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by Rena Fulgencio, staff writer

All the foods served during Chinese New Year festivities have significance during this time of year for the Chinese.

The length of noodles represents longevity, but careful not to cut them; it’s bad luck. Spring rolls symbolize wealth, because of their resemblance to gold bars. Either a whole chicken or dumplings called jiaozi represent family unity. When the jiaozi is crescent-shaped, like silver ingots (ancient Chinese money), it symbolizes wealth and prosperity.

But, foods don’t necessarily have meaning just because of its appearance. The sound of the Chinese word for the food can also make it significant. For example, “yu” is fish in Chinese. It sounds like the Chinese words for wish and abundance. Therefore, serving fish on the eve of Chinese New Year is wishing for future abundance. The Chinese word for tangerine sounds like luck and is frequently given for free throughout the festivities along with oranges, which represent wealth.

Chinese cuisine is regional. There are eight different variations: Shandong, Sichuan, Guangdong (Cantonese), Fujian, Huaiyang (Jiangsu), Zhejiang, Hunan, and Anhui. Shandong cuisine is a combination of the Jinan and Jiadong cooking. Jinan chefs use methods like deep frying, grilling, pan frying, and stir frying. Jiadong chefs have a reputation for its fresh, light flavors when it comes to cooking seafood. Shandong food isn’t greasy and emphasizes aroma, freshness, crispness, and tenderness. Bird’s nest soup and yellow river carp in a sweet and sour sauce are typical Shandong dishes.

One of the better known Chinese cuisines is Sichuan or “Szechuan” as it is called in the West. It emphasizes the use of chili, so it is characterized by spicy flavors. Some basic cooking methods include frying (both with and without oil), pickling, and braising. Typical Sichuan dishes include Kung pao chicken, smoked duck, and mapo tofu.

Guangdong cuisine tastes light, fresh, and crisp. Guangdong chefs cook their food by roasting, stir frying, sautéing, deep frying, braising, stewing, and steaming, and place an emphasis on the artistic presentation of their dishes, such as shark fin soup, steamed sea bass, roasted piglet, and dim sum.
Fujian cuisine is a combination of Fuzhou, Quanzhou, and Xiamen cooking. The pickled taste is what makes their food stand out from others. Buddha jumping over the wall, snow chicken, and prawn with dragon’s body are some examples of dishes found in Fujian cuisine.

Mostly popular in the lower region of the Yangtze River, Huaiyang cuisine, also known as Jiangsu cuisine, emphasizes the use of fresh seafood. Cooking methods include stewing, braising, roasting, and simmering. Huaiyang foods are light and sweet. Stewed crab in a clear soup, squirrel with mandarin fish, and Liangxi crisp eel are some of the dishes offered.

Zhejiang cuisine fuses Hanzhou, Ningbo, and Shaoxing cooking styles together creating nongreasy, lightly fragrant dishes that are recognized for their freshness, tenderness, and smoothness. Beggar’s chicken is a well-known dish from Zhejiang cuisine.

Hunan cuisine is a combination of cooking techniques from the Xiangjiang region, Dongting Lake, and Xiangxi costeau areas. Staple ingredients include chili, pepper, and shallot.

Finally, Anhui chefs are more concerned with the cooking temperature while braising, and stewing dishes, such as stewed snapper and Huangshan braised pigeon.


Chinese recipes

Sweet and Sour Pork

1lb. lean pork loin, cut in bite-size cubes
2 eggs beaten
Peanut oil
1 cup sugar
1 dash salt
½ cup orange juice
½ cup pineapple juice
½ cup vinegar
1 small green pepper, diced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 cup cubed pineapples
½ cup sliced onions
1 garlic clove, minced
2 dried red chili peppers, seeded and chopped

-First, heat some peanut oil in a skillet. Place the cubed pork in the eggwash, then dredge in cornstarch and shake off the excess. Then, fry in the heated pan until cooked all the way through and golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a 200-degree oven.

To make the sauce, combine the sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Then, Add the orange juice, pineapple juice, vinegar, and tomato paste and stir until blended. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened. Reduce heat to low.

Next, place 2 tablespoons of oil in a hot wok and add the garlic and hot pepper flakes. Stir-fry for a few seconds then add the bell peppers, pineapple, and onions. Stir-fry until vegetables are softened, but still slightly crisp. Finally, arrange cooked vegetables and pork cubes with steamed rice on a serving plate and serve with the sauce on the side.

Stuffed Roasted Chicken

1 large chicken
2 cups ready-sliced dried Chinese mushrooms
2 cups boiled baby bok choy
20 whole shallots, peeled
20 whole garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup red wine
2 tsp. light soy sauce
3 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. salt

-First, soak the mushroom slices in water until soft. Keep the soaking liquid aside. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan. Loosen the skin of chicken. Then, rub the marinade under the skin, in the cavity and over the skin. Be sure to keep a little bit of marinade aside for the gravy. Tuck the sliced mushrooms under the skin of the chicken.

Then, heat your oven to 200-degrees farenheit. Loosely cover the chicken with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the heat down to 150-degrees farenheit and stuff the chicken with shallots and garlic. Remove the foil, and roast uncovered for 20 minutes. Pierce with a skewer, if the juice runs clear, the chicken is ready.

To make the gravy, pour out the excess oil from the roasting tin into a small pot. Add a cup of mushroom water, and leftover marinade to the pan. Heat over the stove. Taste to adjust seasoning to your liking. Place the chicken on a serving platter and garnish with the baby bok choy.



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