When we think of celebrating the New Year it is a food and beverage countdown to midnight on the last day of December, but the Lunar New Year celebrated in many Asian countries begins Sunday and continues for 15 days.
Fruits and gifts of food abound as the Chinese New Year honors family and friends. Culinary traditions are symbolic of Chinese concepts of luck, prosperity, longevity, happiness and wealth. The colors of red and gold are used prominently in decorations and extend to the food. Tangerines and oranges are popular good gifts to share during the time leading up to the new year. The best luck comes from tangerines with a leaf still attached as leaves symbolize longevity.
Long noodles are important to serve, keeping them as long as possible for a long life. If you've ever wondered why a number of Chinese fish dishes are prepared with the head and tail intact, it is to ensure a good start to finish and to avoid bad luck throughout the year. It's a good thing some of us have those black-eyed peas to take care of our luck for the year.
A stir-fry is a simple way to incorporate several good-luck foods into a meal to mark the Chinese New Year. If you don't have a wok, this may be the year for you to add one to your kitchen. You can find the authentic kind at Asian markets for less than $20. I find that I use mine often for cooking a variety of vegetables. Some stoves even have a rack for the wok to rest securely over the burner. Some woks have a burner platform to steady them during the cooking process.
You will also need some oil to stir fry in. It is best to use an oil with a high flash point to take advantage of the wok's quick hot-cooking technique. Peanut oil, safflower oil and others can “fry” at a hotter temperature without smoking or imparting a bitter burned flavor into the food. Be sure no one is allergic to peanuts before using peanut oil for your stir-fry.
The beauty of this whole wok process is in the design of the wok itself. The wok has a very small cooking surface in the center. The oil fits in this area for cooking at the highest heat. As meats and vegetables are browned or cooked here they can be moved up the sides of the wok to cook more slowly and stay warm while other parts of the stir-fry are added to the center.