in an uncooked rice noodle wrapper. These are traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival in China, hence the name; and are also popular in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Thee rice noodle wrappers are moistened into pliancy and translucency, then filled with seafood, bean thread vermicelli, red lettuce or Boston lettuce leaves, shredded cabbage and carrot, plus wonderfully refreshing herbs—fresh mint, basil and cilantro leaves. They are served with a sweet chili dipping sauce.
  • Summer rolls are made in the style of spring rolls, but with more seasonal ingredients. They are always in a rice noodle wrapper and never fried. The ingredients can be cooked, raw or a mixture, and the colors and shapes show through the translucent wrapper. Ingredients typically include pork and/or shrimp or vegetables, rice vermicelli (noodles) and fresh herbs (basil, cilantro and mint). The dipping sauce for summer rolls is typically a blend of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce or tamari, with minced scallions and a splash of toasted sesame oil.
  •  
    The dipping sauces for the different rolls can be mixed and matched. Our favorites include peanut sauce, a blend of peanut butter and hoisin sauce with garlic; sweet and hot red chili sauce; and rice vinegar/soy sauce.
     
    The way to best learn the differences, of course, is to go out and eat them, or make them at home. But note that even restaurants and retail establishments can abel these different rolls incorrectly.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Good Luck Foods For The Chinese New Year

    The Chinese New Year starts on February 8th. It’s the Year of the Monkey.

    It’s also known as the Lunar New Year, since it’s based on the lunar calendar; and other Asian countries besides China celebrate it. The celebration lasts for 15 days, and is celebrated by an estimated 1.4 billion people around the world.

    Families gather to feast and to wish each other good luck in the year ahead. Children may be given red envelopes filled with coins, although the money inside is not as important as the color and symbol found on the envelopes, which signify happiness and good blessings.

     
    FUN FACTS ABOUT CHINESE NEW YEAR

    These tidbits come from Calbee North America, a company that specializes in crisp, natural snacks with popular brands like Harvest Snaps, Saya Snow Pea Crisps and Shrimp Chips.

  • The start of the Chinese New Year varies each year. It depends entirely on the phases of the moon, which is why it is also known as the Lunar New Year. It usually begins sometime between January 21st and February 10th.
  • The Chinese New Year engenders the world’s largest human migration, known as Chunyan. More than one billion people board planes, trains, boats, buses and cars to visit loved ones.
  • Chinese New Year celebrations were born out of fear and myth. Legend spoke of the wild beast Nien (which also is the word for year) who appeared at the end of each year, attacking and killing villagers. Loud noises and bright lights were used to scare the beast away.
  • No meat is eaten on the first day of the Chinese New Year. This is meant to ensure a long and happy life. (Did those ancient Chinese know about cholesterol?)
  • The meal on Chinese New Year’s Eve is the most important dinner of the year. Typically, families gather at a relative’s house for dinner. These days, many families often celebrate at a restaurant.
  • Greet people with the phrase Kung Hei Fat Choi. It means Happy New Year, or May You Have Good Fortune, in Cantonese.
  •    

    Calamondin Oranges

    Pomelo

    Lucky citrus: Both oranges and pomelos are considered good luck for the Lunar New Year. Top photo courtesy FamilyFeedbag.com, bottom photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

     

    Branzino

    A whole fish is served to ensure a good start and finish to the year. Photo courtesy Eataly.

     

    GOOD LUCK FOODS

    Stock up for Chinese New Year with:

    1. Oranges & Tangerines

    Displaying these fruits, and eating them, is said to bring wealth and luck. The tradition stems from the way the Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, while the word for tangerine echoes luck.
     
    2. Long Noodles

    Eating the longest possible noodles portends long life. Unless you can buy uncut fresh strands from a pasta shop, look for a box of spaghettoni.
     
    3. Pomelo

    This parent of the grapefruit is thought to bring prosperity and status, because its Cantonese name sounds similar to the words for prosperity and status. (The pomelo was crossed with a variety of orange to produce the grapefruit.)

     
    4. Long Leafy Greens and Long Beans

    Chinese broccoli and long beans are cooked without slicing, to wish for a long life. You can substitute regular broccoli, broccoli rabe or broccolini. As for the long beans: They’re so much fun, so see if you can find them at a Chinese grocer.
     
    5. Whole Fish

    The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance. The fish is served with the head and tail intact to ensure a good start and finish to the year.

      

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