At the center of any major holiday we Chinese celebrate is the food, and the Lunar New Year is by far the biggest holiday on the Chinese calendar with the festivities going on for more than two weeks, so it should be no surprise that the home cooked dinners during this time tend to be the most elaborate with the family chefs including “special” ingredients like lobster, squid and duck.
With the aunts, uncles and cousins I spent a lot of time with growing up now dispersed in far off and exotic locales like Florida, California and Las Vegas, Chinese New Year meals with my folks (traditionally, Chinese New Year is spent with the husband’s side of the family) tend to be smaller affairs, but this year my parents took a trip to the homeland so we spent the holiday weekend with my wife’s family. That meant a lot more food since we celebrated over the course of two nights with her parents, her two brothers and their wives, her sister and brother-in-law, two of her aunts, her uncle, her cousin and cousin-in-law, five nieces, and four nephews. “We” refers to my wife, our two sons and I for a grand total of 26 people, most of whom were at all three dinners.
On the menu the first night (Chinese New Year’s Eve):
- lobster smothered in horseradish and steamed in a light broth
- a whole fish steamed in soy sauce with chopped scallions and ginger
- stir fried squid, shrimp, snow peas and wood ear (an edible fungus also commonly called cloud ear)
- simple steamed chicken (a Chinese holiday meal staple)
- beef and broccoli (a reliable favorite)
- mei fun stir fried with Chinese vegetables and dried baby shrimp
- “char siu” pork
- crispy roasted pork
- beef from the belly stewed in a savory, salty sauce
- a whole roasted duck
- sweet Chinese pork sausage cooked with pig stomach, intestines and tongue
- sea cucumbers stir fried with oysters, mushrooms, iceberg lettuce and scallions