Fashion & Beauty

Lunar New Year: Enter the Monkey

Photo by Pat Kinney

Photo by Pat Kinney

Today Asian and other communities around the world are celebrating the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival. Celebrations from Chinatown in New York City to small communities, like Leonia, N.J., mark the beginning of the Year of the Monkey. Last year was the Year of the Goat.

For many Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean families, the Lunar New Year is a time to gather and enjoy a festive meal together.

Although I am not Asian, I am celebrating this year with a Chinese menu that I enjoy almost every Lunar New Year. The menu uses a lot of vegetables, and pays gracious respect to the pig and the chicken, who are celebrated in other years. The egg rolls are cooked in oil until crisp, which signifies good luck:

Lunar New Year Egg Rolls

6 dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked in cold water until softened, drained and squeezed dry)
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1 roughly chopped bell pepper (green is fine but yellow or red is more festive)
1 cup carrots, shredded thinly
2 cups celery, cut into julienne
1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots, rinsed
1/2 cup scallions thinly sliced
1 tsp. salt
Canola oil for frying
1/2 tsp. sugar
eggroll or springroll wrappers (about 7″ sq.)
1 tsp. flour
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Chinese yellow mustard powder mixed with a few drops of water to make a paste

  1. In a wok or deep skillet heat 1 Tbsp. oil. Add garlic, then stir fry until garlic becomes aromatic.
  2. Add cabbage, celery carrots, bamboo shoots, mushrooms. Stir fry until cabbage and celery become limp.
  3. Sprinkle in salt, sugar, pepper.
  4. Remove from heat, set aside to cool

WRAPPING:

  1. Place wrappers under damp cloth on work surface.
  2. Combine 1 Tbsp. flour with 1 Tbsp. cold water.
  3. Place one wrapper on counter, with one corner facing you — spread about one-third  of the filling near the lower corner.
  4. Fold the bottom corner over the filling.
  5. Roll the wrapper once, then fold up the sides.
  6. Continue rolling until a tight cylinder has been formed.

COOKING:

  1. Rinse wok or frypan and dry thoroughly.
  2. Heat about 3 cups oil to 325 degrees on deep-frying thermometer.
  3. Add 3 or 4 eggrolls at a time, fry until golden.
  4. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  5. Repeat until all rolls are fried and drained.
  6. Slice each roll into three small cylinders.
  7. Serve with soy sauce and Chinese yellow mustard for dipping. (Chinese mustard powder mixed with cold water to make a paste — or tube of prepared mustard)

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