Lunar New Year

Spicy Cold Shéchuán Noodles with Tahini

pocketknife_spicycoldnoodles

The first New York City street food I ate at 15 was a bowl of spicy cold noodles somewhere off Union Square. Few restaurants do them justice today having removed the bite and replaced fresh Tahini with routine peanut butter.

For the Tahini - blend two cups of toasted sesame seeds with about two tablespoons of sesame oil (you’ll have plenty left over to spread on your morning toast).

Use a pound of Chinese egg noodles or regular Italian spaghetti - just boil until al dente and reserve a half cup of the warm pasta water. Toss cooked noodles with a few tablespoons sesame oil and let cool to room temperature (don’t refrigerate or they will stick together).

For the sauce, mix half cup of the warm pasta water with:

  • 4 Tablespoons Tahini
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 Tablespoons ponzu sauce (soy sauce made brighter with yuzu)
  • 2 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil or paste (depending on how much heat you like)

Let your guests garnish with shredded daikon radish, chopped scallions, toasted sesame seeds and Japanese Shichimi Togarashi*.


*includes sesames, uzu peel, chilies,  nori seaweed and more

 
 
 

Lunar New Year Feast

 
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恭禧发财: happy new year

As China rings in the Year of the monkey - join in the seven day celebration February 8 through February 14. Kick off spring by filling your home with cherry blossoms to symbolize fragility and the beauty of life, a bowl of  tangerines with leaves attached for good luck and longevity.  Make a symbolic feast of savory dumplings for prosperity, sweet dumplings for togetherness,  lychees for close family ties, kumquats for wealth. And indulge the children around you with envelopes of "lucky money" and "caps" to scare away evil spirits. But be sure to wait a few days after the celebration to sweep it up so you don’t accidentally sweep up your new found good luck.



 

Lunar New Year children's books

 

Happy Chinese New Year! is a beautiful book explaining Chinese New Year traditions to children by illustrator/author Demi. The fifteen day celebration is explained with illustrations of the phases of the moon, the characters of the Chinese zodiac and the varied customs.  The traditions of cleaning, cooking symbolic foods, sharing sweet gifts and performing the lion and dragon dances are explained through beautiful illustrations.

Tricia Morrissey’s My Mother is a Dragon, My Father is a Boar, is another whimsical book about the Lunar New Year. Its introduction retells a story of Buddah choosing the twelve animals to make up the zodiac.  Each animal is represented with beautiful cut paper illustrations and its attributes described in detail. Born in 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 and 2016 for example, the monkey is curious, mischievous and clever. 
 

Another great book to children celebrate the Lunar New Year with kids is Ralph Masiello's Dragon Drawing Book. Masiello’s study of dragon myths around the world culminate here in step by step instructions for how to master drawing dragons like the Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent, The Mayan Celestial Dragon, The Chinese Imperial Dragon and more.

 

"A Taste of Japan" @ The Doughnut Plant

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By the time we wrote this up The Doughnut Plant's ‘Taste of Japan’ had given way to New Orleans' Mardi Gras King Cakes. So you can only imagine the tangy, sweet, fragrant Japanese Yuzu that glazed their yeast, cake, and yuzu-custard filled doughnuts for a few weeks.

Just touch the tip of your tongue to the glaze and the heady smell of yuzu carries you to a Tokyo street corner where vending machines dispense tin cans of hot tea made of yuzu and honey (yuzu hachimitsu).

The Plant also launched black sesame, azuki & kinako, shiso and green tea doughnuts along with Matcha Latte and Kukicha tea (a twig tea with a milder, sweeter, creamier  flavor than matcha).   

The Doughnut Plant's 'Taste of Japan' celebrated their expansion to Asia over a decade ago. Founder Mark Israel’s passion for donuts was initially inspired by his grandfather who baked bread for U.S. Army troops in Paris during WWI.  To the delight of those of us living in New York, Seoul, and Tokyo, Israel has innovated  trés léches cake doughnuts,  square yeast doughnuts filled with house-made jam and caramelized  créme brulée doughnuts! But its yuzu-flavored donuts are already a thing of the past here in New York!

Candied Citrus - ugli, cara cara, kumquat, grapefruit, mandarine & more

There is always a jar of candied citrus peel and ginger in our house to accompany an espresso or a  bar of dark chocolate after a meal.  When we have a huge variety of citrus on hand - or are making lots of juice - we save the peels to candy.

Julienne the peel and soak in water over night to release any bitterness (changing the water once). Then bring a simple syrup of one part water to one part sugar to a boil and boil to the soft-ball stage. (We used two cups sugar to two cups water for 10 fruit peels. And we assessed the soft-ball stage by keeping a glass of ice-water on hand - dripping the boiling syrup in occasionally until it formed a soft ball in the ice-water.)

Then macerate the peels in the simple syrup for a few hours before straining and distributing them on a drying rack. Sprinkle with Demarra sugar  and let dry for about half an hour before storing in an air tight container.