Adventures in Eating & Cooking
Happy New Year ~ The new year of the Monkey. One of the greatest joys of Lunar New Year is the food that comes with it. Not only did I get to enjoy a feast with my family on New Year’s Eve, but I got to make rice cakes for my friends. I feel very blessed to have both in my life, and the means to eat delicious fewds with them!
年糕 (nian gao) or rice cakes are a traditional food for Lunar New Year because of the play on words. 年 (nian) is the character for year, which is the same character used in rice cakes. This is a homophone for the character 粘 (nian), which means “sticky.” I think that is the character that is supposed to be used in rice cakes, because it literally translates into “sticky cakes.” However, we use the character for year, 年 because we eat it on New Year for luck. There is a saying “年年有余” (nian nian you yu) or “Bringing every year good fortune.” The 余 (yu) is another homophone for 鱼 (yu), which means fish – so guess what else we eat on New Year?
Anyways, this was a really fun process for me, and my friends loved it!~ I used king trumpet mushroom, firm tofu, and beef slices as my main ingredients. (You can really use any combination of ingredients that you want for the rice cakes to be perfectly honest.) I like the combination of mushroom with meat and tofu, so that’s what I did.
Usually, you want to stir fry the meat first, so I marinated my beef in soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and starch (almost Korean bbq style but not quite). I didn’t cook it all the way (to prevent the meat from getting old and tough), scooped it out. Then went in the mushroom slices, followed by 1 green onion sliced, and my 4 cloves of garlic. Then went in the tofu slices, a splash of soy sauce, a splash of rice wine. After this has been mostly cooked, I dumped in my rice cakes (after a good rinse). Let ’em cook~
After it looks near done, the beef goes back in, with the rest of the marinade stuffs. Sprinkle a dash or two of black pepper (traditionally we use white pepper, but I had none…), and let it simmer. When the meat is all cooked, lift the lid and have a taste. The key is to tweak it to how you like it! If not enough salt, add more soy sauce. If not enough sweetness, add more sugar. I always eyeball when I’m cooking Chinese food (the traditional way of Chinese cooking)…
Also had some delicious Ajitsuke Tamago that I made the night before. These are the Japanese marinated eggs that you find in your ramen. Yes, you can make them at home and eat them for breakfast! Find the recipe on Serious Eats here.
And of course, I made my healthy Asian vegetable salad (variation of shigeumchi nameul) for Jeujeubee. (And for myself, because I’ve been eating out wayyyy too much and gotta get some clean greens in me.) See recipe here.